I don’t normally spend a lot of time discussing Chinese herbs. It’s not that I don’t believe in them. It’s just that I know Chinese herbology is a complex school of traditional healing. And I don’t’ think it’s the kind of thing you can just “dabble” in.
I feel the same way about homeopathy, actually. It’s a complete, whole-body modality that’s tough to discuss in any meaningful way without proper training.
To me, it would be like a physician trying to be a veterinarian and vice versa. They might share a lot of common ground. But the particulars couldn’t be more different.
That said, I’m going to make an exception today. Because I recently came across some incredibly compelling research. And it offers new hope to sufferers of one of the more debilitating chronic conditions in the medical books.
I’m talking about rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a painful chronic inflammatory disorder that typically targets the smaller joints of your hands and feet. And according to a new clinical trial, preparations of a traditional Chinese herb commonly known as “thunder god vine” works better than methotrexate to treat RA patients.
Methotrexate is an extremely harsh drug that doubles as a chemotherapeutic agent. It’s not a medication to be taken lightly. So any alternative that may help eliminate or at least minimize its use is a pretty exciting discovery.
This study featured over 200 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers hoped to achieve at least a 50 percent improvement in both joint swelling and inflammation. And after six months, that’s exactly what they got.
In fact, they got more. Response rates reached 46.4 percent with methotrexate—and 55.1 percent with thunder god vine. But combining the two delivered even better results, improving disease markers by more than 75 percent in subjects who took both of the treatments together.
So where can you get thunder god vine for yourself? Well, I went to Chinatown here in New York City to look for it before I sat down to write this. And was pleased to find it’s readily available. So I’m sure you can find it in your local Chinese herb shop, too. (Assuming you have one, that is.)
But I have to urge you to use caution on this front. The herbal extract used in this study appeared to be safe as prepared. But the leaves, flowers, and outer layers of thunder god vine are notoriously toxic.
So needless to say, thunder god vine really isn’t suitable as a DIY therapy. You should definitely work with a specialist in Chinese herbology if you want to try to this treatment. (Many acupuncturists are well versed in traditional Chinese medicine. You can find one near you by searching the website of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, www.nccaom.org.)
But even if you don’t have access to thunder god vine—or simply aren’t willing to assume the risks—there are still many safe and effective strategies for dealing RA.
Part of thunder god vine’s effectiveness stems from its unique effects on the immune system. After all, unlike wear-and-tear osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis results when your body starts attacking itself. So any supplement that works to restore balance to your immunity is going to help with symptom relief.
One of my personal favorites is AHCC. This medicinal mushroom extract is safe, powerful, and effective against everything from colds to cancer to lupus to RA. I recommend starting with 3,000 mgs daily, split into three doses—1,000 mg in the morning, 1,000 mg in the afternoon, and 1,000 mg in the evening.
“Comparison of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F with methotrexate in the treatment of active rheumatoid arthritis (TRIFRA): a randomised, controlled clinical trial.” Ann Rheum Dis. 2014 Apr 14.
Chinese Herb Equals Methotrexate in Rheumatoid Arthritis Study. Medscape. Apr 16, 2014.