Children too, may get affected. In this disease, the synovial membrane, or the covering tissue of the joints gets swollen, resulting in stiffness, pain and limitation of movement. In severe conditions, the joints may ultimately become deformed. A disturbed immune function is believed to be responsible for this disease.
In Ayurveda, rheumatoid arthritis is known as “Sandhi Vata”. This is not to be confused with “Aam Vata” which is the name given to Rheumatic Fever, or the fever which causes pain and swelling in joints and also affect the heart.
Management Of Rhematoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis of recent origin usually responds well to standard anti-inflammatory treatment. However, by nature this is a chronic disease, and while symptoms can be controlled, there is presently no cure. Standard modern medicine may not be very helpful once the condition becomes chronic, or treatment may have significant side effects. It is in such patients that Ayurvedic herbal treatment may be very useful and effective. One major advantage of Ayurvedic herbal medicines in such an affliction is that medicines may be taken for long periods without any serious side-effects.
Ayurvedic treatment of rheumatoid arthritis consists of the following procedures:
(i) “Snehan” ( use of local and oral medicated lubricants)
(ii) “Swedan” (local fomentation)
(iii) “Lep” (Local application of medications)
(iv) “Anuloman” ( mild laxative treatment for prolonged periods)
(v) “Raktamokshan” (blood letting)
(vi) “Dahan” (local heat branding ) and
(vii) “Shaman” ( symptomatic oral treatment).
Mahanarayan oil( containing mainly Asparagus racemosus), Bala (Sida cordifolia) oil, Vishgarbha oil are some of the medications used for snehan procedures. While local application is quite simple, oral use of medicated lubricants is best done under the direct supervision of a qualified and experienced Ayurvedic practitioner.While local fomentation can be done in several ways, “Naadi swedan” is the most effective. In this procedure, a jet of medicated steam is directed at the affected joints, usually after the snehan procedure. A decoction of Nirgundi (Vitex negundo) is usually used for this procedure.
Local medicated applications include Lepgoli, Dashang lep, and a mixture of Shrung, Daruharidra ( Berberis aristata), Alum, and Rakta Chandan (Santalum album). Several medicated herbal ointments are also available.
Local pain can be immediately reduced by blood-letting. This can be done by syringe or using leeches. About 50 ml. of blood is usually withdrawn from a vein near the affected joint. Local heat branding is used by some physicians to reduce acute tenderness of the joints. Various special metal instruments are used for this procedure.Castor oil and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) treated with castor oil are used for mild, prolonged laxative treatment.
Oral Ayurveda Management
Oral medications include Maharasnadi decoction, Triphala Guggulu, Yograj Guggulu and Ashwagandharishta. Shallaki (Boswellia serrata) and Guggulu (Commiphora mukul) compounds are given for prolonged periods. Multiple herbal compounds containing Guggulu are available, which are used according to the presenting symptoms and the staging of the disease as done by the Ayurvedic practitioner.
It is advisable to avoid very sour, salty and cold (refrigerated) food products, as also fermented products. Using tolerable amounts of ginger and garlic in the daily diet is helpful. Some yogic asanas have been found to be useful in arthritis, and may be performed regularly under the supervision and advice of an expert in this field. Vata-If arthritis is due to vata, your joints will crack and pop. They become dry and are not swollen as they may be if excess vata is not the cause.
Pitta-The 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.
Kapha-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.
General Treatment of Arthritis
Depending on a person’s lifestyle, diet, and emotional pattern, either vata, pitta, or kapha goes out of balance. Then that particular dosha slows down agni (digestive fire), resulting in the toxic, sticky by-product of inadequate digestion known as ama.
Vata, the main active dosha, brings the ama into the colon, and from there it travels through the system and lodges in the bone tissue and in the joints, giving rise to the stiffness and pain characteristic of arthritis.
Ayurveda attempts to remove the ama from the joint and bring it back to the colon, and then to eliminate it. To do this, we need to keep the colon clean. It is best to determine the type of arthritis and manage it for the remedies recommended for the specific type. If you do not know whether the arthritis is vata, pitta, or kapha arthritis, take 1 teaspoon triphala at night with 1/2 to 1 cup warm water.
If you know positively which type it is, you can use the following (1/2 to 1 teaspoon with warm water):
Haritaki for vata-type arthritis
Amalaki for pitta-type
Bibbitaki for kapha-type arthritis
Ayurveda recommends general techniques for increasing the intensity of the digestive fire (agni) in order to burn up the toxins that are harming the body.
Hot, spicy foods and herbs, including galangal and cayenne are frequently used.
A three- to five-day detoxification diet is often prescribed. Vegetables, juices, spices and herbs are taken during the fast, which lasts until the body shows signs that the digestive fire is burning strong. These signs include a return of the appetite, a feeling of lightness and a clear coating to the tongue.
Enemas and other means of cleaning the colon are often used to help detoxify the body.
Ruby, garnet or other “hot” gems set in gold are used for all three types of arthritis.
Various oils may be applied to the skin in order to help the body clear toxins, relieve pain and restore mobility.
