ayurveda to treat rheumatoid arthritis and reduce pain
In Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, the causes of arthritis are an accumulation of Ama, or toxins. It also relates to an aggravated Vata (dosha type) paired with weak Agni (digestive fire). Since the main dosha associated with arthritis is Vata, most treatments call for Vata-pacifying remedies.
You can learn about the 5-element and 3-dosha systems of Ayurveda and how to use them to customize the practices of yoga, pranayama, meditation, and even nutrition and bodywork, to ourselves and others in this 9-classes Yoga and Ayurveda program for all levels with yoga instructors and Ayurveda experts Shy Sayar & Maria Garre
What Is Ama and How Does it Affect Arthritis?
Ama is defined as the sticky, toxic waste or by-product in the body that can cause an array of health issues– arthritis being one of them.
Mainly, Ama is drawn into the digestive tract, where it permeates the intestinal wall, moves through the body, and lodges into the bone tissue and joints. This causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness.
Ayurvedic Treatments for Arthritis
The main protocol for healing arthritis is to dislodge the ama from the joint and bring it back into the colon to be eliminated with various herbs, remedies, and cleansing treatments.
Also, Ayurvedic expert Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar states that “Joint diseases are the most common Vata disorders. Elimination of Ama, physical movement, oil massage, stretching, oil enemas, and Vata-pacifying herbs are the key principles for arthritis treatment.”
Here is a list of Ayurvedic remedies used to treat arthritis:
Daily Abhyanga (Oil Massage) is one of the best preventions for degenerative Arthritis. You can receive an Abhyanga massage from a trained Ayurvedic therapist or at home with a self-massage.
- Heat approximately 1 cup of oil (preferably organic sesame oil) and cover the entire body from scalp to toes.
- Using vigorous long strokes on the larger areas of the body (the thighs and forearms), and circular movements on the joints. Rub the oil into the tissues with the intention of dislodging Ama.
- With self-Abhyanga the strokes should feel firm, yet pleasant—never painful.
- Massage for at least 10 minutes per day.
- Take a hot bath with Epsom salt to draw out impurities from the body afterward.
Castor oil is commonly used in Ayurveda as a go-to treatment for countless conditions including rheumatoid arthritis. The compounds in castor oil have a similar effect as steroids, preventing inflammation. This oil is used to treat swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. It can be used externally and internally in small amounts (due to its laxative effect).
- Rub castor oil mixed with turmeric on the affected joint.
- Wrap the area with a dishtowel or plastic wrap.
- Place a hot water bottle over the joint.
- Keep in place for about 10 min (depending on comfort level).
Tip: Always listen to your body. You should feel relief from this, not pain. If the pain increases with heat (it might be due to a pitta inflammation), try an ice pack.
Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
It is known that Yogis have used the ancient practice of Pranayama for millennia as a treatment for healing a myriad of illnesses, including arthritis.
Try this: Sheetali Pranayama
- Make a tube with your tongue.
- Breathe deeply through your mouth and draw the air into your belly.
- Hold the breath for 7 seconds; then exhale through your nose.
- Do about 15 repetitions.
Also, know that arthritis is exacerbated by stress and anxiety. Meditation is an important technique for stress management, heightened mental function, and emotional stability.
- Close your eyes.
- Connect with your breath, following your inhalation and exhalation without forcing or straining.
- If your mind begins to wander, simply come back to the breath.
- That’s it – you’re meditating! Easy isn’t it?
Different types of arthritis require various detox cleanses. In order to eliminate Ama, water fasting is sometimes a way of treatment. The length of the fast depends on your strength, health, and the season and location.
There are also detoxification diets using mainly vegetables, juices, spices, and herbs. These cleanse typically last until the body shows certain signs that the Agni is burning strong again.
For example, the return of appetite, loss of fuzzy white coating on the tongue, and a feeling of lightness all indicate that the cleanse is complete.
- In 12 ounces of warm or hot water, add 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice.
- Then 1 teaspoon of raw organic honey and stir.
- Plus one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (optional, but highly recommended).
- A sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional).
Drink in the morning before meals and in the evening before bed.
Using a steam room or sauna can help to expel impurities from the body. You can apply heat directly to the afflicted areas for relief.
Swedna is an ayurvedic treatment that uses a steam tent placed over the massage table after a full body oil massage. The Ama binds with the oil and is sweat out through the pores. You can also simply sweat it out in a bath, sauna, or steam room.
Yoga is one of the most practical ways to prevent and treat arthritis. Stretches and poses should be done gradually and with care. Never do anything that is painful. The great thing about yoga is that there is a modification for almost any pose. Little by little, the flexibility of the joint will improve, as well as circulation and strength.
Helpful yoga poses:
- Forward bend
- Eagle pose
- Knee to chest pose
- Warrior pose
- Bound angle pose
- Bow pose
- Camel pose
- Head to knee pose
- Child’s pose
Many inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from the traditional treatment that includes this herb. One study done at the Indira Gandhi Medical College in Nagpur, India, reported that all patients receiving Boswellia Serrata had a decrease in knee pain, increased knee flexion, and increased walking distance. In addition, they found out through this study, that Boswellia Serrata decreases the frequency of swelling in the knee joint. Try these Boswellia supplements here.
This sticky gum-like resin from the Mukul tree has powerful antioxidants and is tri-doshic, meaning beneficial for all three doshas. Guggul has unique healing properties, which reduce pain and inflammation caused by arthritis as well as increased white blood cell count. Get Your Guggul Capsules here
Providing the yumminess in curries is this herb’s claim to fame, yet its benefits are bountiful. Often referred to as the “Golden Goddess” of herbs and hailed for its efficacy in treating inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis.
According to a study by the Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, turmeric root prevents the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Get some here
Furthermore, curcumin also acts as protection against bone loss in the joints.
For inflammatory conditions, to boost the immune system, and as a stress buster, you can treat with this member of the pepper family. Ashwagandha is one of the herbs in that incredible category of substances called adaptogens, which help the body cope better with stress and balance out the hormones—moving the body toward homeostasis and more vital energy. – Test Ashwagandha Veggie Capsules.
A study at the University of Miami concluded that ginger extract could one day replace non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study compared the effects of a highly concentrated ginger extract to a placebo in 247 patients with osteoarthritis in the knee. Ginger reduced the pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent over the placebo. The studies lead author, Roy Altman MD, who stated that “Research shows that ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level.”
Again, this Ayurvedic herbal blend, typically used for improved digestion, may also be a beneficial treatment for joint pain, arthritis, muscle aches, and rheumatism. As a matter of fact, the components of Triphala bind to the toxins and then removed them through the bloodstream and digestive tract. Get Triphala Veggie Capsules
Also known as amla or “Indian gooseberry,” Amalaki is famous for its rejuvenating properties in Ayurveda for ages. With powerful antioxidants, Amalaki is another amazing adaptogen.
In addition, Amalaki has anti-aging capabilities, which help reverse the symptoms of arthritis. – Get Amalaki Superfood supplements.
In Ayurveda, there is an emphasis on creating a daily routine in conjunction with the cycles of the sun and moon. Each dosha has a specific time that is optimal for rising in the morning and sleeping at night. Sleep is one of the key factors in healing arthritis, as proper sleep patterns maintain a healthy nervous system and help our bodies to heal naturally.
Ayurveda can treat and heal drastically many of the symptoms due to the dosha imbalances. Give any of these Ayurvedic remedies a try, and see if you experience an improvement in your rheumatoid arthritis.