Ayurveda and Arthritis


In Ayurveda, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is sometimes referred to as amavata. (just a note that not all RA are amavata). Amavata is caused by  ama a sanskrit name for sticky molecular waste food particle builtup over time giving rise to toxins and impurities. These impurities in this condition has now settled into the walls of the tissues, and especially traveled to the joints and made a new home there.

This may sometimes leads to the ojas issues (immunity issues). This disease affects both the asthi and the majja dhatus. Due to the presence of ama in majja dhatu, a person with amavata can experience numbness and sharp nerve pain in the arms or legs. 

Amavata is more common in individuals with a  vata  constitution. Some causative factors or hetus for vata increase is

  • Eating too many beans and lentils
  • Overeating meat
  • Eating raw vegetables or fruits
  • Intake of vata aggravating foods like popcorm/drying foods.
  • Intake of hard to digest foods (wheat, meat and diary)
  • Overexercise
  • Walking or exercising in cool, windy conditions
  • Too much grief
  • Multitasking

    Anything that increases vata can make amavata  worse for individuals that are already experiencing it.

    Khaviagunya  A very important causative factor is the genetic predisposition of RA created by a khavaigunya (defective space) in the joints. This alone can dictate whether an individual will experience RA in their lifetime. 

The nature of ama is thick and sticky which causes pain and stiffness in the joints. Ama is similar to kapha in that regard. Since morning and evening are kapha times, individuals with RA experience more stiffness and pain around those times. High levels of humidity and cloudiness can also cause more ama resulting in an increase in pain and stiffness. Cold is the quality of vata and can trigger more pain. Times that are cooler such as early morning or later in the evening is when individuals with RA will complain most of stiffness and pain. As the sun rises higher throughout the morning and afternoon individuals with RA tend to feel better and experience less pain. 

Contrary to Western Medicine, Ayurveda believes every-body is different and thus should be treated differently. There is no one size fits all model when it comes to herbs. Agni (digestive fire) needs to be kindled using dipana chikitsa and ama needs to be burned with pachana chikitsa. Bitter herbs such as guggulu and neem burn the presence of ama in rasa dhatu. The type of guggulu however depends on the doshic involvement. For instance, yogaraja guggulu is beneficial for skeleton-muscular arthritic pain which is associated with vata. Rasnadi guggulu however would be more beneficial for kapha type bigger joint pain. 

Vishagarbha thailam can be applied topically since it is anti-inflammatory and helps burn ama in the connective tissue. Panchakarma is contraindicated until this ama has moved out of the deeper tissues. Once this has occurred, mahanarayana thailam can be applied to relieve pain. After the pain and stiffness has been reduced a proper panchakarma can take place which consists of snehana, svedana, anulomana, virechana, basti and rasayana. 

A dashamula gudduci basti will help detoxify the large intestine since RA manifests in the colon. The basti treatment will help to remove ama. Castor oil with ginger tea can be given as anulomana therapy. All these treatments are concluded with rasayana chikitsa which in this case can be dashamula arishta. 

All in all, Western and Ayurvedic modalities have different approaches when it comes to treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. Ayurveda aims to treat the body as a whole and help the body heal from the core of the issue instead of treating symptoms. Even though this approach may be lengthy in process, it is more sustainable and empowers the individual to continue to trust their body and nature to help them find their way back to good health.

DISCLAIMER: Ayurveda is not allowed to treat, cure or prevent any disease. The above article is for my final project compiled from various sources and is only written for informational purposes.