Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F.
Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. is Thunder God Vine
To begin with, Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. is the scientific name of the plant (TwHF in studies and 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…
Known in China for almost 2000 years but toxicity limits the use
Because the description of the plant was in the lost Shennong’s Chinese Materia Medica from the period of the Three Kingdoms (220–280 AD), it’s only possible to speculate. The 16th century compilation of The Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shi-Zheu (1578) also reports the use of Tripterygium wilfordii.
Back then, the available root extracts are water or ethanol extracts which are quite toxic. Although the positive effects on autoimmune symptoms of these extracts are known, number of side effects occur. This is the reason why it never became a popular treatment other than externally (poultice…).
Two medicinal safe extracts
In the 1970s, Chinese researchers develop two new extracts (the T2 and the CEA) that match both efficacy and safety.
From these two preparations, only one it seems is commercially widely available in China. It is in use extensively since the 1980s as a first intention to relieve a variety of autoimmune conditions. Physicians do not prescribe it as a supplement but as a monotherapy and sometimes combine it with other medications. You will find more info on the indications and uses here: Use > Recommendations to use
Later on in 1998, a USA University (UTSMB) develops another extract comparable to the CEA: the TEA extract. Group Pfizer “partnered” with the lab called Phytomedics that started growing the plant and producing the extract after successful demonstration was made of efficacy, in 2002. Then, the extract is never heard of again neither presented to the FDA. I will leave it to you to make your personal educated conclusion to the Western side short story of medicinal Thunder God Vine.
Why is it not available everywhere ?
My guess is nobody has interest in lobbying health authorities with a cheap plant extract. You can read more on the subject and about the different types of extracts and why they are not released elsewhere here : Learn > The Extracts
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