Ayurveda for Arthritis
Ayurveda is a comprehensive and integrative health science originating in India. Ayurveda, commonly translated as the knowledge of life, is part of the Vedas, an ancient Hindu text written in the Sanskrit language. Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced continuously for more than 5,000 years and is respected worldwide as a safe, effective and holistic approach to lifelong health.
Ayurveda has particular application to those suffering with the chronic pain and inflammation of arthritis, a condition known as amavata in Ayurvedic medicine. Ama is the toxin that builds up in the body usually as a result of improper digestion. These toxins circulate throughout the body and typically deposit in weaker areas such as the joints. This leads to the arthritic symptoms of pain and inflammation. The vata, as identified in Ayurveda medicine, is one of three basic energetic forces that vitalize the body. Ayurveda distinguishes three categories of arthritis, corresponding to the three energetic forces: vata, pitta and kapha.
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, is identified in Ayurveda medicine as Sandhigata vata. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune form of arthritis, is identified in Ayurveda medicine as Ama vata.
Proper diagnosis by a practitioner trained in Ayurveda is a prerequisite to obtaining successful treatment of arthritis within the Ayurveda protocol.
Principles of Ayurvedic Healing
The Ayurvedic approach to healing first takes into account the unique circumstances of the individual seeking relief. Ayurvedic treatment depends upon an individual’s basic energy and body type and the external environment in which they live. Ayurveda identifies three basic energetic forces, called doshas, or body humors, that underlie all bodily processes. The relative balance of energy of these three doshas is a determining factor in the overall health of an individual and in her susceptibility to illness and degenerative disease.
The three doshas of Ayurvedic Medicine are:
- Vata –This vital energy regulates blood circulation, breath, heartbeat, and even the blinking of the eyes.
- Pitta– This vitalenergy regulates the metabolic systems including body temperature, digestion, and absorption of nutrients.
- Kapha – This vital energy is responsible for physical growth, maintaining the immune system, and providing body parts with the necessary moisture.
Ayurveda Treatments for Arthritis
It is important to engage the services of a qualified Ayurveda practitioner who can provide an accurate assessment of one’s individual condition and of the specific dosha imbalance and type of arthritis that may be causing the distress. A qualified Ayurveda practitioner can identify specific treatments appropriate for one’s unique needs and characteristics.
Ayurveda treatment for arthritis may include a combination of the following:
- Dietary and lifestyle adjustments
- Specific Yoga asanas, or exercises, including the Sun Salute
- Breathing techniques to alleviate stress and anxiety
- Oil massage and heat therapy
- Short periods of fasting to help eliminate toxins
- Panchkarma, a specific detoxifying regime in Ayurveda
- Detoxifying and nutritive herbs or herbal combinations
- Enemas and colonics
- Ingesting fresh juices, such as carrot, beet, cucumber, grapes, apples, oranges and papaya, and castor oil.
Successful treatment of arthritis with Ayurveda may require that one reduce or eliminate use of certain aggravating dietary substances such as nicotine, caffeine, white sugar, and alcohol. In addition, one may be required to minimize dietary intake of certain gas-producing foods such as potatoes, broccoli and cabbage, and maintain an environment sheltered from cold winds and damp conditions.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Arthritis Treatment
Some of the more frequently used herbs and herbal combinations for Ayurvedic treatment of arthritis include many plants native to India. Most are available for purchase through your local Ayurvedic practitioner or health food supplier. Western scientific research has confirmed the effectiveness of many herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine in the treatment of osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Asafetida (Ferula Assafoetida) – known in Ayurveda medicine as Hing, this herb can be combined with coconut oil or ginger paste to provide relief from inflammation.
- Garlic (Allium Sativum) – known in Ayurveda medicine as Lehsun, this herb helps to strengthen the immune system and cleanse toxins, or ama, from the system
- Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) –known as Sunthi in Ayurveda, this herb relieves pain and inflammation of arthritis.
- Guggul (Commiphora mukul) – a resin from the guggul tree, native to India. This substance helps cleanse and rejuvenate the body, especially the blood vessels and the joints.
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) – known in Ayurveda medicine as Yashtimadhu, acts effectively as an anti-inflammatory to reduce arthritic pain in the joints.
- Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) – known in Ayurveda medicine as Haldi, this pungent herbis an anti-inflammatory agent and alleviates pain, particularly in osteoarthritis.
The website Ayurveda For All has comprehensive information on Ayurveda medicines and their use for a variety of conditions.
The website Holistic Online has a section with comprehensive information on Ayurveda.
The Arthritis Foundation has an informative website, and produces the consumer health magazine Arthritis Today.