Herbal remedy may improve arthritis symptoms
April 14th, 2014
08:48 PM ET

Herbal remedy may improve arthritis symptoms

A traditional herbal remedy may treat rheumatoid arthritis as effectively as an FDA-approved drug treatment, according to a preliminary study published this week in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Triptergium wilfordii Hook F, also known as the "Thunder God Vine," has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat joint pain and inflammation, though no U.S. manufacturer currently sells the root extract, according to the NIH.

"It actually does show a clinical benefit," said Dr. Eric Matteson, rheumatology chair at Mayo Clinic, who was not involved with the study. "I think it is something that deserves further evaluation, without a doubt."

More than half of the patients taking nothing but Triptergium wilfordii (TwHF) in the study experienced a 50% or greater improvement in their symptoms, as measured by the American College of Rheumatology's standardized assessment criteria.

By contrast, 46% of patients taking the standard drug treatment methotrexate experienced the same improvement in symptoms.

Patients taking both TwHF and methotrexate showed the greatest improvement of all, with nearly 77% of them experiencing a 50% or greater improvement in symptoms.

One major limitation of the study, however, is that both patients and clinicians knew who was receiving which treatments. A "blinded" clinical trial to rule out a placebo effect would be necessary to earn FDA-approval in the United States.

And while current drug treatments also slow the progression of arthritis over time, the study authors only measured symptom improvement with TwHF.

"Using drugs like methotrexate is intended to make people feel better and reduce the symptoms of their arthritis, but it's also intended to reduce the damage that people have from the arthritis," said Matteson. "And that we don't know about because there were no x-rays in this study."

The study was conducted in China and included 207 total patients with active rheumatoid arthritis who were observed for 24 weeks.

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. wib smith

    In 2006, I took this herb[perhaps], getting it from a mainland Chinese Pharmacy whose quality, reliability were unknown. I could tell no effect after 3 months.
    The NIMH Alternative Medicine group also ran a least one clinical trial. The verbal report in response to my phone calls was to the effect that, yes, it was beneficial, and statistically significant. I never could get the formal results from this trial. I gave up after getting in a loop. Anyone out there who might be able to find the NIMH data? I would like to know the results. The stuff I took may have been anything, since I had no means of determining validity and even if what I got was Triptergium willfordi -Hook.

    April 15, 2014 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • theemptyone1

      What this article tells us, in kind terms, is that this "study" was completely unscientific. It would have been so much more useful if they had at least performed it "double blind." I suspect there is fear of debunking Chinese Medicine and the cultural,ethnic issues it would raise because so much of that is invested in these remedies. This is not to mention the "health" industry that thrives on trends and impressions of exotic, rare cures.

      April 15, 2014 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
  2. wib smith

    Here's another set of info, but it was not helpful for me in 2005 when I was looking for the herb;


    April 15, 2014 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mk

    Stop eating wheat/gluten. Wheat is an inflammatory. Worked like a charm for me.

    April 15, 2014 at 08:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • theemptyone1

      Wheat/gluten, the latest health scare, trend. Let's forget that civilization developed and spread on wheat farming and its consumption. Finicky, finicky, finicky.... does equal health and placebo is a powerful thing.

      April 15, 2014 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
    • mk

      Yeah, because the wheat we eat today is the very same wheat that our ancestors ate. No differences, right?

      April 16, 2014 at 08:07 | Report abuse |
  4. Becky J

    Has anyone here looked into topical pain management to fight arthritis pain? These prescription pain gels provide relief when and where you need it with no side effects or pills. I highly suggest looking into it. If you want to know more, please ask or look up A&R Pharmacy. They answered all my questions and got me on the path to living normally again.

    April 15, 2014 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D.I.

      Active-on. Apply where it hurts. Active-on. For joint and pain relief. ...

      Nope, nobody has looked in to this. I stick with my traditional medicines that have been used for over 500 years even if the FDA says that it doesn't work, be it placebo effect or not (and usually not, i can tell if I used the wrong thing sometimes because I will still be in pain, look up and see I was wrong) it does work and symptoms go away and I heal faster. Isn't that the goal?

      April 15, 2014 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  5. Theresa P

    I normally am happy to just take meds, but I was afraid to start methotrexate. Decided to switch diet as a last resort before starting the meds, even though doctor and other RA patients said diet had no impact and I was wasting my time. I switched to no wheat, dairy, or corn (in any form) reduced my pain and inflammation completely, and all flexibility returned. It took about 2 months. Thanks goes to google, bloggers, and Dr. John McDougall for pushing me in the diet direction.

    April 15, 2014 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. John Muller

    I did a white bread and water diet, and my arthritis (PA) basically went away.

    Slowly added foods back in until I got a reaction, for me the triggers are the Nightshade family of plants, Potato, Peppers, Tomato and Eggplant.

    Wheat, obviously was fine, since it was the only food I ate for a week.

    There are many, many types of arthritis, you need to find out what works for you.

    April 15, 2014 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. meme

    B.s.! This is alternative medicine! Why should we allow fda approval so pharmaceutical companies reap the monetary benefits and patients must obtain a prescription from their medical doctor?? It should continue to be OTC and sold at Chinese herbal stores only.

    April 15, 2014 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elsie Price

      The problem is that there is no one supervising or checking these mom&pop operations from selling one thing and calling it something else. There is no quality control at all. If you're dealing with a large company, they have the funds and the staff to do that kind of checking and they have big enough pockets that customers will go after them if they cheat.

      April 16, 2014 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
  8. bill

    I got an herb that has proven anti oxidant properties and it is a general feel good as well. Get Oh!!Bummer to move that pen for what the people want without an attached penalty. Marijuana.

    April 15, 2014 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. horsinaroundjw

    We have heard from the tried the diet and it worked but how many out there tried changing diet and it didn't work? I am currently on methotrexate and able to walk, am soo scared to stop meds and go back to how it was. so very unsure if i would dare to try this. Really would like to hear from some who didn't have luck with the diet.

    April 15, 2014 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D.I.

      Unfortunately, the only way to know if it works for you is for you to do it. People can be so closely related on so many points, then suddenly that one point comes up where they are different (see identical twins). I say go for it, just do it wisely and have things prepared for if it fails but then you will know and no longer wonder.

      April 15, 2014 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
  10. stevelevine555

    Cold laser therapy helps to relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain very quickly. It's noninvasive and zero side effects. Google it.

    April 15, 2014 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 15, 2014 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Thanks for sharing a wonderful post with us. I found it very much informative. So arthritis problem is very general in today's life style or many similar problem occur due to arthritis. And their are number of ways to get solve out this problem like many remedies available in the market to get better. But my grandmother was suffering from similar kind of problem and we have tried arthcare oil or http://www.arthcareoil.com/ and saw many wonderful results of it.

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