Ayurvedic Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health that originated in India and has been practiced since ancient times. A big part of the practice involves treating rheumatoid arthritis with ayurvedic medicines. These medicines can help reduce pain and improve your overall quality of life. Are you interested in learning more about ayurvedic treatments for rheumatoid arthritis? Keep reading!

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease of the joints that is very commonly seen in young and middle-aged adults. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joints in the body.

It is believed that around 3% of the population is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is usually seen more in women compared to men with a 3:1 ratio.

Rheumatoid arthritis can start at any age and the mean age is 40 years.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown and malfunction of the immune system is considered a major cause (autoimmune disease). Other causes such as hereditary, environmental causes, habits like smoking, and alcohol usage can cause this condition. Increasing age and particularly females are more prone to rheumatoid arthritis. If you are obese, you have still more chances of getting this variety of arthritis.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

You can have joint pain, stiffness in joints in the early morning, mild fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, indigestion, frustration, etc. while having this condition.

Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diagnosis includes physical examination and lab tests for finding out RA factor, C reactive protein, and imaging tests like X-ray, CT, and MRI scans. Physical examination includes assessing redness, swelling, tenderness, range of motion, joint function, and nerve and muscle reflexes.

Diagnostic criteria for Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to the American college of Rheumatology 1987 revised criteria, at least 4 out of 7 criteria should be fulfilled to make the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

Morning stiffnessMorning stiffness in and around the joints, lasting at least one hour before maximal improvement.
Arthritis of three or more joint areasAt least three joint areas (out of 14 possible areas; right or left PIP, MCP, wrist, elbow, knee, ankle, MTP joints) simultaneously have had soft tissue swelling or fluid (not bony overgrowth alone) as observed by a physician.
Arthritis of hand jointsAt least one area is swollen (as defined above) in a wrist, MCP, or PIP joint.
Symmetric arthritisSimultaneous involvement of the same joint areas (as defined above) on both sides of the body (bilateral involvement of PIPs, MCPs, or MTPs, without absolute symmetry is acceptable).
Rheumatoid nodulesSubcutaneous nodules over bony prominences or extensor surfaces, or in juxta-articular regions as observed by a physician.
Serum rheumatoid factorDemonstration of abnormal amounts of serum rheumatoid factor by any method for which the result has been positive in less than 5 percent of normal control subjects.
Radiographic changesRadiographic changes typical of rheumatoid arthritis on posteroanterior hand or wrist radiographs, which must include erosions or unequivocal bony decalcification localized in, or most marked adjacent to, the involved joints (osteoarthritis changes alone do not qualify).

Note: For classification purposes, a patient has RA if at least four of these criteria are satisfied (the first four must have been present for at least six weeks).

Latest 2010 Rheumatoid Arthritis Classification


Differential Diagnosis

Differential diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis with other conditions

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Viral arthropathy
  • Polymyalgia
  • Infection
  • Prodrome of hepatitis
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Erosive osteoarthritis
  • Chronic pyrophosphate disease
  • Chronic tophaceous gout
  • SLE
  • Ankylosing spondylitis

Tests used to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis

Multiple tests help to confirm the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Following are the few tests which are commonly prescribed in rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Hemoglobin – In rheumatoid arthritis HB percentage is low.
  2. WBC – WBC is normal or decreased.
  3. Lymphocytes – Increased lymphocytes
  4. ESR – Raised ESR.
  5. RA factor – Rheumatoid factor is found in 75 percent of rheumatoid arthritis cases.
  6. CRP – seen increased C-reactive protein.
  7. ANA – Antinuclear antibody is also seen elevated in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  8. Radiological images such as X-rays, MRI.

Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

As there is no permanent cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis the aim of treatment is

  • to minimize the inflammation so that joint functions are normalized, preventing secondary joint stiffness and deformity along with maintaining healthy muscles.
  • to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • to prevent deformities using suitable procedures.
  • Surgical measures to correct deformity, eliminate the pain, and provide stability.

