Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Chinese herbal remedy ‘just as effective as methotrexate against arthritis’ (Study, Medical News Today)

Lei Gong Teng (“Thunder God Vine”) and rheumatoid arthritis

Earlier this month came the exciting news that Chinese herb Lei Gong Teng (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F) was found in study to be ‘just as effective as methotrexate against arthritis'” (Medical News Today). The study followed 204 patients and was published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases this April.

Tripterygium hypoglaucum BotGardBln07122011B

Study conclusions

In treating active rheumatoid arthritis (RA), researchers found Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) monotherapy was no less effective than methotrexate (MTX) monotherapy; however, combined therapy was almost 25% more effective in relieving both tenderness/swelling of joints and improvement in other areas than either treatment alone. A follow-up study will need to be conducted for long-term assessment.

Thunder God Vine’s safety

Herbs can be powerful and exceptionally helpful with proper diagnosis and monitoring. It’s with this caution I mention Lei Gong Teng is an effective herb at the right dose and for the right patient–not for everyone. What does this mean? Go see your herbalist before you try this one!

Thunder God Vine is contraindicated in pregnancy, and considered toxic within Chinese medicine. Side effects can include gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. vomiting, diarrhea), skin reactions, and missed menses. Caution is also advised for patients with compromised immune systems or osteoporosis. (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Thunder God Vine).

RA Treatment

Western medicine generally recommends NSAIDs, drugs and steroids for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis; but there’s quite a few more treatment options out there:

    • Chinese medicine

In Chinese medicine, rheumatoid arthritis has different diagnoses whether it is in the acute or remission phase. Treatment, therefore, will differ depending on the stage of the disease. Traditionally, we combine acupuncture with herbal medicine, qigong and moxa (as appropriate) to treat the pain while clearing any excess, such as cold-type fluid retention, and tonifying underlying deficiency. For more on Chinese medicine’s approach, see, “Rheumatoid Arthritis and its Treatment with Chinese Medicine.”

    • Supplements

According to Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which queries clinical studies to find their information, the following natural medicines are considered “possibly effective” for the treatment of RA:

        • borage
        • bovine cartilage
        • cat’s claw
        • fish oil
        • glucosamine sulfate
        • superoxide dismutase
        • thunder god vine
        • vitamin D
        • vitamin E

Does this mean you should start taking these? No. 🙂 You know what I’m going to say already–go see your East Asian Medicine Practitioner, see a specialist. I mention these only to let you know there may be more options available to you than you were aware. (Beyond NMCD’s list, you might also be interested to read about UltraInfamX’s effect on swollen joints and C-reactive protein by Metagenics.)

    • Other holistic practices

Beyond Chinese medicine, there is also Naturopathy and Ayurveda (among other things!), both of which have their own unique system of diagnosis and treatment. For more information on Naturopathy and RA, see: Arthritis; for more on Ayurveda, see: The efficacy of Ayurvedic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

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