The thunder god vine or Tripterygium wilfordii is native to Korea, Japan, and China. For more than 400 years, these cultures have celebrated the curative properties of the plant, which include immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The plant is also known as „lei gong teng” in Mandarin.
The plant can grow in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy soils. It can survive in acid, neutral and alkaline soil. It can grow in semi-shade or no shade. It requires moist soil.
The traditional use of this vine consists of skinning the root of the vine, and then reducing that extract into a powder.
Health benefits of Tripterygium Wilfordii
The natural compound, triptolide, found in this plant has been shown in numerous researches to induce cell death (apoptosis) in cancerous cells.
In one research, the apoptosis produced by triptolide was mediated by up-regulating the expression of a gene associated with apoptosis called caspase-3 and bax, making triptolide a potential cure for cancers of the pancreas.
At the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, researchers were amazed to find how effectively this wonder plant reduced the incidence of tumors in mice. Even after other treatments were stopped, lei gong teng appeared to fully eliminate the tumors.
Identical results were found at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, where extracts of Tripterygium wilfordii were used to eliminate tumors. A professor involved in the research reported that even small extracts of the herb appeared to be effective in halting the growth of all 60 of the cancer cell lines tested in the study and that in some cases the cell lines completely died off.
Besides from its antitumor activity, recent studies on animals suggest that the natural compound triptolide may sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy and exert synergistic anti-tumor effect when used in combination with various cytotoxic drugs such as 5-FU or cisplatin, sorafen, to carboplatin, temozolomide, and oxaliplatin.
It has also been shown that mixing its use with non-cytotoxic drugs such as dexamethasone and aspirin also has synergistic effects in many numerous cancer cells.
Additionally, the substance triptolide has also been shown to enhance the radio-sensitivity of cancer cells. Also, it was found to work synergistically with radiation therapy to stop the growth of pancreatic cancer cells and significantly up-regulated cell death of cancer cells.
Although a number of studies point to the possible clinical value of triptolide use in cancer therapy, more researches with larger sample sizes are required to confirm their results.
Furthermore, some studies suggest that this vine may be useful for individuals with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, that may lead to severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and malnutrition.
Side Effects of Thunder God Vine
Lei gong teng is not safe to use internally during pregnancy. It might cause birth defects. Large doses of this plant might weaken the immune system. Other side effects include – infertility, decreased bone mineral content, menstrual cycle changes, diarrhea, rashes, hair loss, and headaches.
Due to potential health risks connected with the intake of lei gong teng, it’s best to use it only under the supervision of a medical professional familiar with this herb.
If you decide to use Tripterygium wilfordii, experts recommend that you consult with a qualified health specialist.