Arthritis is a condition that is caused by the accumulation of ama ( the undigested byproduct of the impaired digestion) and aggravation of vata. Poor digestion allows toxins to accumulate in the body and problems with the colon allow the toxins to reach the joints. When ama gets deposited in the joints and when there is an aggravation of vata, it results in a disease called amavata also known as arthritis. In fact, Charaka Samhita and Madhav nidana classify arthritis as one of the nervous system disorders.
Charaka Samhita mentions: “if the level of vata increases in the body, there is quivering and breaking pain in the limbs and joints as if crackling.” But, “if it is localized in a particular joint, it produces swelling that feels like an air-filled bladder and produces pain on movement; this description is suggestive of arthritis.”
Generally in case of arthritis, vata doesn’t increase at random in every joint throughout the body. It starts with a joint, say an elbow joint, and then manifests in another elbow joint and progresses in the sequence of other joints. Keeping this thing in mind, no persistent joint pain – more pronounced particularly on movement – should be taken lightly.
Ayurveda On Arthritis
Vata has a high degree of mobility, its vitiated form spreads fast to other joints and triggers off a spate of imbalances in the rest of the body humors. Kapha, responsible for lubrication, suffers the most. Joints, minus their lubricating fluids, means more friction and subsequent pain on movement. Higher the imbalance, higher is the pain.
Chronic arthritis patients experience it on knee and elbow joints even when a slight breeze touches them. Such people are normally vata-types by prakruti or constitution. Since we all have a different physiological and physiological constitution, each one of us requires specific treatment for a problem including arthritis which might have similar symptoms.
Types Of Arthritis According To Ayurveda
Vata arthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is seen when there is an excess of vata, usually from the colon. This settles in the joints accompanied by ama or toxins. If arthritis is due to vata, your joints will crack and pop. They become dry and are not swollen. The autoimmune system is triggered off and this attacks the joint surfaces. This results in pain, dryness and stiffness.
Take hot baths and massaging yourself or have an Abhyanga (ayurvedic massage) with oils such as Sesame oil. Putting 20% of Mahanarayan oil in it will fortify the massaging oil. Herbs, in the form of capsules, such as Boswellia (Indian Frankincense) and Commiphoae Mukul (guggula) taken three times a day will be anti-inflammatory, act as a pain killer and to strengthen bones and improve flexibility.
The herb Triphala will help in keeping the colon clean. It is recommended that dairy foods and nightshade foods such as potato and eggplant be avoided.
This type of arthritis is characterized by inflammation. The joint becomes swollen and is painful even without movement. It often looks red and feels hot to the touch. It starts with excess Pitta or heat in the body and the accumulation of acid by-products that overflow from the intestine. These move through the circulatory system to the joints.
Cool compresses and massaging yourself or having Abhyanga with oils such as coconut oil will help reduce symptoms. To strengthen the oil 20% Khsheerbala oil can be added to the coconut oil. A 5-7 day detoxification diet and an anti-pitta diet of cool, slightly dry and heavy foods would help. Herbs such as Boswellia and Commiphora Mukul, one capsule three times a day would help. You could also use an ice bag for cooling.
In kapha-type arthritis, the joint also becomes stiff and swollen, but it feels cold and clammy rather than hot. A little movement, rather than aggravating the pain, tends to relieve it. It starts with a build-up in the lungs and sinuses causing a slow down of digestion and metabolism and blockage of the elimination of ama. Arthritis symptoms witnessed are a dull ache, congestion and swelling.
Have hot baths, compresses or massage yourself or have an Abhyanga with massage oils such as Almond oil. A 20% solution of Sahacharadi oil can be added for a stronger oil. Dry heat such as sauna helps. A one to two-week detoxification diet would also help.
An anti-kapha diet, foods that are light, dry and warm would be recommended. Hot herbs such as dry ginger, turmeric and cinnamon would be helpful. As with other types of Arthritis herbs such as Boswellia and Commiphora Mukul, one capsule three times a day would help.
Ayurvedic Remedies For Arthritis
–Fasting is very beneficial for digesting ama. The fasting can be complete or partial depending on the strength of the person and other factors like season and place.
-2 teaspoons of lemon juice mixed in 250 ml. of warm water and a teaspoon of honey should be taken twice a day, morning and evening.
–Body massage with sesame or mustard oil helps to reduce vata and can help reduce pain.
–Light exercise is useful but nothing too strenuous as to cause excessive pain.
-Liberal intake of orange juice or sweet lime juice enhances the efficacy of any anti-rheumatic drug since Vitamin C can reduce skeletal pain.
Diet For Arthritis
-Foods that are easily digestible and do not make wind or gas are recommended.
-Vegetable juices and soups are good. Juices of carrot, beetroot and cucumber mixed together is beneficial.
-Green salad with a dressing of lemon juice and a little salt is good. Fruits like apples, oranges, grapes and papaya can be taken.
-Cooked vegetables like squash, zucchini and pumpkin are good.
-Cook with spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, asafetida, garlic, fennel and turmeric.
-Avoid eating hot, spicy and fried foods, sweets, wind forming foods like cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, okra and potatoes.
-Avoid taking too much tea, coffee, alcohol, white sugar, yogurt, chocolate, cocoa and smoking.
-Sleeping during day time, staying up late in the night and mental tensions like worry, anxiety, fear, stress and grief should be given up. Regular physical exercise and every day massage with oil, once or twice a week, should form an important part of life style.
Home Remedies To Treat Arthritis
-Drinking one teaspoon of castor oil with ginger water before going to sleep is a very effective way of keeping joint pain and arthritis at bay.
-One teaspoon turmeric, ¼ teaspoon garlic, ¼ teaspoon ajowain, ½ teaspoon coriander seed powder, ½ teaspoon fenugreek with half glass of water twice a day.
Marma is an ancient Indian pressure therapy which removes blockages at a deeper level and gives instant relief.
The ‘Lohitaksha’ nerve is located right in the centre of the armpit. Put pressure on this central point and keep it pressed for a minute and then massage it in a circular motion. It instantly triggers the nerve centre to start functioning. Repeat this Marma at least three times a day.
Ayurvedic Herbs To Manage Arthritis
Boswellia (Indian frankincense). This comes from the resin of the Boswellia serrata plant. It works by blocking an enzyme involved in the formation of leukotrienes, chemicals that trigger inflammation. Boswellia may cause a reaction in people who are allergic to ragweed, and it can irritate the gastrointestinal tract (especially if taken alone rather than in a balanced combination formula as traditionally used)
Turmeric. The active ingredient in this spice, curcumin, interferes with three important inflammation-producing enzymes—so it disrupts the inflammatory process at three different stages. Turmeric also may provide some protection against the damage that pain-relieving medications can do to the gastrointestinal tract.
Ginger. Various studies have demonstrated ginger’s ability to reduce pain and inflammation by interfering with inflammatory enzymes. It also aids digestion. According to Ayurvedic principals, poor digestion is a primary trigger for arthritis.
Guggul. It is a very helpful herb for curing arthritis. If available it can be taken in one to 3 gm dose twice a day after meals with warm water.
Ashwagandha. This herb is also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng. Lab studies suggest that it has anti-inflammatory properties that protect against cartilage damage. In addition, animal studies provide evidence that the herb combats stress. When we are stressed, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine cause a breakdown of various body tissues.
Ashwagandha helps alleviate the damaging effects of stress by restoring the proper hormonal balance to the nervous system, which in turn strengthens the immune system and further reduces inflammation. Since Ashwagandha makes your immune system more active, it is not appropriate for people who have an autoimmune disorder, including rheumatoid arthritis.