Health Benefits of Thunder God Vine

Thunder god vine is another important herb in the field of alternative medicine. It is a very poisonous plant but a very promising source of treatment for rheumatic arthritis and other immune disorders. Continue reading to learn more about this herb and its health benefits and medicinal uses.

Thunder God Vine

Scientifically known as Tripterygium wifordii, thunder god vine is a perennial twining herb called in different names: lei-kung t’eng, lei gong teng, huang-t’eng ken (yellow vine root), threewingnut, yellow vine, and tsao-ho-hua (early rice flower). This native plant of Southern China has reddish-brown branches and oval leaves. Its small white terminal flowers bloom during summer. Its leaves, flowers, skin, and even the nectars are poisonous; in fact, these parts of the plant are used in China and neighboring countries as insecticide and poison for rats and birds. The non poisonous peeled roots are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever, inflammation, boils, and abscesses. The Chinese people have been using thunder god vine for centuries; Westerners have just discovered the amazing benefits of using the herb. Scientific studies of the therapeutic uses of thunder god vine give promising results.

Chemical Composition

The biologically active compounds isolated from the roots of thunder god vine include:

  • Triterpene compounds (e.g. tripterygone)
  • Nortriterpenoid
  • Neotripterifordin
  • Diterpene exposides: tripdiolide, triptolide, triptolidenol, tripchlorolide,  16-hydroxytriptolide

Health Benefits & Medicinal Uses

Antifertility (Male Contraceptive)

Scientists who had studied the therapeutic properties of thunder god vine on arthritis and psoriasis observed an unexpected side effect in male subjects. They found out that thunder god vine has a negative effect on spermatogenesis or sperm production. The herb can be a potential oral contraceptive for males since its antifertility effect is reversible. Normal sperm production returns back when use of the herb is stopped. Scientists identified compounds in thunder god vine responsible for the antifertility effect, including triptolide, tripdiolide, and gossypol.

Treatment for Arthritis & Other Autoimmune Disorders

Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease are caused by an overreacting immune system. The immune system is attacking body cells and tissues causing disease. Studies show that thunder god vine root extract may help people with rheumatoid arthritis and other immune disorders due to its ability to suppress the immune system. Suppressing the immune system will result to alleviation of symptoms associated to the diseases.

According to the study of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), extract from the vine’s root “was shown to safely and effectively reduce pain and inflammation in a small group of people with treatment-resistant rheumatoid arthritis.” The researchers said that thunder god vine extract is a promising medication for rheumatoid arthritis; they emphasized its uniqueness, as it slows down an over reactive immune system, reduces the activity of B and T lymphocytes, and turns off genes that cause inflammation such as tumor necrosis factor alpha. Dr. P. Lipsky, arthritis expert and head of the research team, believes that thunder god vine extract can be a potential treatment for other immune diseases like lupus. Dr. Lipsky’s team is planning to pursue studies on the capability of the herb extract in treating other immune diseases beside rheumatoid arthritis.

Antiviral Properties

The compound neotripterifordin isolated from thunder god vine demonstrated potency in inhibiting replication of HIV. Other compounds in the herb have also been evaluated for their antiviral properties against different pathogenic viruses.

Antitumor Properties

Thunder god vine compounds such as triptolide and nortriterpenoid showed antitumor activity in laboratory mice.

Crohn’s Disease Treatment

Studies suggest that thunder god vine extract may help people with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disease, usually of the lower intestinal tract, marked by scarring and thickening of the intestinal wall and obstruction. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, more scientific evidences are needed before recommending thunder god vine extract in treating Crohn’s disease.

Side Effects

  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Menstrual changes
  • Skin rashes
  • Bone mineral density decrease
  • Male infertility
  • Amenorrhea

Note: Please consult your physician if you are planning to use thunder god vine in treating any illness or disease you have.