Complications associated with Rheumatoid arthritis

You can get troubled with osteoporosis, infections, and the occurrence of rheumatic nodules even in organs like the heart due to this condition. Heart disease and obesity-prone people are more at risk due to this disease. 

Rheumatic arthritis can affect the skin, eyes, kidneys, lungs, and heart.

Self Management techniques for Rheumatoid Arthritis

As there is no permanent cure for rheumatoid arthritis self-management plays a vital role as a part of treatment.

Self-management techniques can decrease the dependency on medication such as pain killers and can reduce the intensity of the pain and keep a person more active compared to the persons who do not practice self-management.

Self-management makes patients aware of the disease and the limitations of treatment so that the success of the treatment depends on the patient’s cooperation.

Following are a few self-help techniques that can help in rheumatoid arthritis

  1. Exercise – Practice regular exercise as advised by the physical therapists or doctor.
  2. Continue Medication – Patients should continue their regular medications as advised by the doctor
  3. Assistive Devices – The use of assistive devices such as splints, braces, and walking sticks helps in stabilizing joints, provides strength, and reduces inflammation and pain.
  4. Mental Attitude –  Patients should think positively focusing on other things rather than thinking about their own pains and body.
  5. Use of joints – Proper usage of joints for any activity such as correct posture and methods reduces stress on joints.
  6. Listen to your body – You need to listen to your body’s signal to take a rest. straining may increase stress on joints and pain.
  7. Quality of Sleep – Good sleep gives needed rest to joints and reduces pain and swelling.
  8. Massage – The right massage helps in reducing pain and stiffness.
  9. Relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation help in relaxing muscles and the mind. This helps in reducing joint pains.
  10. Modification in daily activities
    – Using Western toilets
    – Bath aids and railings
    – Long handle broomstick and mop for cleaning
    – Use of walking sticks
    – High chairs
    – Avoid squatting on the ground
    – Avoid walking on uneven and hard rough surfaces
    – Sleep on a hard surface

Amavata – the Ayurvedic correlation

Rheumatoid arthritis is correlated with Amavata in Ayurveda. When the vitiated wind energy Vata combines with metabolic toxin ama, you can get Ama Vata affecting your digestive system and joints in particular. This causes pain in joints, digestive troubles, weakness, stiffness in the chest, etc symptoms. Itching sensation, and pain like a scorpion sting all these are associated with Ama Vata. The pain increases at night and the joints become warm in general.

Types of Amavata

Ayurveda classifies this condition as per many criteria. The simplest one is based on the onset of the disease. Naveena amavata is having a disease onset less than one year ago and Purana amavata (chronic) has manifested before one year and will be chronic in nature.

Prognosis of Amavata

If it is only having the involvement of one dosha and has occurred within one year, it is treatable. If it has two dosha combo and has manifested before one year, it is manageable, yapya type. More chronicity is difficult to treat anyways.

Ayurvedic Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Ayurvedic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes lifestyle changes, herbal medicine, and yoga. The treatment can be classified into two types

  1. Palliative Treatment (Shamana Chikitsa)
  2. Bio purification (Shodan Chikitsa)

When the disease is in early-stage with few symptoms rheumatoid arthritis can be managed with palliative medicines. When the doshas are high and in chronic rheumatoid arthritis bio purificatory therapies or panchakarma treatments are administered to eliminate morbid doshas.

So, Ayurvedic treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis is advised based on the status of the disease and patient.

The treatment principle of Amavata

It aims overall to digest and eliminate ama. Providing carminative and digestive medicines and then detoxification can be done. Internal nourishment and rejuvenation are also needed in this arena.

