Treating Arthritis with Ayurveda

Arthritis is a medical condition wherein the patient suffers from joint pain, caused mostly due to damage to the joints. This condition is now increasingly common among youngsters too, as is the case with the elderly.

Arthritis is of different kinds, the most common being osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease). Although treatment for arthritis is available in allopathy and homeopathy and other systems of medicine, in recent times, however, ayurveda is gaining immense popularity in treatment of arthritis.

Ayurveda offers several alternatives for arthritis treatment. Several studies lately in the United States, India and other places have confirmed Ayurvedic treatment as the means to natural arthritic pain relief.

According to Ayurveda, Arthritis can be caused by aggravation of vata (air) dosha, and due to excessive collection of ama (toxic substance due to improper digestion) in the body. When ama begins to increase in quantity, it begins to get accumulated in the weaker areas of the body, and an aggravation of vata happens, resulting in arthritis.

Ayurveda believes that every individual is unique, and therefore, although the outer symptoms may be similar, the path to their healing differs. This implies that the remedy for arthritis pain and suffering is different for each individual.

Ayurveda believes that arthritis could be due to excess accumulation of vata, pitta or kapha in the body. Therefore, determining the exact type of arthritis with the help of a physician, and taking specific treatment will offer effective relief.

Vata-type Arthritis

If your arthritis is caused due to vata, your joints could crack and pop and become dry, but may not appear swollen. Apart from general treatment, vata-type arthritis responds well to three-to-five-day detoxification diet and an anti-vata diet.

General recommendations for this type of arthritis are:

  • Yogaraj guggulu tablet could be taken thrice a day, as it cleanses bone tissue, improves bone strength and flexibility.
  • Half or one teaspoons of Haritaki with warm water is recommended.
  • You could also apply mahanaran oil on affected joint, following it up with local moist heat application. Else, after massaging with the oil, you could soak your foot in hot water. Even triphala or castor oil can help in colon cleansing.
  • Practising certain yoga postures, including forward bend, Maha Mudra, chest-knee pose and half-bridge pose may be helpful.

Pitta-type Arthritis

This type of arthritis is characterized by inflammation, with the joint getting swollen and painful even without movement. It may also appear red in colour and may be hot to touch. This type of arthritis responds well to a one-week detoxification diet and anti-Pitta diet.

Some specific herbs recommended for pitta-type arthritis are guggul, aloe, sandalwood, chaparral and saffron.

  • Applying ice-pack on the inflamed part is also recommended.
  • Ayurveda suggests taking 1 tablet (350mg) of kaishore guggulu thrice a day, massaging with Brahmi and sandalwood oils, and herbs such as nirgundi and musta for pain relief. External application of cool castor oil or coconut oil to the painful area is recommended, applying sandalwood powder paste on affected area by mixing one teaspoon of sandalwood powder and adding sufficient water to make a paste and rubbing it onto the joint.
  • Further yoga postures such as bow pose, boat pose, locust pose, cow pose, camel pose and moon salutation is recommended.

Kapha-type Arthritis

In this type of arthritis, the joint gets stiff and swollen, but feels cold and clammy rather than hot. A little movement may tend to relieve the pain in this case. This type of pain responds to a one or two week detoxification diet (light, dry and warm food).

  • Ayurveda recommends pure guggul (Punarnava guggulu tablets 250mg one tab thrice a day), application of a paste of vacha (calamus root) powder to the joint, make a paste of punarnava powder and ginger powder (mix 1 teaspoon each with warm water to make a paste) and apply on the joint), hot herbs including dry ginger, cinnamon, trikatu and turmeric. Even Musta and nirgundi can help relieve pain.
  • Specific yoga postures include triangle pose, forward bend, spinal twist, and tree pose.

In general, ayurveda attempts to remove ama from the joint and bring it back to the colon, and eliminate it. In case, you are not aware about the kind of arthritis (vata, pitta or kapha), take a teaspoon of triphala added to ½ or one cup of warm water.

If you know positively the type of Arthritis, Haritaki is used for vata-type arthritis, amalaki is used for pitta-type arthritis, and bibbitaki is used for kapha-type arthritis.

Diet: The three to five-day detoxification diet is recommended with vegetables, juices, spices and herbs taken on an empty stomach. Enemas and colon cleansing are also done to detoxify the body.

Oil: Several essential oils are applied externally to help the body get rid of toxins, while also relieving pain and improving mobility. Mahanarayan oil, when mixed with sesame oil (1:1) helps improve flexibility, muscle fatigue and stiffness and helps relieve pain. The oil breaks blockages and begins to heal locally. After application of oil, warm heat, yoga, bath or mild exercise improves the condition.

Heat Therapy: The patient may be required to sit in a sauna, or should have steam applied directly on the affected area.

Cold Therapy: Cold Therapy involves using cold packs, soaking in cold water, ice massage, or over-the- counter sprays and heating salve that can cool the joints and skin.

Herbs and Spices: Ayurveda also uses several herbs and spices externally and internally when treating arthritis. It is hoped to cleanse the body and relive pain and stiffness. Golden seal, mint, ephedra, nirgundi, gentian, eucalyptus leaves, quassia, scute, coptis, phellodendrom, aloe, Siberian gingseng, guggul, du huo, myrhh, lugusticum and yucca are few such herbs used for treatment.

Similarly, Chamomila (useful when patient gets restless), turmeric (excellent anti-inflammatory properties and mild painkiller and strengthens connective tissues between joints), Ginger (anti-inflammatory agent), nettle (helps in elimination of waste from kidneys), boswellia (used as natural anti-inflammatory), and devils claw (good anti-inflammatory herb for joint and muscular problems) are few other good herbs recommended for arthritis.

Latest research news: The American college of Rheumatology that conducted a trial on 90 people with osteoarthritis. The study showed that 50percent of them took a combination of turmeric, ginger, and ashwagandha and they reported considerable improvement in pain relief and mobility. This is, in contrast to just 20percent of the placebo group that reported arthritis pain relief. Further, the use of same anti-inflammatory herbs offered considerable improvement in pain relief, stiffness and severity of swollen joints and brought about improvement in ability to function among 182 people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Apart from all this, walking, bicycling, controlling weight, relaxation therapy, yoga and meditation to alleviate stress, reducing caffeine intake, occasional fasting, and quitting smoking are other lifestyle measures to be adopted by arthritic patients.

So, with ayurveda offering these many alternatives, it is no wonder that people are turning more towards ayurveda for arthritic cure.