Mahanarayan oil improves flexibility, stiffness, muscle fatigue, and removes pain. It is mixed with sesame oil (1:1) and applied to the painful areas. This oil also breaks up blockages and begins to heal locally. After oil application, warm heat, yoga, bath, or mild exercise further improves this situation.
Narayan oil is good for muscle and joint pain, lower body circulation, and reversing imbalances caused by aging.
The patient may be asked to sit in a sauna, or may have steam applied directly to the afflicted areas.
A variety of herbs, spices and bitters are used in ayurveda. These are often applied externally or ingested. These are believed to cleanse the body and to relieve pain and stiffness. Mint, ephedra, golden seal, gentian, nirgundi, eucalyptus leaves, prasarini, quassia, coptis, scute, phellodendrom, aloe, guggul, du huo, ligusticum, Siberian ginseng, myrrh, and yucca are some of the herbs used.
Treating Vata-type arthritis
Diet-In addition to the general treatment, Vata-type arthritis responds well to a three- to five-day detoxification diet and an anti- Vata diet. This diet includes warm, heavy and moist foods that give one strength.
Herbs, Essential Oils-Take yogaraj guggulu, 1 tablet 3 times per day. it cleanses bone tissue, strengthens bones, and improves flexibility.
Take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Haritaki with warm water Apply mahanarayan oil on the affected joint, followed by application of local moist heat. For example, apply the mahanarayan oil into the affected joint, rub it into the skin, and then soak your foot in warm to bearably hot water. Add a “teabag’ of brown mustard seeds to the water. (Wrap 2 tablespoons of mustard > seeds in a handkerchief or cheesecloth to make the tea bag.)
All rheumatic disorders are classified as ”Vata disorders” in Ayurveda. Rheumatoid arthritis which is described as “Amavata” in Ayurveda is a joint disorder which affects multiple joints a various sites. ”Ama” means toxic which is produced in the body due to weakening of digestive fire- Jataragni. This ”Ama” is then carried by ”Vayu” and travels throughout the body and accumulate in the joints, which is the seat of ”Kapha” As this process continuous, all the joints are gradually affected, which results in severe pain and swelling in the joints. When ”Pitta” also gets aggravated, it causes burning sensation around the joints.
(a) Diet – Vegetarian food to be consumed. Dairy products, sweets, oily foods, junk and fast foods, salty and sour foods, jaggery, black gram, fish, cold drinks and ice creams are to be avoided.
(b) Life style- One should avoid cold breeze and excessive wind. Warm water bath is recommended. Take a gentle walk after consumption of food.
(c) Medicines- Guggulu is the most effective drug in treating ”Amavata”. Also herbal preparations of Ashwagandha, Haritaki, Rasna, Sunthi, Pippai and Trivrut are helpful.
(d) Panchakarma Therapy – This is purification process by which toxins are eliminated from the body
Snehana: Internal and external oleation to the body / affected parts is given as a preliminary process.
Swedana: This is done by application of steam on the affected parts. It helps in reducing inflammatory conditions in the body.
Virechana: By the process of Virechana, the ”Ama” is eliminated from the body. Also the bowel is cleansed, which results in absorption and assimilation of the medicinal preparations properly.
Vasti:This is done by administration of herbal enema. It is helpful in chronic cases.
Along with treatment, physiotherapy, organized lifestyle, vegetarianism, suitable physical exercises, yoga and meditation should be practiced. Ayurvedic treatment, a holistic approach for Rheumatoid Arthritis has been designed identifying the fact that the power of mind can overcome any physical aberrations.
According to Ayurveda, a holistic way of living, Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic degenerative disease affecting the cartilages of joints can be managed by a good diet and lifestyle. It stops future deterioration of the joints and helps to rejunevate the damaged joints by normalizing the vitiated doshas.
Suggested diet and life style to treat Rheumatoid arthritis are :
Do mild weight bearing exercises regularly as they improve bone density. When certain yogasanas are done with rythming breathing techniques they increase the tissue building and improves the strengthening and stretching of the muscles around the points. Not to climb stairs or bend or squat. Walking a little distance may help. Biking, swimming or aerobic dances helps to improve the bone condition. Avoid alcohols, cigarettes, carbonated beverages. Take food that is rich in calcium like cheese, orange juice, leafy vegetables. Cereals etc. Drink milk regularly as it has vitamin D content in it. Take a lot of vitamin K rich foods such as lettuce, spinach, Brussels sprouts etc., Take care to consume only freshly cooked warm food and take hot soups of lentils, pulses and meat with ginger, black pepper and long pepper powdered sprinkled to it.. It is essential to include a moderate amount of ghee and oil in diet as it lubricates the joints. Avoid taking food that are sour, spicy, deed fried, oily, pungent, acid, dark poultry, refined sugar, femented food and also lessen the intake of salts. Also follow some basic rules of not eating wrong combination of foods, eat only up to your limit, Strictly follow the timings of your eating and do not eat in between the meals.
A modified diet and good lifestyle along with ayurvedic medicines and panchkarma will yield a great result in treating Rheumatoid arthritis.