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Thunder god vines

Chinese: 雷公藤

Pinyin: Léi Gōng Téng

Parts used: The inner root

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterPungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Liver

Scientific name: Tripterygium wilfordii

Other names: Common Broad Lily Root, Thunder duke vine

Use of thunder god vines (Lei Gong Teng) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Thoroughly remove the inner and outer layers of the bark and cut into pieces of different lengths. Dry under the sun.

Dosage: 5-12g

Main actions according to TCM*: Dispels Wind and Dampness. Strongly clears Heat and resolves toxicity. Reduces swellings and stops pain. Kills parasites and bugs. Stops itching.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which thunder god vines may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Rheumatoid arthritis Sores Itchy rashes Pulmonary tuberculosis Joint pain Tinea Snake bites Itching Psoriatic arthritis Psoriasis

Contraindications*: This herb is extremely toxic. To be taken under close supervision of medical professionals.

Key TCM concepts behind thunder god vines (Lei Gong Teng)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), thunder god vines are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Internal Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an Excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category thunder god vines are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that thunder god vines typically help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition thunder god vines can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Thunder god vines also taste Bitter and Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like thunder god vines tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Pungent ingredients tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such thunder god vines are thought to target the Spleen and the Liver. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on thunder god vines (Lei Gong Teng)

Triptonide, a natural compound purified from the Chinese herb Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook F displays reversible male contraceptive effects in both mice and monkeys. This suggests it could be the first non-hormonal male contraceptive to be discovered.1

Supplements containing the herb thunder god vine may help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.2


1. Chang, Zongliang; Qin, Weibing; Zheng, Huili; Schegg, Kathleen; Han, Lu; Liu, Xiaohua; Wang, Yue; Wang, Zhuqing; McSwiggin, Hayden; Peng, Hongying; Yuan, Shuiqiao (2021-02-23). "Triptonide is a reversible non-hormonal male contraceptive agent in mice and non-human primates". Nature Communications. 12 (1): 1253. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-21517-5.

2. "Rheumatoid Arthritis: In Depth". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved 24 March 2021 from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/rheumatoid-arthritis-in-depth.