Thunder God Vine

Other Name(s):

Huang-T'eng Ken, Lei Gong Teng, Lei-Kung T'eng, Taso-Ho-Hua, Threewingnut, Tonnerre de la Vigne de Dieu, Tripterigium Wilfordii, Tripterygium wilfordii, Vigne du Tonnerre Divin, Yellow Vine.


Thunder god vine is an herb. Its leaves and root are used to make medicine.

Thunder god vine is used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), heavy menstrual flows, multiple sclerosis, and as a male contraceptive. It is also used for pockets of infection (abscesses), boils, fever, swelling (inflammation), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), HIV/AIDS, a skin condition called psoriasis, and a blood vessel disease called Behcet's disease.

Thunder god vine is sometimes applied to the skin for rheumatoid arthritis.

Thunder god vine has also been used non-medicinally as an insecticide against maggots or larvae, and as a rat and bird poison.

How does it work?

Thunder god vine might help rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by relieving swelling (inflammation) and by changing the way the immune system responds to the arthritis. Thunder god vine contains chemicals that might decrease male fertility by changing sperm.

Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Effective for...

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Taking thunder god vine by mouth seems to relieve joint pain and swelling and improve physical function in people with RA. It also seems to improve the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) when taken for RA symptoms. Taking thunder god vine extract by mouth along with methotrexate seems to be as effective as taking methotrexate alone for RA symptoms, but with fewer side effects. Applying a liquid preparation (tincture) of thunder god vine to the skin over affected joints seems to decrease joint tenderness, stiffness, and swelling. However, serious side effects may occur in people taking thunder god vine for RA symptoms, so talk with your healthcare provider before starting thunder god vine.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Male contraception. Taking thunder god vine by mouth might be effective as a male contraceptive. Fertility returns about 6 weeks after men stop taking thunder god vine.
  • A kidney condition called nephrotic syndrome. Early research suggests thunder god vine may be effective for nephrotic syndrome in children.
  • Kidney transplant. Taking thunder god vine before a kidney transplant and for 5 years thereafter might prevent transplant rejection and improve survival in some people undergoing kidney transplantation. Other research suggests that taking thunder god vine along with cyclosporine and prednisone might improve the function and 1-2 year survival rate of the transplanted kidney compared to treatment with azathioprine, cyclosporine, and prednisone.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Some early research shows that thunder god vine may be effective for kidney problems (nephritis) associated with SLE. However, taking thunder god vine along with prednisone does not appear to improve symptoms better than prednisone alone.
  • Menstrual pain.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Pockets of infection (abscesses).
  • Boils.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of thunder god vine for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis See Slideshow

Side Effects

Thunder god vine is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth or applied to the skin in appropriate amounts. It can cause many side effects such as stomach upset, skin reactions, missed menstrual periods, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney problems.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Thunder god vine is LIKELY UNSAFE to take by mouth during pregnancy. It might cause birth defects.

Not enough is known about the safety of using thunder god vine during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Weakened immune system: Large doses of thunder god vine might weaken the immune system. If you already have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, medications used to reduce the chance of organ transplant rejection, or for other reasons, avoid using thunder god vine. It might decrease your body's ability to fight off infection.

Weakened bones (osteoporosis): Thunder god vine can reduce bone strength. If you have osteoporosis or are likely to develop it, don't use thunder god vine.


Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Large doses of thunder god vine might decrease the immune system. Taking thunder god vine along with other medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the immune system too much. Avoid taking thunder god vine with medications that decrease the immune system.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For rheumatoid arthritis (RA): 180-570 mg of thunder god vine extract per day for up to 20 weeks.
  • For kidney problems (nephrotic syndrome) in children: 1 mg per kg of body weight daily for up to 20 weeks.
  • For rheumatoid arthritis (RA): a tincture of thunder god vine applied over affected joints five to six times daily.


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Wu, Y. J., Lao, Z. Y., and Zhang, Z. L. [Clinical observation on small doses Tripterygium wilfordii polyglycoside combined with methotrexate in treating rheumatoid arthritis]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2001;21(12):895-896. View abstract.

Yan, S. X. and Wang, Y. Inhibitory effects of Triptolide on interferon-gamma-induced human leucocyte antigen-DR, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, CD40 expression on retro-ocular fibroblasts derived from patients with Graves' ophthalmopathy. Clin.Experiment.Ophthalmol. 2006;34(3):265-271. View abstract.

Yang, H., Chen, D., Cui, Q. C., Yuan, X., and Dou, Q. P. Celastrol, a triterpene extracted from the Chinese "Thunder of God Vine," is a potent proteasome inhibitor and suppresses human prostate cancer growth in nude mice. Cancer Res. 5-1-2006;66(9):4758-4765. View abstract.

Yang, J. H., Luo, S. D., Wang, Y. S., Zhao, J. F., Zhang, H. B., and Li, L. Triterpenes from Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. J Asian Nat.Prod.Res. 2006;8(5):425-429. View abstract.

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