Lei Gong Teng (Radix Tripterygii Wilfordii)

What Is Lei Gong Teng

Lei Gong Teng commonly known as Radix Tripterygii Wilfordii is the root of Tripterygium wilfordii, which is a woody liana belonging to the family Celastraceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi> (a supplement to the compendium of materia medica) in the 30th year of Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1,765 AD).

There are four species of this genus, namely Tripterygium wilfordii, T. doianum, T. hypoglaucum, and T. regelii. Among them, T. hypoglaucum and T. wilfordii can be used medicinally. T. doianum is unique to Japan.

T. wilfordii is also known as Thunder God Vine. They like a warm, sheltered, humid environment with plenty of rainfall. They grow well in slightly acidic, deep, well-drained sandy or loess soils. They often grow in shady and moist areas in mountain forests at altitudes of 200-2,400 meters. They are distributed in China, North Korea, Japan, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Tripterygium wilfordii

In autumn, people gather the roots of Tripterygium wilfordii, remove impurities, wash them with water, dry them in the sun, or peel their outer skin, dry them in the sun, cut them into thick slices, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Lei Gong Teng contains a variety of alkaloids, such as wilfordine, wilforine, wilforidine, wilfortrine, wilfornine, euonine, wilforgine, wilforzine, euonymine, peritassine A, wilfordinine E, aquifoliunine E-III, 2-O-deacetyl-euonine, celacinnine, celabenzine, celafurine, and celallocinine.

In addition, it also contains triptolide, tripdiolide, tripterolide, triptriolide, triptonide, triptolidenol, tripchlorolide, 16-hydroxytriptolide, 2-epitripdiolide, triptophenolide, triptonolide, triptophenolide methyl ether, neotriptophenolide, isoneotriptophenolide, triptonoterpene, triptonoterpenol, triptonoterpene methyl ether, triptobenzene J, tripterfordin, tripterinin, triptoquinonoe A, tripterine, pristimerin, wilforic acid A, triptotin G, wilforol A, triptotin H, triptotin E, cangoronine, salaspermic acid, triptotriternoidal lactone A, triptotriterpenic acid A, wilforlide A, wilforlide B, demethylregelin, regelin, triptotin D, vanillic acid, 3-ethoxy-4-hydroxy benzoic acid, protocatechualdehyde, 3,5-dimethoxyphenyl-2-propenl-ol, epigallocatechin, glucose, fructose, dulcitol, β-sitosterol, and some trace elements.

Generally, Lei Gong Teng with a reddish-brown cross-section is preferred.

According to <Ben Cao Gang Mu Shi Yi>, the medicinal property of Lei Gong Teng is relatively cold, with violent toxicity and a bitter and pungent taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the liver and kidney meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to expel wind and dampness, promote blood circulation and remove obstruction in channels, alleviate swelling and relieve pain, kill insects and remove toxins, and treat rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, joint and muscle pain, sciatica, ankylosing spondylitis, leprosy, eczema, scabies, psoriasis, idiopathic urticaria, glomerulonephritis, nephrotic syndrome, purpura nephritis, polycystic kidney, diabetic nephropathy, lupus nephritis, lupus erythematosus, thyroid eye disease, bronchitis, hysteromyoma, subacute thyroiditis, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, myasthenia gravis, Sjogren syndrome, Behcet’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease.

Although Lei Gong Teng has been used for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency advises patients not to use unlicensed herbal medicines containing it [1].

Benefits

  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting collagen-induced arthritis in rats and trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid and ethanol-induced ulcerative colitis in rats.
  • Increasing pain threshold and reducing the number of writhing in mice induced by acetic acid.
  • Inhibiting T lymphocyte proliferation, inducing peripheral T cell apoptosis, restoring Th1/Th2 cell balance, and regulating cellular immunity.
  • Inhibiting B cell proliferation and the production of immunoglobulin, regulating humoral immunity.
  • Inhibiting the differentiation and maturation of dendritic cells, inducing apoptosis of mature dendritic cells, and inhibiting the release of chemokines from dendritic cells.
  • Inhibiting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the apolipoprotein E knockout mouse.
  • Expelling wind and dampness, promoting blood circulation and removing obstruction in channels, treating redness and swelling of joints, swelling that does not go away easily, morning stiffness, functional limitation, and deformed joints.
  • Removing dampness to relieve itching, treating leprosy, eczema, scabies, psoriasis, and stubborn dermatitis.
  • Clearing heat, treating carbuncles and furunculosis caused by heat toxins.
  • Inhibiting the proliferation of cervical cancer HeLa cells and leukemia K562 cells, and inducing apoptosis in lung cancer A549 cells, liver cancer BEL-7402 cells, uterine cancer HEC-1B cells, and colon cancer GCT-116 cells.
  • Its polyglycoside can reduce urinary protein and type IV collagen expression in kidney tissues of diabetic rats, increase Nephrin and Podocin protein expression in kidney tissues, protect and repair foot cell function in diabetic rats, reduce glomerulosclerosis, improve kidney function and reduce urinary protein.
  • Its polyglycoside can inhibit the expression of inflammatory factors, reduce the infection rate of Ureaplasma urealyticum, treat Ureaplasma urealyticum-infected prostatitis [2].
  • In vivo test indicate that triptolide suppresses activation and proliferation of microglial cells and astrocytes in the hippocampus of APP/PS1 double transgenic mice with Alzheimer’s disease [3].
  • The study found that oral administration of triptonide caused infertility in male mice and male cynomolgus monkeys. This male sterility is fully reversible in both mice and cynomolgus monkeys [4].

Combinations

Side Effects

Lei Gong Teng is poisonous, and its main toxic components are diterpenes and alkaloids.

A proportion of patients taking it may cause nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, burning sensation in the lower esophagus, dry mouth, borborygmus, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, leukopenia and thrombocytopenia, dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, menstrual disorder, amenorrhea, oligospermia, decreased sperm motility, palpitations, chest tightness, arrhythmia, abnormal ECG, eczema-like dermatitis, rash, facial pigmentation, dry skin, itching, peristomatous herpes, angular stomatitis, mucosal ulcer, alopecia, thinning and softening of the nails.

Overdose of it may cause violent vomiting, abdominal angina, diarrhea, weak pulse, decreased blood pressure, decreased body temperature, shock, oliguria, edema, renal dysfunction, bone marrow suppression, and hyperspasmia.

In severe cases, it may cause gastric bleeding, toxic liver damage, kidney failure, and even death.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Lei Gong Teng should be controlled at 1-3g.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, tinctures, ointments, or mashed for external use.
  • When applying it topically, it should not be applied for more than half an hour.
  • People who are allergic to Lei Gong Teng should not take it.
  • Patients with organic diseases of the heart, liver, or kidney should not take it.
  • Patients with severe anemia, leukocytopenia, or thrombocytopenia should not take it.
  • Patients with gastric and duodenal ulcers should not take it.
  • Patients with severe cardiac arrhythmias should not take it.
  • Pregnant women, lactating women, and those trying to conceive should not take it.
  • Children, athletes, and the elderly should not take it.
  • Patients with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and heart disease should take it under the guidance of a doctor.