A potential new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis: thunder god vine

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1997 Apr;26(5):713-23. doi: 10.1016/s0049-0172(97)80040-6.


Various extracts of the vinelike plant Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f have been widely used in China to treat patients with a number of autoimmune diseases. Although most of the clinical experience has derived from uncontrolled trials, one placebo-controlled double-blind trial has clearly demonstrated efficacy in rheumatoid arthritis. Studies in laboratory animals have indicated that extracts of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f suppress both immune and inflammatory responses and also effectively treat a number of models of autoimmune disease. More detailed in vitro analysis has indicated that components of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f suppress immune responses by inhibiting transcription of cytokine genes, including interleukin-2 and gamma interferon. The current status of knowledge of the potential clinical benefit of this herbal remedy and possible mechanisms accounting for its utility are considered in this review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / adverse effects
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Tripterygium


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal