The main anticancer bullets of the Chinese medicinal herb, thunder god vine

Molecules. 2011 Jun 23;16(6):5283-97. doi: 10.3390/molecules16065283.


The thunder god vine or Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. F. is a representative Chinese medicinal herb which has been used widely and successfully for centuries in treating inflammatory diseases. More than 100 components have been isolated from this plant, and most of them have potent therapeutic efficacy for a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In the past four decades, the anticancer activities of the extracts from this medicinal herb have attracted intensive attention by researchers worldwide. The diterpenoid epoxide triptolide and the quinone triterpene celastrol are two important bioactive ingredients that show a divergent therapeutic profile and can perturb multiple signal pathways. Both compounds promise to turn traditional medicines into modern drugs. In this review, we will mainly address the anticancer activities and mechanisms of action of these two agents and briefly describe some other antitumor components of the thunder god vine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diterpenes / pharmacology
  • Diterpenes / therapeutic use
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use
  • Epoxy Compounds / pharmacology
  • Epoxy Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Phenanthrenes / pharmacology
  • Phenanthrenes / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tripterygium / chemistry*
  • Tripterygium / cytology
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology
  • Triterpenes / therapeutic use


  • Diterpenes
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Epoxy Compounds
  • Phenanthrenes
  • Triterpenes
  • triptolide
  • tripterine