Panchakarma care explained

  • Medicines like Pancha kola choorna, Ajamodadi choorna, Triphala choorna, and Vaiswanara choorna are good for increasing appetite and digestion.
  • Dry fomentation with sand, medicated bandages, etc. are advisable and after that mild purgation using castor oil is also beneficial.
  • Giving medicated oil or ghee to consume is also told by acharyas.
  • Decoction enema, Kshara Vasti – enema with medicated ash, and unctuous enema also is useful.
  • Dhara using dhanyamla (fermented gruel water used to pour on affected joints)
  • Medicated bolus with powders or leaves is also utilized by Ayurvedic experts. Medicated pastes like nagaradi Lepa, jadamayadi Lepa are also useful.
Dhanyamla Dhara

Ayurvedic medicine for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Various ayurvedic medicine is used in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Ayurvedic medicines are available in various forms such as decoctions (kashayams), Tablets (vati), Asava and Arishtams (fermented liquids), and Powders (churna), Fresh herbal extracts (swarasa), linctus (avaleha), etc… Depending on the dosha predominance and the status of the patient medicines are selected.

Decoctions used in the treatment of Amavata

Amruthotharam Kashaya, Maharasnadi Kashaya, Rasnerandadi Kashaya, Gandharvahastadi Kashaya, Rasna saptakam Kashaya, and Rasonadi kashaya are the main medicines used in this condition.

Tablets used in the treatment of Amavata

Tablets like Dhanvantaram Gulika, Simhanada Guggulu, Yoga raja Guggulu, Amrta Guggulu, Shiva Gulika are effective to reduce symptoms, and choornas like Pipplyadi, Vaiswanara, and Trikatu choorna are given.

Oils used in the treatment of Amavata

Oils for external application include Sahacharadi taila, Kottamchukkadi Taila, Dhanwantaram taila, Karpasasthyadi Taila, etc. Nasya can be done with Kseerabala tailam .

Dietary articles useful in Amavata

Bitter gourd, pointed gourd, garlic, pepper, turmeric, and ginger-like dietary articles are good for this condition for daily use.

Herbs useful in Amavata

Castor (Ricinus communis), giloy ( Tinospora cordifolia), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera ), fennel (Anethum sowa ), turmeric (Curcuma longa), pepper (long pepper (piper longum), chebulic myrobalan (Terminalia chebula ), etc. are some of the prominent drugs in Ayurvedic management of Amavata.

Yoga asanas useful in Amavata

Vriksasana or the tree pose, Veerabhadrasana or the warrior pose, Marjariasana or the cat pose, savasana or corpse pose are recommended by yoga experts for this condition. Take time to relax for yourself. Practice deep breathing relaxation techniques also.

Research Studies and results on rheumatoid arthritis

People with RA who exercise might have less pain than those who do not. Exercise reduces pain, improves joint function and flexibility, increases range of motion, and makes you more pleasant. You can adopt walking, cycling, and simple hand and leg exercises to ensure uninterrupted blood supply throughout your body. At least give half an hour daily for exercises and recreational activities of your choice.

The Mediterranean diet (MD), rich in plant-based foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, and low in red meat consumption, might have the potential to reduce the risk of RA. Based on current research evidence, it is suggested that adherence to the MD enhanced with increased consumption of fatty fish, reduced consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, and maintenance of normal body weight contributes to reducing the risk of RA.

According to the Arthritis Foundation studies, heart disease is the number one cause of death in people who have RA. Aside from managing your RA, you can do other things to help lower your risk of heart disease, such as getting your blood pressure to a stable level, reducing your cholesterol levels, adding cardiovascular exercises to your fitness routine, and having a low-fat diet.

Way forward

As per recent research, an appropriate physical activity-based treatment program based on an active daily lifestyle, aerobic exercise, and resistance training is good.  Adequate sleep hygiene and smoking reduction/cessation, seem to have positive effects in terms of disease progression and related outcomes.

Adopting Ayurveda can improve your overall health, and maintaining a healthy weight can improve your joint health also. Choose choices wisely and be contented in life.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a serious disease that affects the joints and bones. It can also affect the heart, lungs, eyes, and skin. Some people are more prone to rheumatoid arthritis than others, but there’s no telling who you might be affected by it.

However, there is hope! ayurvedic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis can help ease your pain and symptoms of this disease.

“This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call or visit your doctor.”

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