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Chinese herb helps arthritis

18th August 2009

A Chinese herbal remedy that has been used for hundreds of years helped arthritic patients to relieve pain and inflammation.

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect many tissues and organs throughout the body, often resulting in the destruction of joint cartilage, affecting about 1% of people worldwide.

The Tripterygium wilfordii herbal extract used to treat the disease has been used by Chinese people for about four centuries, who know it as lei gong teng or "thunder god vine."

More of the patients taking Tripterygium wilfordii had improved their condition after six months had elapsed than had those taking the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine.

Christine Laine, an internist who edited the study, said that it is too early to say whether or not the study defines a specific role for the therapy.

She said that the finding brings forward convincing evidence that thunder god vine has an effect similar to that of sulfasalazine.
 
However, the herbal remedy may also cause side effects, and has the potential to drastically reduce male sperm.

When the study began, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Texas in Dallas recruited people for their 24-week study, which was conducted between March 2004 and October 2005.

Of the 121 patients originally recruited, 62 were able to complete the 24-week study. Of those 62 people, 37 were taking the herbal extract.

67% of the people taking the herbal extract showed at least a 20% improvement in the condition of their joints.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Tripterygium wilfordii is also used as a fever treatment.

In addition to its being studied as an arthritis treatment, other recent studies have attempted to gauge the effectiveness of the herb against several skin disorders.

 

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