photo: flickr/David Jones
Arthritis is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world.
According to Ayurveda, arthritis is primarily a vata (air) disease, which is due to accumulation of toxins in the joints.
This can be caused by poor digestion and a weakened colon, resulting in the accumulation of undigested food and the buildup of waste matter.
Poor digestion allows toxins to accumulate in the body and problems with the colon allow the toxins to reach the joints.
Symptoms can range in severity, depending on the person. In cases of chronic muscular rheumatism, there can be immense pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected muscles.
Pain or tenderness in a joint can be aggravated by any movement or activity—even simple activities like walking, getting up from a chair, writing, typing, holding an object, throwing a ball or even turning a key, can become difficult. Chronic articular rheumatism can cause excruciating pain and stiffness in the joints; such widespread inflammation can even cause the person to run a low grade fever.
There are many medications on the market today that address the symptoms of arthritis and that help with inflammation. Unfortunately, many of these medications have serious unwanted side effects; many people are unaware that widespread inflammation can be dealt with using natural means. These can include home remedies, herbs, acupuncture and yoga.
The following are a few simple home remedies that might just help relieve you from the pain of arthritis—experiment with each of them to see what works for you.
Just remember, it usually takes doing something for several weeks to actually see if your body is responding and feel a difference. And don’t try too many things at one time or you won’t know what is actually working for you—sometimes less is better.
1. Combine two teaspoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey in a cup of warm water. Take twice a day.
2. Combine two teaspoons of juice from the fresh leaves of bathua and drink every day on an empty stomach for two to three months.
3. Combine half a teaspoon of turmeric powder with warm water and drink.
4. Drink alfalfa tea twice a day.
5. Two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons of honey dissolved in a small glass of warm water taken once or twice a day.
6. Rub the aching joints with hot vinegar to get some relief from pain.
7. Two parts pure olive oil and one part kerosene makes a wonderful liniment to bathe the afflicted joints.
8. Add one tablespoon cod liver oil to the juice of one orange, whip and drink before sleeping.
9. One raw clove of garlic every day is very beneficial. This clove can be fried in ghee (clarified butter) or castor oil. Take for two months.
10. Guggulu is very helpful in curing arthritis. Eat half a teaspoon twice a day after meals with warm water.
In addition to home remedies, the use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. The following have been used traditionally to treat rheumatoid arthritis:
1. Shallaki, also known as boswellia (Boswellia serrata), comes from a tree that yields gum when its bark is peeled away. In clinical trials, promising results were observed in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic colitis, Crohn’s disease. Researchers found that standardized Boswellia extract significantly reduced swelling and pain and usually reduced morning stiffness for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) is an Asian plant of the potato family. Its roots have long been used to treat rheumatism, high blood pressure, immune dysfunctions, erection problems and also to ease inflammation. Because of all this, it’s sometimes called the “Indian ginseng.”
3. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) may be one of the most studied herbs. Research suggests ginger root inhibits production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which are involved in pain and inflammation. In an uncontrolled 1992 Danish study, 56 patients who had either RA, OA or muscular discomfort took powdered ginger; all of those with musculoskeletal pain and three-fourths of those with OA or RA reported varying degrees of pain relief and no side effects, even among those who took the ginger for more than two years.
Herbal oils can be applied to the arthritic area to loosen stiff joints, restore mobility, remove pain, inflammation or swelling, nourish tissues and relieve pain; ginger powder can be added to olive oil, sesame oil is also good for increasing the circulation and warming the area.
Cayenne pepper is also a good analgesic—to make a cayenne pepper infused oil, mix five tablespoons. of cayenne powder with two cups of pure olive oil and place in a sunny window for 30 days. After 30 days, strain the mixture into a clean container. Peppermint essential oil can be added to create a icy hot effect; the ratio of cayenne to olive oil can be altered depending on your personal preference. Be aware that the cayenne will cause a burning sensation but the burning sensation will decrease with repeat use. Massage your joints daily to increase the circulation and range of motion in the affected area.
Although the home remedies and herbal supplements can be very effective in and of themselves, a healthy anti-inflammatory diet and a regular exercise routine needs to be followed also.
Swimming is an excellent exercise that won’t add extra stress to the joints but will help keep the joints lubricated and mobile.
Find a local yoga class—yoga can reduce your stress levels and help keep you moving. It’s a non-impact form of exercise that can be done in a chair, if needed. There are specific postures that can help stimulate both your digestive system and your colon. If you don’t have a yoga class near you, pick up a DVD or visit yogajournal.com to learn basic routines that you can do at home.photo: Anson Smart
Exercising the affected joints in a tub full of hot water can offer tremendous relief; a New England remedy for arthritis is a hot bath of Epsom salts. The heat of the bath can increase circulation and reduce the swelling of arthritis. Magnesium has both anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties and it can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium is one of the most important of the essential minerals in the body and it is commonly deficient in the American diet.
So, fill a bathtub with water as hot as you can stand it and add two cups of Epsom salts. For added benefit, add one to two cups of apple cider vinegar to the bath, with the Epsom salts. Bathe for thirty minutes, adding hot water as necessary to keep the temperature warm. Do this daily or as often as you’d like.
Drinking carrot juice, cucumber juice, eating cooked vegetables and/or vegetable soups and drinking coconut water can help you achieve a healthy body. By eating steamed vegetables and soups, your body’s digestive organs do not have to work so hard and your body is able to absorb more of your food’s nutrients. This can help prevent the accumulation of undigested food. Also, avoid processed foods and sugars which weaken your digestive system.
Still having problems with retaining undigested food or a weak colon? Visit your local acupuncturist.
Acupuncture can help re-balance your whole digestive system and regulate your colon. It reduces inflammation by helping the body to detox naturally; it also offers pain relief by releasing natural endorphins during treatment. Another benefit is that it can also help with weight loss—the closer you are to your ideal weight, the better—if you weigh less, there is less weight on your joints.
By now, you can see that there are a lot of natural options available—but don’t feel overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath and let any mental tension that you’re hanging onto melt away; stress has a negative effect on the body and will only make your symptoms worse.
The biggest favor you can do for yourself is to learn how to relax.
Don’t let pain make you put your life on hold—take control of your arthritis the natural way.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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