The treatment of arthritis recommended by this 5,000 year old system of healing from India is based on the tenet that arthritis is primarily an ama disease caused by poor digestion and a weakened colon, resulting in the accumulation of undigested food and the buildup of waste matter. (Undigested food is referred to as ama.)
Poor digestion allows toxinS to accumulate in the body, and problems with the colon allow the toxins to reach the joints. Ama is the opposite of agni, the digestive fire that normally burns away toxins.
Hence, the general treatment for arthritis consists of stimulating the digestive fire and suppressing the ama. (Ayurveda notes that arthritis may also be caused by injury or an immune system gone awry that attacks the body.)
Arthritis may manifest itself in any of the three primary life forces, or humors, in the body.
The Ayurvedic treatment for all forms of arthritis, regardless of their humors, includes increasing the intensity of the digestive fire in order to burn up the toxins that are harming the body. Hot, spicy foods and herbs, including galangal and cayenne, may be used. Arthritis often calls for a three- to five-day detoxification diet. 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 detoxif the body. At least one or two colonics are believed to be good for just about everyone, unless the patient is weak or fearful.
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. Heat
therapy may also be used. 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 applied externally or ingested in order to cleanse the body and to relieve pain and stiffness. These include mint, ephedra, golden seal, gentian, nirgundi, eucalyptus leaves, prasarini, quassia, coptis, scute, pheilodendrom, aloe, guggui, du huo, ligusticum, Siberian ginseng, myrrh and yucca.
Treating Vata-type arthritis
In addition to the general treatment, Vata-type arthritis often calls for a three- to five-day detoxification diet and an anti Vata diet. This diet includes warm, heavy and moist foods that give one strength. Frequent small meals, mildly spiced and with only a few different types of foods per meal are recommended. One should not eat when nervous or worried. Your meal should be cooked for you, and you should eat with friends.
Treating Pitta-type arthritis
In addition to the general treatment, Pitta type arthritis often calls for a five- to seven-day detoxification diet and an anti Pitta diet. Specific herbs for Pitta arthritis include guggul, sandalwood, aloe, saffron and chaparral. Ice packs are also used for this arthritis of the fire humor. The anti-Pitta diet consists of cool, slightly dry and heavy foods. The foods should be raw and relatively plain-tasting, not cooked in lots of oil or heavily spiced. Three regular meals, with no eating late at night, are suggested.
Treating Kapha-type arthritis
In addition to the general treatment, Pitta type arthritis often calls for a one- to two-week detoxification diet. The anti Kapha diet is light, dry and warm. Cold, oily and heavy foods should be avoided. Three meals a day should be eaten, with lunch being the main meal. Breakfast may be skipped and weekly fasting is helpful. Most or all of the daily food should be consumed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.