Could a Chinese Herb Replace Life-Threatening RA Drugs?


thunder-god-vineThe famous Cleveland Clinic has opened a Chinese herbal medicine center, but Europe is virtually banning it. Action Alert!


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. The abnormal immune response causes inflammation that can damage joints and organs, such as the heart. It’s chronic, extremely painful, and can be debilitating. But now, a high-profile study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases has shown that a natural herb can be more effective than FDA-approved drugs.


The Annals study tested whether thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii, a perennial vine native to China, Japan, and Korea) was more effective in the treatment of RA than the most commonly prescribed disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug, methotrexate.


The results were astounding: of the 207 trial participants, 55% of those who took thunder god vine extract experienced at least a 50% improvement in the tender and swollen joints, pain, and disability associated with RA. By comparison, just 46.5% of patients on methotrexate had the same reduction in symptoms.


A third group, who took a combination of thunder god vine and methotrexate, had the best results: 77% showed a reduction of symptoms. But as we shall see below, methotrexate is an extremely dangerous drug to take.


This study has confirmed what Chinese herbalists have known for more than 400 years: thunder god vine is useful in the treatment of inflammation and autoimmune diseases. The herb has even been shown to have anti-cancer properties: in one 2012 study, the herb completely wiped out pancreatic tumors in mice in just forty days.


As Dr. Jonathan Wright notes, thunder god vine may produce mild side effects such as nausea, indigestion, or diarrhea. As always, and especially because it’s difficult to get high quality thunder god vine in the United States, talk to your integrative doctor before starting a new health regimen.


Thunder god vine could become a cost-effective alternative to dangerous RA drugs: a month’s worth of the herbal extract costs just $12.90. By comparison:


  • Methotrexate, $38.70 a month, has a laundry list of disturbing side effects: nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, rash, diarrhea, blood count abnormalities, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, persistent cough, shortness of breath, slow hair loss, skin sensitivity to sunlight, and cancer of the blood. It is not at all unusual for people to die from taking this drug. An ANH staff member had a friend who did. Methotrexate can also cause serious birth defects and complications during pregnancy.
  • TNF-alpha blockers (Enbrel and Humira) cost as much as $3,650 per prescription. These are used to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory diseases. Because TNF-alpha blockers are immunosuppressants, patients are at increased risk of developing serious infections that may lead to hospitalization or death due to bacterial, mycobacterial, fungal, viral, parasitic, and other opportunistic pathogens. In 2008, 2009, and 2011, the FDA determined that these drugs increase the risk of different—but all potentially fatal—infections and cancers, including tuberculosis and childhood leukemia.
  • Xeljanz, at $2,055 a month,caused four patient deaths before it even hit the market. It causes such side effects as infections, shingles, lymphoma, and stomach ruptures. The European regulatory agencies rejected Xeljanz twiceon safety grounds (the Committee was “of the opinion that the benefits of Xeljanz did not outweigh its risks”).


RA can be debilitatingly painful. Even when they’re fully aware of the danger of RA drugs, many patients will still choose drugs over crippling joint pain and lifelong disability. With conventional medicine’s “discovery” of thunder god vine, patients should soon be able to access cheaper, safer treatment alternative.


The Cleveland Clinic—one of the most highly lauded hospitals in the country (President Obama himself has sung its praises)—has opened its very own Chinese herbal therapy center. Slowly, the world of mainstream medicine is catching on to the benefits of natural health.


That is, in America. In Europe, the noose has been tightened on both Chinese and Indian traditional medicine, and it is becoming increasingly unavailable.


Is US mainstream medicine’s and Big Pharma’s interest in thunder god vine a good thing? Now that its effectiveness has been demonstrated so amply, will Big Pharma attempt to turn thunder god vine into an expensive, patented drug? Or, as we’ve seen with other supplements, will this result in less effective, bargain basement-quality products? Will the FDA leap on the chance to reserve another powerful health tool for Big Pharma via burdensome, expensive regulations?


Action Alert! Doctors often recommend folate supplementation with methotrexate treatment. This is yet another reason why access to folate supplements is crucial. Even if you have done so already, please take action again on the FDA’s proposed folate ban!


  • Janice and Dave Emmons

    Just the fact that folate is needed for young mothers to prevent tubal births and even birth defects, why would those who are suppose to help the consumers find the path to the best health resources turn around and put stumbling blocks in the way of pursuing the best supplements (natural form) to address their health issues. I find it appalling that in many instances the FDA sides with Big Pharma’s attempt to control natural supplements to further their end goal of large profits. Instead of working in concert with alternative medicines the Big Pharma, big corporations only look to their BOTTOM LINE OF PROFIT instead of the humane and compassionate path of working together with alternative and natural medicines to offer the best to humanity. The compassion you give forward will come back ten fold which is what the Judeo-christian principles have always shown in the various principles and teachings. THAT IS what our country’s foundation was based upon. Don’t go backward towards GREED, GO FORWARD towards compassion and logic. Thank you for your anticipated compassion and the right decision to be made for the American consumers.

