Tripterygium is a climbing vine with a long history of use in
Tripterygium is thought to be toxic or even fatal if taken to excess. Extracts made with ethyl acetate or chorloroform-methanol came into use in China in the 1970s, and were said to be less toxic. However, the safety of these extracts has not been conclusively established, and we recommend against using tripterygium except in the context of a scientific trial.
What is Tripterygium wilfordii Used for Today?
In animal, test-tube, and preliminary human trials, trypterygium has shown immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory affects. 1-7
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in China in 1997 evaluated the topical use of a tripterygium extract in 61 people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Another study compared placebo to oral trypterygium extract, taken in a low or high dose for 20 weeks.
At most, therefore, current evidence regarding tripterygium for rheumatoid arthritis remains preliminary. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently conducting a much larger study on this herb that should provide more definitive information.
No other potential uses of tripterygium have undergone meaningful controlled clinical trials. Weak evidence hints that it might offer promise as a contraceptive for men.
At present, we recommend that trypterygium should only be used in the context of a scientific trial.
Trypterygium is a toxic herb: various components of trypterygium can cause liver injury, genetic damage, and birth defects.
It is thought, but not proven, that certain chemical extracts of trypterygium are safe if used within proper dosage limits.
2. Wan Y, Gu L, Suzuki K, et al. Multi-glycoside of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook f. ameliorates proteinuria and acute mesangial injury induced by anti-Thy1.1 monoclonal antibody. Nephron Exp Nephrol . 2005;99:e121–9.
8. Cibere J, Deng Z, Lin Y, et al. A randomized double blind, placebo controlled trial of topical Tripterygiumwilfordii in rheumatoid arthritis: reanalysis using logistic regression analysis. J Rheumatol . 2003;30:465–7.
9. Tao X, Younger J, Fan FZ, et al. Benefit of an extract of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arthritis Rheum . 2002;46:1735–43.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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