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Chinese herb alleviates rheumatoid arthritis

DALLAS, TEXAS. Extracts of the roots of Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF) have been used for centuries in China to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis, eczema, scleroderma, and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Originally, a hot water extract of the plant was used, but this approach had many adverse effects. In the 1970s two new extracts were developed; one is an ethyl acetate extract while the other, now known as T2, is a chloroform-methanol extract.

One randomized, double-blind trial involving 70 patients with RA compared the effect of 20 mg of T2 taken three times daily with a placebo. Approximately 90 per cent of the patients treated with T2 experienced significant improvement. Trials involving several hundred patients with SLE have shown significant beneficial effects of T2 and a much reduced need for prednisone. Favourable results have also been reported in the treatment of systemic sclerosis and various kidney disorders.

Although highly effective in many cases, T2 can have adverse effects especially on the gastrointestinal tract. Says Drs. Tao and Lipsky of the University of Texas "Treatment with extracts of TwHF is effective in most patients with rheumatic disease; however, close medical supervision is essential in order to avoid serious adverse effects." [117 references]
Tao, Xuelian and Lipsky, Peter E. The Chinese anti- immunosuppressive herbal remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F. Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Rheumatic Diseases II, Vol. 26, No. 1, February 2000, pp. 29-50

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