Thunder God Vine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

April 21, 2014

Are Chinese Herbs for Real?  Thunder God Vine 


 If someone offered you some “Chinese Herbs” for your sore aches and pains, would you choose them over aspirin, or ibuprofen?  What’s aspirin?  (Hint:  willow bark)  Plants have been the source of many of our most effective botanicals.  So, if someone offered you Chinese Herbs to treat a really serious disease like rheumatoid arthritis, would you be a bit shy?   Likely so, if you are the average American you would see the standard American rheumatologist for your rheumatoid arthritis, until you read this article.   You wouldn’t recognize the rich history of plant-based medications that have developed in China over the last 3,000 years. If you then read Xuan Zhang’s article in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases this month on Thunder God Vine, you would sit up and pay attention.  

Here are the facts of his study.  Take a randomized, placebo controlled trial of methotrexate (standard therapy for RA) and compare it to Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF), otherwise known in China as Thunder God Vine.  You would find that the TwHF did better than the methotrexate at reducing pain and inflammation.  Did you hear that?  Better!   With six months of therapy,  the TwHF improved 55% of patients versus only 45 for methotrexate.  The two combined achieved a 77% rate of improvement.  (The threshold was set at a “50% improvement” by American College of Rheumatology criteria.)    

Uncontrolled prior studies from China have touted 95% rates of improvement. T. wilfordia has been used for joint pain in China for thousands of years and is considered an approved drug for the treatment of RA in China.  Why haven’t we heard about it sooner?  Fifty years of closed communist society might be the best explanation.  Chauvinistic belief in Western scientific methods might be another.  Or just plain isolation in separate buckets without the chance to mix ideas under rigorous methods of investigation might be the best reason.  

The Chinese found it by trial and error.  Now we have real opportunity to investigate just how and why it’s so effective. What’s the mechanism by which it works?   TwHF has been studied before.  In 2009 a study published in the Annals also showed effectiveness in RA.  The treatment comparison was with  sulfasalazine and was shown to be better.  Measurement of the inflammatory eicosanoid IL-6 in the RA patients was shown to dramatically drop, suggesting that the method of action is through cyclooxygenase suppression.  The family of compounds called diterpinoids are known to suppress the transcription of genes that encode for inflammation.  TwHF is loaded with diterpinoids. TwHF is extracted from the peeled root of the vine.  The leaves, root peelings and stems are highly poisonous.  Perhaps you want to make sure you are getting your TwHF from a reputable source.  Hmm. 

 WWW. What will work for me.  I’m eager to know how to get hold of this stuff.  I know so many folks with RA.  So far, cruising the net, I can only find bulk batches of it.  It may be so potent that it requires FDA approval and prescription administration.  But it sounds like plants win again. Another amazing compound.  And considering that we all have aches and pains, this may be significant for all of us. 

 Pop Quiz 

 1.   We have discovered about all the plant based medicines there are to be discovered.  T or F Answer:   False.  Not even close. 

 2.   Chinese herbs are mostly placebo effect medications.  T or F                 Answer:  Again, false.  You didn't read the article above. 

 3.   Thunder God Vine is safe to use for arthritis.  T or F                   Answer:  False.  The carefully prepared and extracted root extract has wonderful and effective anti-inflammatory effects, but the leaves, stems and root peelings are highly toxic (Trick question). 

 4.   Thunder God vine root extract is better than Methotrexate for RA treatment.  T or F         Answer:     That's it in a nutshell - equal in results but less toxicity. 

5.  The combination of methotrexate and Thunder God Vine is also good.  T or F                 Answer:  Not just good, best yet. 

 Interested in seeing Dr. Whitcomb for this and other new and alternative treatments for RA and other autoimmune illnesses?  Please visit his web site at