thunder god vine
© Frédéric Tournay

A thunder god vine monograph for the home

Latin Name: Tripterygium wilfordii

Common Names: thunder god vine, lei gong teng

This thunder god vine monograph provides basic information about thunder god vine—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.


Thunder God Vine Basics

  • Thunder god vine is a perennial grown in China and Taiwan. It has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat swelling caused by inflammation.
  • Currently, thunder god vine is used orally (by mouth) as a dietary supplement for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. It is also used topically for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Extracts are prepared from the roots of thunder god vine.

Thunder God Vine in Health Research

  • A small number of studies have evaluated oral thunder god vine for rheumatoid arthritis. Very little research has been done on thunder god vine for other health conditions or on topical use of this herb for rheumatoid arthritis.

Thunder God Vine Research Summary

  • There have been only a few high-quality studies of oral thunder god vine for rheumatoid arthritis in people. These studies indicate that thunder god vine may improve some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
  • Results from a small 2009 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 drug (sulfasalazine) for rheumatoid arthritis, found that participants’ symptoms (e.g., joint pain and swelling, inflammation) improved significantly more with thunder god vine than with the drug.
  • A study from China, published in 2014, compared thunder god vine to a conventional drug (methotrexate) and found that both were comparably helpful in relieving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and that the combination of the herb and the drug was better than either one alone.
  • There is not enough evidence to show whether thunder god vine is helpful for any health conditions other than rheumatoid arthritis or whether its topical use in rheumatoid arthritis has any benefits.

Thunder God Vine Safety

  • Thunder god vine may have side effects, including decreased bone mineral content (with long-term use), infertility, menstrual cycle changes, rashes, diarrhea, headache, and hair loss. Because some of these side effects are serious, the risks of using thunder god vine may be greater than its benefits.
  • Thunder god vine can be extremely poisonous if the extract is not prepared properly.

Thunder God Vine References

PubMed Articles About Tripterygium wilfordii

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; [1988] – [cited 2018 Apr 5]. Available from:

Search query:(Tripterygium wilfordii AND diabetes AND (( Clinical Trial[ptyp] OR systematic[sb] ) AND Humans[Mesh]))

Lengnan, X., Ban, Z., Haitao, W., Lili, L., Aiqun, C., Huan, W., Ping, Z., Yonghui, M., (2022) Hook F Treatment for Stage IV Diabetic Nephropathy: Protocol for a Prospective, Randomized Controlled Trial.

Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is a major cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD). There are no effective treatments to prevent or reverse the progression of DN. A preliminary study showed that glycosides from Hook F (TwHF) with valsartan decrease proteinuria in patients with DN.

Xiong, C., Li, L., Bo, W., Chen, H., XiaoWei, L., Hongbao, L., Peng, Z., (2020) Evaluation of the efficacy and safety of TWHF in diabetic nephropathy patients with overt proteinuria and normal eGFR.

The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook F (TWHF) in DN patients with overt proteinuria and normal eGFR.

Khurana, N., James, S., Coughlan, MT., MacIsaac, RJ., Ekinci, EI., (2022) Novel Therapies for Kidney Disease in People With Diabetes.

The increasing burden of diabetic kidney disease (DKD) has led to the discovery of novel therapies.

Zheng, Q., Yang, H., Liu, W., Sun, W., Zhao, Q., Zhang, X., Jin, H., Sun, L., (2020) Comparative efficacy of 13 immunosuppressive agents for idiopathic membranous nephropathy in adults with nephrotic syndrome: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.

This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of 13 types of immunosuppressive agents used to treat idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN) in adults with nephrotic syndrome.

Li, Y., Miao, R., Liu, Y., Zhang, J., Dou, Z., Zhao, L., Zhang, Y., Huang, Z., Xia, Y., Han, D., (2021) Efficacy and Safety of Tripterygium Glycoside in the Treatment of Diabetic Nephropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Based on the Duration of Medication.

The aim of this study was to assess the clinical efficacy and safety of Tripterygium-derived glycosides (TG) after 3-month and 6-month of treatments of diabetic nephropathy (DN) and to resolve the conflict between medicine guidance and clinical practice for TG application.