A systematic review of randomised clinical trials of Tripterygium wilfordii for rheumatoid arthritis

Phytomedicine. 2006 May;13(5):371-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2006.01.010. Epub 2006 Feb 17.


Tripterygium wilfordii is a Chinese herb with immunosuppressive effects and an established history of use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We have carried out a systematic review of randomised clinical trials (RCTs) which assess the effectiveness of T. wilfordii in this indication. We included only randomised and controlled studies which tested the effectiveness of T. wilfordii monopreparations in the treatment of RA. Studies in any language were included. A search of five electronic databases from inception to February 2005 identified 18 articles which could potentially meet our inclusion criteria. Only 16 of these could be retrieved from the scientific literature and after reading these in full, only two unique RCTs meeting our inclusion criteria were identified. Both indicated that T. wilfordii has beneficial effects on the symptoms of RA. However, the literature indicates that T. wilfordii is associated with serious adverse events which make the risk-benefit analysis for this herb unfavourable. Therefore, we cannot recommend its use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Humans
  • Phytotherapy* / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tripterygium / adverse effects*
  • Tripterygium / chemistry*


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Plant Extracts