(NaturalNews) Arthritis sufferers may now have a better option for treating their pain than pharmaceutical drugs. A new study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis who took an herbal extract of the "thunder god" vine fared better than those taking methotrexate, a commonly prescribed anti-rheumatic pain medication.
Researchers from China tested the effects of the herb, also known as Tripterygium wilfordii, on 207 patients with arthritis. They compared the effects of taking just the thunder god extract alone to taking it in conjunction with methotrexate. A control group was also given just methotrexate alone without the herb for comparison.
Using a standard measurement of assessment based on a 50 percent improvement rate in the areas of tender and swollen joints, pain, and disability, the team from China administered the three different therapies to the patients for 24 weeks. At the end of 24 weeks, they evaluated how many of the patients from each group achieved the standard assessment to see which treatment protocol was most effective.
Much to their surprise, methotrexate alone fared the worst, while a combination of thunder god extract and methotrexate produced the most favorable results. Compared to just 46.5 percent of patients in the methotrexate group achieving the standard measurement, 55 percent in the thunder god extract group reached this goal. And taking both methotrexate and thunder god extract together resulted in a 77 percent achievement of the standard assessment.
"While the herb has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in China for many centuries, there wasn't clinical evidence of its efficacy compared with current standard medical treatments," stated Xuan Zhang, lead author of the study from Peking Union Medical College Hospital, to Bloomberg News. "The results were very clear because on many indicators it performed slightly better than methotrexate."
Thunder god also fights cancer
Thunder god extract is commonly prescribed throughout China, particularly to patients 50 years of age and older, for treating arthritis. Though the herb can be toxic if improperly produced, its beneficial effects have been thoroughly established over the course of many centuries, which is promising for arthritis patients from other countries who wish to avoid taking pharmaceuticals.
Beyond its anti-rheumatic effects, thunder god extract has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of cancer. Clinical trials currently taking place at Scottsdale Healthcare and the Translational Genomics Research Institute have confirmed that thunder god extract contains a chemical compound known as triptolide that targets pancreatic cancer cells.
"We have known for years about the potential beneficial use of thunder god vine, but only recently with the advent of Minnelide [a pharmaceutical derivative] have we created a form of triptolide that can be easily administered to patients," stated Dr. Mohana R. Velagapudi, chief executive officer and co-founder of Minneamrita Therapeutics LLC, sponsor of the trial.
"This clinical trial will hopefully provide the proof of concept so patients beyond the trial can benefit as well."
A 2012 study out of the University of Minnesota arrived at similar conclusions with actual triptolide. Based on the research, triptolide was found to prevent the development of a protein known as HSP 70, which is critical for the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer. Once introduced into afflicted mice, triptolide triggered the disintegration of pancreatic cancer cells without the need for chemotherapy or radiation.
"This drug is just unbelievably potent in killing tumor cells," stated Professor Ashok Saluja, who spearheaded the research. "You could see that every day you looked at those mice, the tumor was decreasing and decreasing, and then (it was) just gone."