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lei gong teng (thunder god vine),  雷公藤  (in English and Chinese 中英文)

Translated and edited by: Joe Hing Kwok Chu

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The herb of lei gong teng comes from the roots, leaves and flowers of the tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f. It is collected during summer and autumn. Lei gong teng is a deciduous climbing vine growing to 12 meters,  with brown, angular, downy twigs. The leaves are light green, smooth on top, and pale gray with light hairs underneath.  They have crenate margins and pointed apexes,  and are ovate to elliptic, 5-15 cm long, 2.5 - 7 cm wide. The scented hermaphroditic (having male and female organs) flowers are small and whitish with five petals and are about 9 mm across. The fruit is 3-winged, and brownish red, about 1.5 cm long.

The plant can grow in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. It can survive in acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soil.  It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Pharmaceutical name:


 Radix Tripterygium wilfordii

Biological name:


 Tripterygium wilfordii Hook. f. Japanese:



Pron. in Korean:



Pron. in Cantonese


leoi4 gung1 tang4

Common Name:



Folk Name:


"Walk Seven Steps and Die" , "Intestine Breaking Plant"




native of southern part of mainland China, Taiwan, Burma


Properties (characteristics):


bitter and very toxic


Actions & Indications:



for: anti-inflammation,  kills worms, resolves toxins, treating proteinuric renal disease, used as immunosuppressive agent on autoimmune diseases.


Chemical ingredients:




1. Saponins:

(1). wilforgine, wilforgine-B, wilfordine, wilfornine, wilfortrine, wilforttrine-D, wilforzine[1-3], wilformine [4], wilfordinic acid, hyudroxywilfordic acid [5],wilfornine [6], neowilforine [7]

(2). celacinnine, celafurine, celabenzine, celallocinnine [8-9]

(3). triptofordinine A-1, A-2 [10],  triptofordin D-1, D-2, E [11], triptofordin A, B, C-1 C-2 [12], triptofordin F-1, F-2, F-3, F-4 [13]


(1). triptolide, tripdiolide, triptonide,[14-15], tripterolide[16].

(2). triptolidenol [16-17], tripnolide [18], neotriptophenolide, triptophenolide methyl ether [19], isoneotrip-tophenolide, hypolide methyl ether [20].

(3). triptonoterpene, triptonoterpene methyl ether [17],  triptonoterpenol [21]12-ydroxy-abieta-8, 11, 13 -trien-3-one, 11-hydroxy-14-methoxy-abieta-8, 11-hydroxy-14-methoxy-abieta-8, 11, 13-trien-3-one [22].

3. (1). wilforlide A, wilforlide B [23].

(2). tritotriterpenoid lactone [24], tretotriterpenic acid A [25,26], tritotriterpenic acid B [27], tritotriterpenic acid C [28], 3-epikatonic acid [29], polpunonic acid, triptodihydroxy acid methyl ester [30], tripterine [31].

(3).3,24-dioxofridelan-29-oic acid [29], salaspermic acid [29,32].

4. wilfornide [20]

5. 1,8-dihydroxy-4-hydroxymethyl anthraquinone [33].

6. syringareisnol [34].

7. dulcitol, glucose [31], tannin

Medical Functions:





1. Effects on immune system

2. Effects on anti-inflammatory

3. Effects on anti-cancer

4. Effects on contraception

5. Effects on urinary system

6. Effects on anti-organism and worms

7. Other Effects

     Anti rejection on transplants

8. Inside body

9. Effects of toxicity

Other Research:



Four compounds purified from T. wilfordii may confer protection against the FSGS (focal segmental gomerulosclerosis) factor.a


Research on Pharmacological Processes:

See Research Librarian

Modern Clinical Application:

1.proliferative arthritis 

2. inflammation of spinal cord

3. lupus

4. purpura

5. kidney inflammation

6. asthma

7. tuberculosis of the lungs

8. psoriasis

9. dermatitis

10. Reiter syndrome


Psoriasis: Using water decoction of lei gong teng and alcohol extract of lei gong teng:

They both contain 50 lei gong teng 50 g, and ji xue teng 50 g each. Take orally 50 ml, twice a day after meals.

30 days is one therapy period.


Total patients: 193

Patients taking alcohol extract: 116

Effective rate: 86.2%

Patients taking water decoction: 77

Effective rate: 72.72%

It showed that the alcohol extract was more effective than the water decoction. [21]


Toxicity and Side Effects:



1. Toxic reactions: dizziness, palpitation, weakness, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhea, pain in liver and kidney areas, bleeding in the digestive tract, even respiration and circulation exhaustion and death.

2. Decrease of total blood cell counts (2)

3. Mutation type of illness: using lei gong teng tincture for external use can cause mutation type of illness. (3)

4. Long -term use of lei gong teng could significantly decrease bone mineral density of levels in female systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)b

5. Long -term use of lei gong teng causes hair loss and malfunction of immune system.

6. Large dosages and/or long term usage can be toxic to kidneys.

Lei gong teng is a highly toxic herb, especially the cortex is extremely toxic and should be used by removing bark department, including two layers of bark and the back in tree crevices.





See Prevention and treatments

Note: Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is scar tissue that forms in areas of the glomeruli of the kidneys that filter harmful or unnecessary substances out of the body.

Other related websites:

see picture on another site

See Chinese web page , submitted for writing competition sponsored by the Education Department of ROC in Taiwan.

[n] If you need the complete bibliography in a hurry, please email our Research Librarian. There is a set up charge. Most of them are from sources of Chinese writings.

(a). M. Sharma, R. Sharma, XL Ge, R.S.Rdy, E.T.McCarthy, V. J. Savin, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, U.S.A.

(b). Department of dermatology, Huashan hospital, Shanghai Medical University, Shanghai 200040, China (Huang L and Feng SF); Radiology Institute,  Shanghai Medical University, Shanghai 200040, China (Wang HF).

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Last update: Mar 26, 2015; 11:40 p.m. LAH