Tripterygium wilfordii

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Tripterygium wilfordii
Tripterygium regelii 1.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Celastrales
Family: Celastraceae
Genus: Tripterygium
Species: T. wilfordii
Binomial name
Tripterygium wilfordii

Tripterygium wilfordii, or léi gōng téng (Mandarin) (Chinese:雷公藤, Japanese: raikōtō), sometimes called thunder god vine but more properly translated thunder duke vine, is a vine used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Tripterygium wilfordii has been promoted for use in rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis; however, due to safety concerns this use is not recommended.[1] Evidence is insufficient to deem it effective as a method of birth control.[2]

Health effects[edit]

The United Kingdom government does not recommend the use of Tripterygium due to potential side effects.[1]

Birth control[edit]

Evidence is lacking that Tripterygium is either safe or effective as a method of birth control in men.[2] Two trials found less sperm in people taking it for rheumatoid arthritis but these trials were observational in nature.[2]

Rheumatoid arthritis[edit]

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has noted tentative evidence that T. wilfordii may improve some RA symptoms.[3] Serious side effects, however, occur frequently enough to make the risks of taking it higher than the possible benefits.[3]

Side effects[edit]

At medicinal doses, T. wilfordii extract can have significant side effects,[3] including immunosuppression.

In August 2011, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency published a drug safety bulletin advising consumers not to use medicines containing lei gong teng due to potentially serious side effects.[4]

China State Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in April 2012 about this medicine, urging caution.[5]

However, a recent review stated that although T. wilfordii has toxic potential, careful extraction gives an acceptable frequency of adverse reactions, which are largely related to the gastrointestinal tract and amenorrhea. The review found that T. wilfordii extract is useful remedy for postmenopausal rheumatoid arthritis.[6]


Triptolide, a diterpene triepoxide, is a major active component of extracts derived from Tripterygium wilfordii. Triptolide has pharmacological activities including anti-inflammatory, immune modulation, antiproliferative, and proapoptotic activity.[7] The herb may also have cartilage protective effects.[8][9]

Reduction of male fertility[edit]

The plant contains many active compounds, at least six of which have male antifertility effect: (triptolide, tripdiolide, triptolidenol, tripchlorolide, 16-hydroxytriplide, and a compound known as T7/19, whose structure is unpublished). The mechanism by which they affect fertility is not yet understood. What is known is that daily doses of these compounds reduce sperm counts and also severely affect the formation and maturation of sperm, causing them to be immotile.[citation needed]


In China, T. wilfordii has historically been used as a treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.


  1. ^ a b "Traditional Chinese medicines containing lei gong teng (tripterygium wilfordii) Drug Safety Update". 8 August 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Lopez, LM; Grimes, DA; Schulz, KF (November 2005). "Nonhormonal drugs for contraception in men: a systematic review.". Obstetrical & gynecological survey 60 (11): 746–52. PMID 16250923. 
  3. ^ a b c "Rheumatoid Arthritis and Complementary Health Approaches". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  4. ^ [1] Drug Safety Update: Traditional Chinese medicines containing lei gong teng (tripterygium wilfordii)
  5. ^ 中医・我が愛しの上海へ/理想の中医学・漢方を求めて-
  6. ^ Bao J.; Dai S.-M. (September 2011). "A Chinese herb Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: Mechanism, efficacy, and safety.". Rheumatology International 31 (9): 1123–1129. doi:10.1007/s00296-011-1841-y. PMID 21365177. 
  7. ^ Liu Q. (2011). "Triptolide and its expanding multiple pharmacological functions". International Immunopharmacology 11 (3): 377–383. doi:10.1016/j.intimp.2011.01.012. PMID 21255694. 
  8. ^ Bao J., Dai S.-M. "A Chinese herb Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: mechanism, efficacy, and safety" Rheumatology International 2011 (1-7)
  9. ^ Moudgil K.D., Venkatesha S.H., Rajaiah R., Berman B.M. "Immunomodulation of autoimmune arthritis by herbal CAM" Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 2011 Article Number 986797