Thunder God Vine
Thunder god vine is a perennial vine native to China, Japan, and Korea. It has been used in China for health
purposes for more than 400 years.
Common Names—thunder god vine, lei gong teng
Latin Name—Tripterygium wilfordii
Traditional Use of Thunder God Vine
Thunder god vine is believed to benefit people suffered from inflammation or overactivity of the immune system.
Orally, thunder god vine is taken for excessive menstrual periods or for autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid
arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. Thunder god vine preparations are also applied to the skin for rheumatoid
Thunder God Vine Ingredients
The major active ingredient of thunder god vine are diterpenoid and triptolide, but thunder god vine also contains
sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, and triterperies. Extraction methods include aqueous and ethanol process.
How Thunder God Vine Is Used
Extracts are prepared from the skinned root of thunder god vine.
Potential Health Benefits of Thunder God Vine
Laboratory findings suggest that thunder god vine may fight inflammation, suppress the immune system, and have
anti-cancer effects. Although early evidence is promising, there have been few high-quality studies of thunder god
vine in people. Results from a large 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 medicine (sulfasalazine)
for rheumatoid arthritis, found that participants' symptoms (e.g., joint pain and swelling, inflammation) improved
more significantly with thunder god vine than with sulfasalazine. A small study on thunder god vine applied to the
skin also found benefits for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Research Notes on Potential Health Benefits of Thunder God Vine
Thunder God Vine has been applied in relieving autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic
lupus erythematosus, and for treating cancer. 
In the past four decades, the anticancer activities of the Thunder God Vine (Tripterygium wilfordii) 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.  Triptolide, a chemical from Thunder God Vine, was found to have anti-
cancer activity. In a study, it inhibited proteasomal activity and induced apoptosis in human breast and prostate
cancer cells.  Celastrol, another chemical originally identified from Thunder of God Vine, it is generally used for
the treatment of inflammatory and auto-immune diseases. Celastrol has potential benefits of anti-inflammatory and
anti-cancer activities. The anti-inflammatory effects of this triterpene have been demonstrated in animal models of
different inflammatory diseases, including arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
This triterpene has also been found to inhibit the proliferation of a variety of tumor cells and suppress tumor
initiation, promotion and metastasis in various cancer models in vivo. Celastrol's ability to modulate the expression
of pro-inflammatory cytokines, MHC II, HO-1, iNOS, NF-κB, Notch-1, AKT/mTOR, CXCR4, TRAIL receptors DR4 and
DR5, CHOP, JNK, VEGF, adhesion molecules, proteasome activity, topoisomerase II, potassium channels, and heat
shock response has been reported. [3,5,7-9]
Thunder God Vine Side Effects and Cautions
At low dosages, thunder god vine probably is safe for most healthy people. Thunder god vine can cause severe
side effects and can be poisonous if it is not carefully extracted from the skinned root. Other parts of the plant—
including the leaves, flowers, and skin of the root—are highly poisonous and can cause death. Thunder god vine
appears to have many side effects such as stomach upset, missed menstrual periods, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney
issues and skin reaction.
High dosages of thunder god vine might weaken our immune system. People suffered from HIV/AIDS should avoid
using thunder god vine.
A number participants in the NIAMS study experienced gastrointestinal adverse side effects such as diarrhea,
indigestion, and nausea, as well as upper respiratory tract infections. (The rate of adverse side effects was similar in
both the thunder god vine and sulfasalazine groups.) Thunder god vine can also cause side effects such as hair
loss, headache, menstrual changes, and skin rash. Thunder god vine may also decrease bone mineral density in
women who take the herb for 5 years or longer. This side effect may be of particular concern to women who have
osteoporosis or are at risk for the condition. Thunder god vine contains chemicals that might decrease male fertility
by changing sperm.
Not enough information has been collected about the safety of thunder god vine during breasting feeding, stay on
the safe side and avoid use.
Source nccam.nih.gov, November 2011
WebMD.com, November 18, 2011
Thunder god vine benefits and side effects
November 16, 2011
If you experience side effects of Thunder God Vine, you are encouraged to report adverse side effects to FDA, its website is www.fda.gov., or report
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 Liu Z, et al, The main anticancer bullets of the Chinese medicinal herb, thunder god vine. Molecules. 2011 Jun
23;16(6):5283-97.  Lu L, et al, Inhibition of tumor cellular proteasome activity by triptolide extracted from the
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targets of celastrol derived from Thunder of God Vine: potential role in the treatment of inflammatory disorders and
cancer. Cancer Lett. 2011 Apr 1;303(1):9-20.  Law SK, et al, Molecular analyses of the Chinese herb
Leigongteng (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook.f.). Phytochemistry. 2011 Jan;72(1):21-6.  Salminen A, et al, Celastrol:
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al, Celastrol suppresses angiogenesis-mediated tumor growth through inhibition of AKT/mammalian target of
rapamycin pathway. Cancer Res. 2010 Mar 1;70(5):1951-9.  Davenport A, et al, Celastrol and an EGCG pro-drug
exhibit potent chemosensitizing activity in human leukemia cells. Int J Mol Med. 2010 Mar;25(3):465-70.  Chen M,
et al, Celastrol synergistically enhances temozolomide cytotoxicity in melanoma cells. Mol Cancer Res. 2009