  • Julie Blichmann

    I can say from personal experience, that herbal medicine has greatly reduced my symptoms of RA. I also have Hashimoto’s, MS and Chronic Lyme Disease, so avoiding pharmaceuticals, while difficult, has been worthwhile (I was previously on Methotrexate and Simponi.) My last test results from my Rheumatologist, were so improved, that he said I must be “living right”, and not to change a thing I’m doing.

    I would encourage readers to research The Marshall Protocol. Many claim that Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of chronic illness, while Dr. Marshall’s research is showing that chronic illness causes the deficiency, and it must be addressed much differently than what is being reported. If nothing else, it is interesting to read.

  • Jan Lindner

    Yet again, the FDA is w-ing for the pharmaceutical industry, banning an amazingly effective herbal medicine because it’s not under corporate control.

    Do your job, people, or get your snout out of the public trough and go pull a paycheck from Big Pharma. Or are you already double-dipping?

    I know this is supposed to be “respectful,” and believe me, I am showing more respect than YOU show Americans.

  • William Navran

    Are you aware of the substantial list of side effects that thunder god vine can cause?

    Taken from you link to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

    Side Effects and Cautions

    Thunder god vine can cause severe side effects and can be poisonous if it is not carefully extracted from the skinned root. Other parts of the plant—including the leaves, flowers, and skin of the root—are highly poisonous and can cause death.

    A number of participants in the NIAMS study experienced gastrointestinal adverse effects such as diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea, as well as upper respiratory tract infections. (The rate of adverse effects was similar in the thunder god vine and sulfasalazine groups.)
    Thunder god vine can also cause hair loss, headache, menstrual changes, and skin rash.
    There are no consistent, high-quality thunder god vine products being manufactured in the United States. Preparations of thunder god vine made outside the United States (for example, in China) can sometimes be obtained, but it is not possible to verify whether they are safe and effective.
    Thunder god vine has been found to decrease bone mineral density in women who take the herb for 5 years or longer. This side effect may be of particular concern to women who have osteoporosis or are at risk for the condition.
    Thunder god vine contains chemicals that might decrease male fertility by changing sperm.
    Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary and alternative medicine, see NCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign.

  • If this herb can help RA patina then you should find a way for those people to receive it. We all are aware that the drugs passed by FDA have very harmful side affects and still given at high cost a lot of times . It is time to see if we can get better health in other ways. Drug Companies have controlled our health and what we take for money money money and FDA are you getting your share to pass them. Doctors get their biffes for giving the new stuff to get it out there , the seniors can’t afford the cost and their health is hard to keep as you age. Time to think about the people and what is best for them not the drug companies.

  • Cheryl

    Everyone needs to learn to grow herbs and make their own medicine. It is better than anything else. Also, order what you need online and put it away for future use or trade. If you can afford to and are interested, take a course in making herbal remedies. You may be able to furnish lots of things people need as well as make a living at it. And don’t forget the most important of all, MMS. Find out about it online and buy what you need to make it. It will kill anything that ails you. Check out B 17 online also.

  • The mainstream medical acceptance of herbal medicine could be a double-edged sword as it results in restrictive regulations though affective therapies are brought into awareness. The medical complex has a long history of manipulating government to actively destroy alternative medicine.

  • Does Thunder God vine also used for:
    Multiple Sclerosis

  • M. Mayer

    I was Taught Years ago………when I was diagnosed with R.A. (at the age of 28 yrs. old) – that you must look for the PATHOGENS: Parasites, Viruses, Funguses, & Bacterias for the CAUSE. In my particular case it was Viruses & Parasites. I did Not take the Drugs that were prescribed to me. I took the slow road with an Herb program (think it is safer)… took me 6 months to rid my body of both. Well, for the Parasites…….Viruses you can only put Dormant — – they will Raise their Ugly Heads when you get Stressed.. Now at 64 yrs. old I have had no reoccurrence with R.A. I was Taught – with many Nutritional Studies – to follow your Heritage/ Culture. Don’t relay on Just Chinese herbs for a cure all. I use then – but in Moderation. Many Mexicans cannot tolerate “Chinese Herbs”…..the Chemistry is NOT THERE. Everyone is different…………so, I throw Caution to anyone that thinks any one Herb will cure them. Find someone who can find the Cause, use the proper herbs, appropriate Homeopathics & Nutritional foods.

    • Trip Campbell

      M. Mayer – You have highlighted the secret to addressing all chronic disease, issues, and conditions. For every drug there is an equally effective natural non-toxic substance or food. No pharmaceutical is heaIth-building. Health-building materials come from food and quality food supplements. Unfortunately, our current conventional food supply does not provide these nutrients and is loaded with pesticides, GMO’s that produce devastating health effects, hormones and antibiotics. I will add that, for most all individuals, it is so critical that the first thing consumed upon awaking and the last thing consumed before bed is nutrient dense (high mineral, trace elements content. Mineral deficiency is a scourge of humanity and life itself. I use Sole’ from Evolution Salt to start the day), healthy gut building food (live food, probiotics, enzymes), structural support (amino acids -particularly collagen derived. Genacol is excellent for this), brain support ( Fats – hemp oil, cod liver oil, coconut oil, olive oil). In addition, we must offset the natural aging decline in production of collagen and glutathione, conversion of CoQ10 to the usable form. Stay with a comprehensive program that you create for yourself for at least 120 days and you will be pleasantly surprised at the health issues you can check off as improved and even reversed! This is how we beat Big Pharma that is draining our health and making “health care” (sick care) so expensive. Good luck in your improved health effort, everyone.

