Chinese Herb Proves Better for Rheumatoid Arthritis than Prescription Drug

logo1267406_mdA study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on August 18, 2009 reported that a Chinese herb known as thunder god improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis better than a prescribed medication. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health, The University of Texas in Dallas and 9 rheumatology clinics around the USA randomly assigned 121 patients with six or more painful and swollen joints to either take 60 mgm of thunder god vine root extract three times a day for 6 months or 1 gram of sulfasalazine (Azulfidine) two times a day for 6 months. All study subjects were allowed to take prednisone and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s).

A standardized measure of joint involvement was assessed on each subject.

Side effects were experienced in both groups with stomach complaints and digestive symptoms being the most common ones reported. Almost half of all participants dropped out of the study before the end but more dropped out of the sulfasalazine group than the thunder god vine group.

Of the 62 patients who completed the study 65% saw improvement in joint pain, joint functioning, and inflammation in the thunder god group compared to 36% in the sulfasalazine group.

Although thunder god has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years it is known to have a wide range of side effects ranging from diarrhea, upset stomach, and skin rashes and men may experience infertility and women may stop having menstrual periods while on it.

There is ongoing debate about the value of using this herb until more is known about it’s efficacy, side effects and interactions with other medications and herbs.

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