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Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook

Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f. (Celastraceae) is a perennial vine growing in southern China. The herb, also called Lei Gong Teng (Thunder God Vine or "three-wing nut"), has been used in Chinese medicine for treatment of fever, edema, and carbuncles for centuries. The powdered roots of the plant were also used as an insecticide. (It is sometimes spelled as: `Tripterygium wilfodii Hook)

Over the last 30 years it has been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, chronic nephritis, chronic hepatitis, thrombocytopenia, ankylosing spondylitis, and skin diseases [3]. One case has been recorded where the drug caused death [11].

Recent research has seems to indicate that it does have a positive effect in combination with certain chemotherapy drugs for treating cancer.

Warning: The raw roots has toxins [1] that require careful processing to remove. You are strongly advised not to experiment with the raw roots yourself.


  1. An experimental pathologic study on acute Triptergium wilfordii poisoning in rats. by Y. G. Zhang Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 3(6):360-362 (1983).

  2. An experimental pathological study of acute Lei Gong Teng (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook) intoxication in rats. by Y. G. Zhang, G. Z. Hunag, H. J. Wang. Z. B. Wu, and S. L. Xing. Acta Acad Med Wuhan 4(2):75-81 (1984)

  3. Tripterygium wilfordii, a Chinese herb effective in male fertility regulation". Contraception 1987; 36:335-45.

  4. A Prospective, Controlled, Double-Blind, Cross-Over, Study of Tripterygium Wilfodii Hook F in Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis by Tao Xue-Lian, Sun Ying, Dong Yi, Xiao Yu-Lan, Hu Da-Wen, Shi Yan-Ping, Zhu Qing-Lin, Dai Huan, and Zhang Nai-Zheng, which appeared in Chinese Medical Jourmal, 102(5), 327-332, 1989.

  5. Triptoquinone A and B, novel interleukin-1 inhibitors from T. wilfordii var. regelii. by Y Takaishi et al., Tetrahedron Lett. vol. 33, pp. 7177-7180 (1992)

  6. Inhibition of type II collagen induced arthritis in mice by an immunosuppressive extract of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f. by W-Z Gu et al, The Journal of Rheumatology, vol 19, pp. 682-688, (1992)

  7. Anti-inflammatory oleanane triterpenes from Tripterygium wilfordii cell suspension cultures by fungal elicitation, by Kutney, J.P.; Samija, M.D.; Hewitt, G.M.; Bugante, E.C.; Gu, H. Berlin, W. Ger. : Springer International; 1993. Plant cell reports v. 12 (6): p. 356-359; 1993. Includes references ( Call. No.: QK725.P54)

  8. Biotransformations of Tobacco Isoprenoids using Plant Cell Cultures of Tripterygium wilfordii in Acta Chemica Scandinavica, 1993, 47, 683-688

  9. Diterpene quinoides from T. wilfordii var. regelii which are interleukin-1 inhibitors by K Shishido et al, Phytochemistry, vol 35, pp 731-737 (1994)

  10. Hydroxylation of synthetic diterpenes by Aspergillus and Cunninghamella species: Novel routes to the family of diterpenes isolated from Tripterygium wilfordii. by R. Milanova, M. Moore, and Y. Hirai. 1994. J. Nat. Prod., 57: 882-889.

  11. Hypovolemic shock and mortality after ingestion of Tripterygium wilfordii hook F.: a case report. by Chou WC, Wu CC, Yang PC, Lee YT, from Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei. Int J Cardiol 49 (2): 173-177 (Apr 1995)


      Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TWHF) is a kind of Chinese herbal medicine used for 2000 years. It was applied externally for treatment of arthritis and inflammatory tissue swelling in early years. Recently, this drug has been found to have immunosuppressive effects which could successfully induce remission of some autoimmune disorders without obvious adverse effects. Although there are side effects of gastrointestinal upset, infertility and suppression of lymphocyte proliferation, little information about lethal toxicities has been reported. A case is presented here of a previously healthy young man who developed profuse vomiting and diarrhea, leukopenia, renal failure, profound hypotension and shock after ingestion of an extract of TWHF. In addition to his hypovolemic shock, serial electrocardiograms (ECG), cardiac enzyme studies, and echocardiography also showed some evidence of coexisting cardiac damage. He died of intractable shock 3 days after the abuse of TWHF. Further studies of the pathogenesis of peripheral collapse and possible cardiac toxicity, and determination of the therapeutic range of this drug are necessary before it is used extensively.

  12. Oxidation and glucose conjugation of synthetic abietane diterpenes by Cunninghamella spp.: II. Novel routes to the family of diterpenes isolated from Tripterygium wilfordii. by R. Milanova, K. Han, and M. Moore. 1995. J. Nat. Prod., 58: 68-73.

  13. Recent Progress in Research on Tripterygium: A Male Antifertility Plant by Qian Shao Zhen, Xu Ye, and Zhang Jian Wei. Contraception, February 1995; 51:117-120.

  14. A paper by Peter E. Lipsky (?) in The Journal of Pharmacology and experimental Therapeutics (1305-1312, 1995).

  15. The Chinese Herbal Remedy, T2, Inhibits Mitogen-Induced Cytokine Gene Transcription by T Cells, but Not Initial Signal Transduction by Xuelian Tao, Laurie S. Davis, Keisuke Hashimoto and Peter E. Lipsky (from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), which appeared in The Journal of Pharmacology and experimental Therapeutics January 1996, Vol. 276, No. 1.

  16. Pharmacological and Clinical Study on Polyglycoside of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f. by Jiang Ming appeared in Chin Med J (Taipei) 1996 Vol.57 No.6 (Supplement A). (local copy)

Availablility of this drug

In the P.R. of China pills with 125mg of some extract of TWF can be bought in drug stores. At least two factories are producing these pills. The attempts me made to contact one of these factories failed: we never received any response to our letters. The drug seems not to be available outside the P.R. of China. Any experimentation with the roots in their crude from, e.g. making tea from it, is discouraged, as some parts of the roots are very toxic.


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