It has been used in China for health purposes for more than years. Common Names—thunder god vine, lei gong teng Latin Names—Tripterygium wilfordii What It Is Used For Thunder god vine has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for conditions involving inflammation or overactivity of the immune system. Orally, thunder god vine is taken for excessive menstrual periods or autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
Thunder god vine may not be a useful herbal medicine but the compounds isolated from it are fascinating — if not as medicines, then most certainly as laboratory tools. Nature Chemical Biology recently published an article where a research team from Johns Hopkins, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Drew University in New Jersey, has determined the molecular mechanism of action of Thunder god vine, an unusual triepoxide compound from the plant.
Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F, or thunder god vine, is known as lei gong teng in Chinese traditional medicine and has a history of use as an anti-inflammatory herb.
As with many traditional medicines, usage patterns do not necessarily indicate scientific validity. In fact, a Cochrane review published just last month on herbal therapies for rheumatoid arthritis indicated that the efficacy of thunder god vine was mixed. More concerning is that the herb had significant adverse effects in some trials, from hair loss to one case of aplastic anemia.
The group of the late natural products chemist at the University of Virginia, S. Morris Kupchan, first identified the unusual structures of triptolide and tripdiolide from Tripterygium wilfordii as described in this paper from the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Cytotoxic activity toward tumor cells in culture was used to guide the chemical fractionation of extracts.
The unusual presence of three consecutive epoxides in the structures of both compounds led Kupchan to hypothesize later in Science that they target leukemia cells by covalent binding to cellular targets involved in cellular growth.
Epoxides are chemically reactive groups composed of an oxygen atom bonded to two carbons; the constraints of this triangular structure and the electrons on the oxygen favor the opening of this ring and attack of other atoms such as sulfur, often present in regulatory regions of enzymes. The Wikipedia entry gives a pretty nice primer.
The reactivity of epoxides also makes these compounds highly useful intermediates in industry, particularly in the manufacture of ethylene glycol antifreeze and industrial paints and adhesives e. However, several groups have shown over the last 10 or 15 years that some epoxide-containing natural products have very specific cellular targets.
Epoxides are not so wildly reactive that they bind everything in their midst. Instead, the environment in which the epoxide exists seems to provide some binding specificity. For example, the group of Jun O. Liu, then at MIT, showed in that another epoxide-containing natural product, fumagillin, exerted its antiangiogenic activity by binding to a protein called methionine aminopeptidase 2 MetAP2.
Jun Liu was again at the helm in the current thunder god vine study in Nature Chemical Biology. The group started with a simple approach to narrow down the target of triptolide from thunder god vine: Triptolide was several orders of magnitude more potent in rapidly inhibiting RNA synthesis.
The group then made semi-synthetic chemical analogs of triptolide to determine how inhibition of the ATP hydrolyzing activity of XPB correlated with potency in killing HeLa cells. While the rank order of potency of the compounds correlated, the drugs were less potent in attacking the enzyme activity of the XPB protein than in killing HeLa cells.
The investigators do note that triptolide may have other cellular targets that are less abundant than XPB that contribute to its activity. Again, conventional wisdom would argue that a drug that hits such a crucial target as a transcription factor is unlikely to have selective activity.
However, low concentrations of such a compound might indeed have some selectivity when given together with a DNA-damaging anticancer drug.
But if normally disregarded epoxides do indeed have some specificity in their action on cellular targets, perhaps analogs can be made with selective action against tumor cells. Many triptolide analogs have been synthesized over the years and should certainly be revisited in the context of cancer treatment.
But this finding should also serve to warn us that the indiscriminate use of the herb as an anti-inflammatory should be revisited, particularly if the dose of the herb gives variable concentrations of compounds with a very low margin of safety.Learn about the potential benefits of Thunder God Vine including contraindications, adverse reactions, toxicology, pharmacology and historical usage.
Thunder God Vine is a natural extract that reduces pain and inflammation and treats symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Read about its' benefits, dosage and more.
Overall, patients in the thunder god vine group achieved significantly better symptom relief (i.e., swelling, joint pain, and inflammation) than did those in the drug group.
"Thunder god vine may block up to 60 different cancer cell lines according to Chinese research." Pursuit of medical knowledge has been a tradition in humanity since the dawn of time.
In the beginning, the inner workings of the body were little understood. Facts. The thunder god vine or Tripterygium wilfordii is native to Korea, Japan, and China.
For more than years, these cultures have celebrated the curative properties of the plant, which include immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Here is an article about recent research on Thunder God Vine, Lei Gong Teng, Tripterygium wilfordii. This plant has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties to also treat auto immune syndromes such as rheumatoid arthritis.