Short story of Thunder God Vine in Autoimmunity

Short story of Thunder God Vine in Autoimmunity

The many names of Thunder God Vine

The knowledge and use of Thunder God Vine in autoimmunity dates back to the Chinese antiquity. To begin with, Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. is the scientific name of the plant (or TwHF in clinical trials).

As well as Lei Gong Teng in Chinese, sometimes translated in Thunder Duke Vine. God or Duke here refers to one of the numerous gods of the rich ancient Chinese religion. Its folk name appears to be: “walk seven steps and die”. The plant is toxic. Everything: the leaves, bark, flowers, the root… The root pulp is the less poisonous part and is medicinally usable. There is a risk of poisoning if the herb is not extracted properly.

A botany plate of Triperygium wilfordii Hook F

FOC Vol.11 Year 2008 | Celastraceae | Tripterygium wilfordii

A picture of closely related Tripterygium regelii

A picture of closely related Tripterygium regelii | Found on Wikipedia

Known in China for almost 2000 years but toxicity limits the use

The description of the plant was in the lost Shennong’s Chinese Materia Medica  (period of the Three Kingdoms 220–280 AD). The 16th century compilation of the Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shi-Zheu (1578) also reports the use of Tripterygium wilfordii.

In ancient China, practitioners prepared the roots of Thunder God Vine used for treatment. This preparation included removing the poisonous bark and allowing the roots to dry for at least a year. The root was then ground to powder and applied locally to the skin. Thunder God Vine was not taken orally since there was a risk of poisoning.

The main indications were rheumatoid arthritis, swelling, skin infections, leprosy, fever, boils and chills.

Over the past centuries, extraction made it possible to prepare water based and ethanol based extracts. These extracts are toxic too. They have a positive effect on autoimmune symptoms taken by mouth but never became popular because of associated toxicity on liver and kidney.

Recent development of 2 Chinese safe medicinal extracts

In the 1970s in China, research develops 2 extracts with a very diminished toxicity that are both effective and safe taken by mouth. In the 1980s, large clinical studies take place.

These 2 medicinal extracts go by the name of CEA extract (short for Chinese Ethyl Acetate extract) an T2 extract.

For the past 30 years, these extract are a first intention in a number of autoimmune indications. Its therapeutic dosage is 1 to 1,5mg/kg/day with a maximum of 90mg/day. The existing commercial presentations are tablets of 10mg.

An American medicinal extract

Later on in 1998, USA develops another extract similar to the CEA extract (short for Chinese Ethyl Acetate extract): the TEA extract (short for Texas Ethyl Acetate extract). This was at the Dallas University of Texas Southwestern Medical Branch (UTSMB).

The small clinical study outcome with TEA was very positive. Also, In 2002, after the study release, Phytomedics Inc., a New Jersey bio-pharmaceutical company, started growing Thunder God Vine in order to produce the medicinal extract. That’s when the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer “partnered” with Phytomedics to help manufacture the extract. Today, 15 years later, the extract is never heard of again. I will leave it to you to make your personal educated conclusion to the Western short story of medicinal Thunder God Vine.

Traditional culture and other uses in China

Culture of Thunder God Vine also dates back to centuries of course. Extensive culture is traditional in several Southeastern provinces of China, especially in Zhejiang Province. Chinese horticulturists and other non edible product farmers use the root as an insecticidal powder still nowadays.

Read more

The different types of Thunder God Vine extracts : learn about the different types of existing extracts

Where to buy Thunder God Vine : the different possibilities available to you when it comes to buying


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