Thunder god herb is good news, but caution on any remedy

Lemon balm and chamomile

Lemon balm and chamomile. (Photo by Kay B. Day)

The Thunder god vine is in the news of late because of its healing potential.

My family and friends often poke fun at my “herbations” for everything from a simple burn to a raging cold. That is, they poke fun until they’re so miserable they want to try some. As a result, I have legions of loved ones who have sipped lemon balm tea with honey and, like me, swear it helps you heal more quickly from a virus.

Sidenote for federal lawfare purposes: I don’t prescribe my herbs. I tell people what I do with them for myself and they take it from there. This is a family tradition that goes way back. My grandmother pretty much could tell you what any green living thing could do for or against you.

Now there’s news out about the Thunder god herb long used as a remedy in China.

A new study from that country suggests it’s effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis. If you’ve ever watched someone suffer with this, you know how debilitating that condition is.

Americans haven’t been oblivious to the potential in the herb, or Thunder god vine, as the National Institutes of Health indicated:

“Although early evidence is promising, there have been few high-quality studies of thunder god vine in people. Results from a large study funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), which compared an extract of thunder god vine root with a conventional medicine (sulfasalazine) for rheumatoid arthritis, found that participants’ symptoms (e.g., joint pain and swelling, inflammation) improved more significantly with thunder god vine than with sulfasalazine…A small study on thunder god vine applied to the skin found benefits for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.”

There are cautions. This is one of those herbs that must be prepared carefully. It must, as NIH advises, “be carefully extracted from the skinned root.”

I think locale is also a factor. Depending upon your soil and gardening practices, chemical properties in any plant can vary.

People have relied on herbal cures since ancient times. Some herbs like the Thunder god vine are tricky. Others are easy. You just put them in the ground, and use the leaves in a tea. Lemon balm is  a great example; bee balm is too. Some American Indian tribes used bee balm for respiratory ailments.

I’ve always had herbs around, a practice I inherited. Just as my grandmother planted mint by her back door, I have several varieties of mint including a neat variety my best friend, plant maven Valerie Geiger Lumpkin gave me—apple mint.

I always keep sage, oregano, and basil. This year Val gave me some pesto basil and it is amazing for seasoning foods. I’d never be without an aloe plant, the best “dietary supplement” I’ve found for smearing on a burn.

The healthcare sector in America has evolved to take herbal remedies more seriously than when I was young. From pages on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website to pages at the NIH, herbs are regaining respect enjoyed in ancient times.

As always, never take anything, even a dietary supplement, without proper precautions, especially if you’re pregnant, breast feeding, or on any medications whatsoever.

Herbs, of course, aren’t just for healing. I can’t imagine having to use store bought rosemary, dill, or basil when I can pop some out back and cut all I want. Greek potatoes demand fresh rosemary. What would sliced tomatoes, feta, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar be without basil?

The news about the Thunder god vine, named for a deity in ancient Chinese myth, is good news for some who suffer from painful rheumatoid arthritis. Meanwhile, there are scores of remedies (dietary supplements) for other not-so-serious conditions, and they are there for anyone willing to dig a hole and provide water.

(Filed by Kay B. Day/April 15, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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