Managing rheumatoid arthritis through ayurveda

Apr 20, 2023 | Ayurveda


Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is an autoimmune disorder and an inflammatory disease. Basically, as a result of this disorder, your immune system attacks the healthy cells in your body causing painful swellings and joint pains. RA triggers your immune system to mainly attack your joints causing both physical and emotional stress as a result. As of now, RA cannot be completely cured, only managed with treatments aimed at supporting you to lead as normal a life as possible with this condition.

Ayurvedic view on arthritis

Ayurveda is an ancient life science which originated in India over 3000 years ago. It is a holistic medicinal system based on the belief that balance of our life energies or dosha is essential for good health. These life energies of vata, pitta and kapha when in harmony create a balanced environment the mind, body and spirit to thrive. These three life energies consist of combinations of the five elements of water, air, fire, earth and space. According to ayurveda, RA is known as amavata and is created by an imbalance of the vata dosha.

There are quite a variety of arthritis of which RA is just one. Other varieties include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Childhood arthritis
  • Gout
  • Lupus

RA affects the joints in the hands, wrists and knees mainly, causing the joints to become inflamed.  This damages the joint tissue which can lead to long term or chronic pain, misshapenness and unsteadiness. It also has the potential to affect other tissues throughout the body and affect organs such as the heart, eyes and lungs.

How does Ayurveda help patients with rheumatoid arthritis?

To treat rheumatoid arthritis patients, ayurveda works to restore the balance within through certain lifestyle changes and ayurvedic herbal remedies. The main objective of ayurvedic treatment is reduce pain from the affected joints along with the swelling and inflammation.  Ayurveda uses natural remedies to target and treat the root causes of RA. Using ingredients such as castor oil, Indian frankincense, ginger, garlic and ashwagandha and infused medical oils, an ayurvedic practitioner can bring lasting relief by balancing the dosha and removing ama dosha from the body. In ayurveda, when there is a vata imbalance it leads to an accumulation of ama which causes shula or pain and shortha or swelling. Ama means toxin or undigested metabolic waste.

Is ayurveda an effective treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis?

Research on ayurveda therapies as effective treatments for RA are on going but it has been determined in a study done in India and sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that ayurvedic practices could be helpful with easing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, reducing inflammation and limiting flare-ups.

Common medication for RA can cause side effects which is why people are interested in the ayurvedic alternate approach to treating arthritis. Its shodhana or purification therapy and shamana or palliative treatment bring relief with no side effects. While these remedies may not be a replacement for medical interventions, they do help relieve the discomfort caused by RA and reduce the symptoms.

Treating rheumatoid arthritis through ayurveda

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, making certain lifestyle changes, massages and consuming herbal therapies that are anti inflammatory can all help people with RA, reduce the symptoms and pain caused by it. There are basic steps and treatments that ayurveda advises as beneficial towards treating arthritis.

Diet and nutrition – It is important to avoid additional stress on your joints so it is advisable to maintain a healthy body weight through a nourishing diet that will also help balance your dosha. Ayurveda advices consuming warm foods to support your kapha dosha or a diet that will pacify your vata and pitta dosha. Stewed and cooked food such as black gram, sweet potatoes, squash, cooked apples and cooked or soaked raisins are good options to include in your diet. It is best to avoid very spicey food while other incompatible foods will include hard to digest vegetables and fruits such as raw onions, radishes, apples, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Sour and fermented food like green grapes, pineapple, sour cream and hard cheeses should not be consumed either.

Exercise and physical activity – Ayurveda advises that low impact activities that do not put stress on the joints are beneficial for RA. Unless you have severe damage to your hips or knees, then it is good to get some activity into your day in the form of water aerobics, swimming, walking, cycling or even gentle dancing. Yoga is another good option as long as you keep it simple and do not put stress on your joints.

Herbal remedies – There are many ayurvedic herbs that have anti inflammatory properties and when consumed in some form help reduce the symptoms of RA. Fenugreek seeds with some water after meals or soaked overnight.  Chew the seeds in the morning and drink the infused water. Dried ginger powder boiled in water to make ginger tea to which a teaspoon of caster oil should be included. Remedies such as these help with reducing the joint pains and riding the body of toxins.

Treatments – Ayurvedic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are based on treating the issues rather than just the symptoms and work to balance the dosha so that the body is healthy and strong.

The abhyanga is a full body massage with medicated oils that is relaxing. It lubricates the joints, improves the joint muscle tone so that they are stronger while also boosting blood circulation and the quick removal of metabolic waste that cause inflammatory pain.

Basti is a treatment that flushes out the toxins and reduces the vata dosha from the body with oil enemas. When vata dosha builds up in the colon it leads to ama build up which in turn leads to numerous health problems including arthritis.

Ayurvedic treatments also include those that correct immune modulation, the digestion and the metabolism to reduce ama from the body.

Considerations to be made when opting for ayurvedic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

Ayurvedic treatment can work alongside other medications you take for RA. It is important that you seek the proper ayurvedic guidance in order to gain maximum benefits from the holistic treatments. Consulting an ayurvedic practitioner will ensure that you undergo treatment that is based on your unique body composition with herbs, diet and therapies catered to treat your specific requirements. Always follow the exact advice and guidance given to you to truly experience the benefits and relief from joint pain.


The main objective of ayurvedic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis is to relieve the pain and stress caused by this inflammatory disease through a focus on lifestyle changes including diet and exercise and herbal remedies.