  • BK

    Niacin has a long track record of treating and relieving the symptoms of RA, ADHD, improves mental focus and more, it’s cheap and easy to find which means it’ll never be embraced by mainstream medicine.

  • Seattle Girl

    What gets me is that the medical industry states, “(RA) is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your joints.” The body’s immune system is attacking a pathogen that they have not identified, like lyme bacteria, a spirochete that attacks the joints. Regardless, this herb sounds promising. I am all for natural vs. chemical. Remicade and other RA drugs killed my mother.

  • Lollo

    Yes, absolutely!

    Keep up the good work!


  • John Raymond

    Than you for looking out for my interests. Even at 67 I still want to be connected and active. Your news is relevant to me. There are several other sites that their views correspond with mine. This is one major way for us to respond to important issues of the day. Do you think any politician or government has my interests at heart these days? Even with these excellent sites, They still don’t listen. Thank you for being vigilant on my behalf.

  • I am 73 and I have had R.A. since my late 20s. I am so sick of loosing my hair and being embarrassed, and as well feeling depressed due to my illness. I can’t even peal a potato let alone cook, because of my deformed hands. I am so ready to try something different. Methotrexate, I feel is just a drug the Pharmacy’s and the Dr. are use working hand and hand, off of the folks who has this terrible disease. I know that God put everything on this green earth for the people to use, and I am so ready to try something that the Dir.’s and drug Co. won’t become rich by prescribing things that might be harmful to humans. Living day by day, or hour by hour, is not a healthy way to endure the already painful life, that we who have R.A. should be living. Hopefully I will be able to afford the and try the God Thunder Vine, and soon.

    • Jesse Marcus

      I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with RA. Unfortunately Tripterygium Wilfordii has many drawbacks, and the reason for concerns over it being self-administered by people are legitimate. It is stronger in action than corticosteroids. It does something they cannot do, it raises Corticotropin Releasing Hormone, which in turn raises Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, which then raises the body’s natural cortisol production – whereas corticosteroid drugs only supply the cortisol.

      This deep action by TW is why it is only prescribed by Traditional Chinese Medical doctors, and only for short periods of use, just as corticosteroids are prescribed for short periods by Western physicians. Corticosteroids can only be used for a short time before they have other side effects like lowering the immune response and damaging the integrity of connective tissues (lowered immunity means that life threatening infections can occur; and connective tissues such as ligaments can tear easily, which is permanent). Lowering your immune system with any cortisol, whether your own or enhanced with TW or from cortisol drugs, will give a temporary relief from the swelling of RA but will simultaneously lower immunity and make the RA worse after the cortisol effects have worn off. This is the same reason you don’t get permanent relief from RA with the corticosteroid drugs.

      Don’t forget, these herbs also interact with other medications, and you need a modern Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor to prescribe them, because a good TCM doctor will know the concerns with mixing each herb with the prescriptions you are taking and work together with your regular physician.

      If you were to go to your nearby China Town to buy TW, you will find that they will not sell it to you in bulk, but only through a prescription given to you by their TCM doctor, and they will give you a specific amount with specific instructions on how to use it. This is not because of some law, but because they are conscientious and don’t want anyone to take too much or for too long – they are monitoring your safety as well.

      There are many many herbs and other natural treatments available for RA. I would focus on others that are available. For example, Andrographis Paniculata is one of the most studied herbs, with approximately 10,000 studies where it is used in scientific expirements. We know a lot about it and it is remarkable for treating inflammation.

      In regards to TW being banned in…

  • Thunder god seems promising, but you’re definitely putting the cart before the horse, IMHO. Any natural doctor, when approaching an autoimmune disorder, needs to look at triggers. Food sensitivities and sensitivities to common chemicals and even fungi are the most common. ALCAT and LEAP tests are by far the best for this, I think. Also, the digestive tract needs to be rehabbed and repopulated with pre and probiotics. Once all of that is taken care of, and very gentle specific Chiropractic reduction of nerve impingement syndromes (subluxations) are taken care of would I consider a more allopathic approach, even with herbs. (note: Chiorpractic should be done VERY gently as soft tissue damage often accompanies R.A.). Homeopathics have also proven effective in reducing RA. And these also work hygienically, i.e., from the inside out and could be used near the beginning. Remember, our bodies are self correcting mechanisms. Given the opportunity, our bodies should correct themselves. ‘So much more to write on tis topic.

  • I did my own investigation several months ago into Thunder God. I recommend anyone considering this herb should Google it.

    What I found is TG can be very poisonous. Coming from China … the same folks that mixed melamine into our pet foods killing thousands of animals … trying to find a reliable vendor who can supply bulk TG was impossible.

    I recommend oils that can be used topically and are just as effective at reducing inflammation … or even better!