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thunder god vine

© Frédéric Tournay

A thunder god vine monograph for the home

Latin Name: Tripterygium wilfordii

Common Names: thunder god vine, lei gong teng

This thunder god vine monograph provides basic information about thunder god vine—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.


Thunder God Vine Basics

  • Thunder god vine is a perennial grown in China and Taiwan. It has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat swelling caused by inflammation.
  • Currently, thunder god vine is used orally (by mouth) as a dietary supplement for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. It is also used topically for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Extracts are prepared from the roots of thunder god vine.

Thunder God Vine in Health Research

  • A small number of studies have evaluated oral thunder god vine for rheumatoid arthritis. Very little research has been done on thunder god vine for other health conditions or on topical use of this herb for rheumatoid arthritis.

Thunder God Vine Research Summary

  • There have been only a few high-quality studies of oral thunder god vine for rheumatoid arthritis in people. These studies indicate that thunder god vine may improve some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
  • Results from a small 2009 study funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), which compared an extract of thunder god vine root with a conventional drug (sulfasalazine) for rheumatoid arthritis, found that participants’ symptoms (e.g., joint pain and swelling, inflammation) improved significantly more with thunder god vine than with the drug.
  • A study from China, published in 2014, compared thunder god vine to a conventional drug (methotrexate) and found that both were comparably helpful in relieving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and that the combination of the herb and the drug was better than either one alone.
  • There is not enough evidence to show whether thunder god vine is helpful for any health conditions other than rheumatoid arthritis or whether its topical use in rheumatoid arthritis has any benefits.

Thunder God Vine Safety

  • Thunder god vine may have side effects, including decreased bone mineral content (with long-term use), infertility, menstrual cycle changes, rashes, diarrhea, headache, and hair loss. Because some of these side effects are serious, the risks of using thunder god vine may be greater than its benefits.
  • Thunder god vine can be extremely poisonous if the extract is not prepared properly.

Thunder God Vine References


PubMed Articles About Tripterygium wilfordii

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; [1988] – [cited 2018 Apr 5]. Available from:

Liu, L., Zhao, H., Sun, X., Zheng, Q., Luo, Y., Ru, Y., Zhang, Y., Chen, X., Zhu, B., Yin, C., Li, B., Li, X., (2018) Efficacy and safety of Tripterygium wilfordii hook F for chronic urticaria: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

The first-line agents comprising antihistamines for chronic urticaria, are not completely satisfactory. Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF), a Chinese herb, has been developed into several Tripterygium agents and have definite effects on autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In chronic urticaria, however, their values of practical application remain unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy and safety of TwHF in patients with chronic urticaria.

Luo, Y., Kuai, L., Chen, J., Sun, X., Liu, L., Luo, Y., Ru, Y., Xing, M., Ding, X., Zhou, M., Li, B., Li, X., (2020) Efficacy and safety of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f. for oral lichen planus: Evidence from 18 randomized controlled trials.

Glycosides from the roots of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f. are used for the treatment of oral lichen planus (OLP), a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the oral mucosa. To investigate the effectiveness and safety of Tripterygium glycosides (TGs) for OLP treatment, we conducted a systematic review of 18 randomized controlled trials, comprising 1,339 participants, from international and Chinese databases. We evaluated outcomes of TGs alone or in combination with conventional treatments. In combination with topical glucocorticoids (TGCs), including triamcinolone acetonide and prednisone, the total effectiveness rate (risk ratio [RR], 1.17; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.09-1.25; p < .00001), symptom score reducing index (mean difference [MD], -2.44; 95% CI, -3.12 to -1.77; p < .0001), and visual analog scale score (MD, -1.61; 95% CI, -2.22 to -1.00; p < .0001) were significantly improved. Patients treated with TGs combined with TGCs experienced lower recurrence rates (RR, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.18-0.76; p = 0.007). The occurrence of adverse events was not significantly different between the TGs groups and controls. The combination of TG and TGCs improved clinical efficacy and reduced recurrence without increasing the risk of adverse events. A high-quality multicenter clinical study is needed to corroborate these findings.

Duan, Y., Zou, J., Mao, J., Guo, D., Wu, M., Xu, N., Zhou, J., Zhang, Y., Guo, W., Jin, W., (2020) Plasma miR-126 expression correlates with risk and severity of psoriasis and its high level at baseline predicts worse response to Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F in combination with acitretin.

Treatment of psoriasis is always difficult, which requires intensive scientific research.

Lengnan, X., Ban, Z., Haitao, W., Lili, L., Aiqun, C., Huan, W., Ping, Z., Yonghui, M., (2021) Hook F Treatment for Stage IV Diabetic Nephropathy: Protocol for a Prospective, Randomized Controlled Trial.

Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is a major cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD). There are no effective treatments to prevent or reverse the progression of DN. A preliminary study showed that glycosides from Hook F (TwHF) with valsartan decrease proteinuria in patients with DN.

Jiao, J., Tang, X., Gong, X., Yin, H., Jiang, Q., Wei, C., (2020) Effect of cream, prepared with Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F and other four medicinals, on joint pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blinded, randomized, placebo controlled clinical trial.

To investigate the effectiveness a cream onjoint pain and swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The cream, topically used, in was prepared with Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF), Mangxiao (Nalrii Sulfas), Chuanxiong (Rhizoma Chuanxiong), stir-frying with liquid adjuvant Ruxiang (Olibanum), and stir-frying with liquid adjuvant Moyao (Myrrh).