Updated 19 January 2017

Chinese herb for rheumatoid arthritis more powerful than anti-inflammatories

A Chinese herb called Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F has proved more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug in a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The Chinese herb Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) proved more effective than the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine in a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

"The mechanism of action (of TwHF) is not fully understood but seems different from currently available drugs," Dr. Raphaela Goldbach-Mansky, from the , National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland told Reuters Health.

TwHF, the researcher added, "may become an addition to the currently available treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis in the future."

Doctors often prescribe sulfasalazine or other anti-inflammatory drugs for the initial treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, many patients discontinue the drugs due to lack of improvement or side effects.

The Chinese herbal remedy TwHF (also known as "lei gong teng" or "thunder god vine") has shown promise in treating other "autoimmune" disorders and inflammatory conditions.

In the current study, reported Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Goldbach-Mansky and colleagues randomly assigned 121 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to take either TwHF three times daily or sulfasalazine two times daily for 24 weeks.

Many patients in both groups discontinued treatment, the researchers report. However, among those who continued treatment for 24 weeks, improvement in joint symptoms was greater with TwHF (67%) than with sulfasalazine (36%) and adverse effects were similar.

The rapid improvement in joint symptoms may make TwHF extract an attractive and affordable alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs, the researchers conclude. (Will Boggs, MD, Reuters Health).

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, August 18, 2009.

Read more:

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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