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Once again natural medicine beats a pharmaceutical drug.
In a randomized trial, a traditional Chinese herbal medicine was significantly more effective than methotrexate for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.[i] The study was published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Researchers tested Chinese thunder god vine (Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F) against the drug over a six month period. Thunder god vine (TGV) is a perennial plant native to China, Japan, and Korea.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have used it for over 400 years for conditions involving inflammation. Today TGV is used as a traditional or folk remedy for excessive menstrual periods, inflammation, swelling, fever, and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
The Peking Union Medical College Hospital in China treats two-thirds of its rheumatoid arthritis patients with TGV. Most take it in combination with methotrexate. Doctors observed first-hand the effectiveness of the combination but it had not been studied.
They recruited 207 rheumatoid arthritis patients. The subjects were randomized to receive 20 mg TGV pills three times a day, or methotrexate (building from 7.5 mg to 12.5 mg per week), or both.
The researchers measured improvement based on the American College of Rheumatology ACR50 criteria. It tracks those who experience a 50% improvement in the number of tender or swollen joints, and improvement in pain and disability.
After 6 months, 55.1% of the TGV patients achieved 50% improvement compared to only 46.4% of the methotrexate group. The combination group did even better with 76.8% of them improving by 50%.
In an earlier study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from the National Institutes of Health noted that thunder god vine acts as a Cox-2 inhibitor. In that study, TGV was found to be significantly more effective than the drug sulfasalazine for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
According to Bloomberg News, a month's worth of thunder god vine extract costs about 80 yuan ($12.90) a month. Treatments with methotrexate cost at least three times that amount and must be administered in combination with biological or chemical reagents. Amgen Inc.'s Enbrel, usually injected weekly, costs $3,221 per prescription. Abbvie Inc.'s Humira, injected every other week, costs about $3,650 per prescription.
Extract from thunder god vine is prepared from the peeled root of the plant. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, other parts of the plant, including the leaves, flowers, and root skin, are highly poisonous.
Side effects can include stomach upset, skin reactions, missed menstrual periods, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney problems.
For more information about natural relief for rheumatoid arthritis, check out GreenMedInfo's ebook Arthritis - The Botanical Solution: Nature's Answer to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Gout and Other Forms of Arthritis
[i] Lv Q-w, et al "Comparison of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F with methotrexate in the treatment of active rheumatoid arthritis (TRIFRA): a randomized, controlled clinical trial" Ann Rheum Dis 2014; DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204807.