- A traditional Chinese herbal remedy, derived from the “thunder god vine” or Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF), may help alleviate inflammation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
- In a comparative study, approximately 65% of the rheumatoid arthritis patients consuming the TwHF root extract showed a 20% improvement in their joint condition, compared to about 33% improvement in those taking the prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, sulfasalazine.
- The findings of the study demonstrate the potential vital role supplements and herbs can play in managing arthritis symptoms but require additional research for conclusive evidence.
- Despite promising results, there are substantial limitations in the study such as a high dropout rate due to side effects, participants’ continued intake of other drugs, and the short duration of the study.
- Patients should always inform their doctors about any herbal supplements they are taking, as being herbal does not automatically make a supplement safe or affordable.
A traditional Chinese herbal remedy, famously referred to as the “thunder god vine”, has been found to alleviate inflammation in individuals afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis. This revelation comes from a recent investigation into the efficacy of traditional treatment options.
The remedy consists of an extract derived from the medicinal plant Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF), colloquially named “lei gong teng” in China. This herb has been used for centuries in Chinese healthcare for its properties in combating various inflammatory diseases.
Evidential Support via Comparative Study
The study introduced a comparative evaluation of the reduction of joint swelling among rheumatoid arthritis patients who were administered either the herb or a conventional anti-inflammatory medication. Rheumatoid arthritis results in chronic and uncomfortable inflammation within the joints, a condition that over prolonged periods can lead to joint damage and loss of functionality.
Out of the 121 study participants, each had presented with a minimum of six swollen joints. One set consumed 60 milligrams of TwHF root extract three times daily, while the other group ingested 1 gram of the prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, sulfasalazine, twice daily.
Upon completion of the 24-week study period, approximately 65% of those consuming the herbal extract exhibited at least a 20% improvement in their joint condition. This improvement was based on the established American College of Rheumatology criteria, which assess the effectiveness of arthritis treatment options. Only about 33% of those taking sulfasalazine reflected an equivalently sizable degree of improvement.
Inclusion of Supplements & Herbs
The encouraging findings of the study serve as reminder of the vital role supplements and herbs can play in managing arthritis symptoms. However, it’s essential to note that due to the limited number of participants in the study, these findings provide promising, but not conclusive or widely accepted evidence.
Study Limitations and Considerations
The medication used as a comparison in the study, sulfasalazine, is only sparingly used nowadays in states like the U.S. Therefore, some medical professionals recommend proceeding with measured optimism, especially when the comparator medication is mild and not a standard treatment option in some regions.
The study allowed participants to continue their intake of oral prednisone or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but anyone taking disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, which slow disease progression, had to stop them approximately a month prior to the study commencement. High dropout rates were observed, with 62% of the TwHF group and 41% of the other group completing the study.
Adverse side effects were the major reason for drop-outs, primarily with gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and diarrhoea. The study did not evidence a significant difference in joint damage based on X-rays, which is possibly due to the short duration of the study.
Thus, while the findings certainly hint at the potential of the herbal solution, additional, rigorous studies are required to establish solid proof of this remedy’s efficacy.
Lastly, it’s important for patients to always make their doctors aware if they are consuming any herbal supplements, since being herbal doesn’t necessarily make a supplement safe or affordable.
For further details on rheumatoid arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation.