A Plant Called Thunder God Vine Could Be the Future of Weight Loss Drugs

In a study, an extract from the plant curbed overeating and spurred weight loss.

Any plant called “thunder god vine” is bound to make a strong impact—and researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Boston Children’s Hospital just published a paper on how that impact could be on your weight.

The study suggests that thunder god vine, a mainstay in traditional Chinese medicine, could prevent overeating, which eventually could lead to weight loss. The HMS researchers fed an extract of the plant called Celastrol to overweight mice, and found that they ate less and lost up to 45 percent of their body weight by the end of the trial period.

That effect happens, the researchers hypothesized, because thunder god vine may kickstart a hormone called leptin that helps the body recognize when it is full. Lead author Omut Ozcan, an endocrinologist at HMS and Boston Children’s, wrote in the paper’s abstract that the results of the study are a promising new development in leptin research, which has stalled in recent years:

“Discovery of leptin two decades ago created hopes for treatment of obesity. However, development of leptin resistance has been a big obstacle, mitigating a leptin-centric treatment of obesity. Here…we discovered that Celastrol…is a powerful anti-obesity agent.”

However, we aren’t suggesting you go run out and try to find thunder god vine extract yet. While Celastrol can enhance leptin’s effects, the researchers caution that the plant may also contain other compounds that are dangerous to humans, so more research is necessary before it comes anywhere close to hitting the market.