Causes And Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Ayurveda And Modern Perspective, Diet

There are many diseases explained in Ayurveda, the causes and symptoms of which match exactly with the current day diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is one such example. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease mainly affecting joints. Most of the causes and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis explained matches with a disease explained in Ayurveda books

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, affecting mainly joints having a covering, called synovial joints. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include inflammation in the joints, excess synovial fluid, and the development of a flap in the synovium. It often leads to the destruction of cartilage (cushioning) between the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also manifest in other parts of the body such as lungs, covering sheet of the heart, covering sheet of lungs, etc. In some cases, it also leads to nodule development underneath the skin.

Rheumatoid Arthritis causes

Rheumatoid arthritis causes are not known.  But immunity plays a major role in its manifestation. There is a condition called as auto immunity. When immune cells of the body, (which are supposed to protect the body cells and fight against foreign invading bacteria virus etc), start killing our own body cells, rheumatoid arthritis sets in. It is like our soldiers fighting against our own people.

Ayurvedic perspective

According to Ayurveda, the disease is known by the name of Amavata. The main cause for Amavata is altered state of digestion and metabolism caused by unhealthy food habits when there is diminished digestive power, doing exercise soon after oily food intake, etc.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

In the joints:
The inflammation of synovial membrane  (covering) of joints .
It usually affects multiple joints.
Stiffness in the joints, especially in the early morning hours is a characteristic feature. The other features in the joints are swelling, pain and warmth, which eventually leads to loss of function and structural deformity of joints. Once the disease progresses, there will be erosion and destruction of the joint surface, leading to deformity.

In some patients, the rheumatoid disease may lead to fibrosis changes in lungs and heart, inflammation in kidneys etc.

Most of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis match with the symptoms explained in Ayurveda.

Symptoms according to Ayurveda

  • Body ache, lethargy, heaviness
  • stiffness in knees, back, finger and toe joints. Joints make crackling sounds, joint pain with swelling.
  • The pain in the joints is similar to sting bite by scorpion!!
  • Constipation, indigestion, fullness of abdomen,
  • lack of sleep, altered sleep patterns, etc.
  • Apart from these symptoms, there will be specific symptoms related to the dominance of Dosha.
  • Based on disease manifestation in heart and other organs, specific symptoms like stiffness in heart etc are mentioned.

Ayurvedic treatment principles

Ayurvedic treatment of rheumatoid Arthritis includes

  • Correction of digestion and metabolism,
  • Immuno-modulation,
  • Treatment for joints with Panchakarma therapy and
  • Ayurvedic medicines.

Importance of Diet

Diet for rheumatoid arthritis is very important in its treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex and chronic disease, involving many systems. In Ayurvedic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, diet advice is as important as Panchakarma therapy and Ayurvedic medicines. Since Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease (long-standing), the dietary restrictions are to be observed for a long period of time as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis diet plan helps to

  • Avoid worsening of joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Avoid worsening of gastro – intestinal health.
  • Avoid ‘Ama’ formation – a state of impaired digestion and metabolism, which is the main cause for Rheumatoid arthritis, according to Ayurveda.
  • Avoid imbalance of Kapha and Vata, which in turn worsen stiffening, pain and inflammation.

Recommended foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis

In Ayurvedic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, diet plays an important role in improving the joint health and to keep control on swelling and pain. Since Ayurveda believes that the root cause of rheumatoid arthritis lies in impaired digestion and metabolism, the rheumatoid arthritis diet is also targeted to improve the same.

Rheumatoid arthritis Ayurvedic diet:
Ayurveda advises the following food items to be included in rheumatoid arthritis.

Garlic: Recent study states that the micro nutrients of garlic helps in preventing arthritic changes of bones.

Buttermilk: Curds is a food item to avoid, but buttermilk is good for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Two garlic pearls with 2 ounces of buttermilk is an excellent daily drink and home remedy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Ginger, long pepper and pepper –  These three help to correct digestion and metabolism, hence recommended for daily usage in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Barley, horse gram: Both these are very easy to adopt in diet.

Drum stick tree: fruit and leaves, being rich in calcium & vitamin C, is highly recommended in Rheumatoid arthritis.

Bitter gourd (Bitter melon): It improves digestion, is very low in calories and a good source of Vitamin B1, 2 & 3.  It is a good detoxifying herb and is traditionally indicated in the diet for rheumatoid arthritis.

Hot water: Hot water drinking is beneficial to improve digestion. Regular drinking of hot water helps to bring lightness to the joints and improves flexibility in Rheumatoid arthritis.

Foods and habits to avoid

Anything that is heavy to digest, that takes long time to digest, is to be avoided.
Ayurveda enlists the following food to avoid in Rheumatoid arthritis –

1. Curds: Curds are not ideal to take in Rheumatoid arthritis as it affects stomach health. Clarification: Curds does not affect stomach health as such. But in rheumatoid arthritis, curd is best avoided.

2. Fishes  – are to be avoided. But a few research articles show that fish oil, rich in  omega 3 fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can reduce stiffness, pain and inflammation.

3. A green leafy vegetable called Indian spinach [Basella rubra (Basale soppu in Kannada)] is to be avoided

4. Contaminated water, cold water, frozen food stuff causes increase in Vata and Kapha leading to increase in pain and stiffness.

5. Taking contrast foods such as – taking milk with fish, etc.

6. Black gram

7. Avoiding natural urges – causes increase in Vata. Click on the phrase to understand this concept. It causes increase in vata, which is not good in Rheumatoid Arthritis.

8. Skipping night sleep – It causes utter Vata imbalance, which is highly unrecommended in RA.

9. High fat meat, mutton etc.

10. Food that are heavy to digest, deep-fried stuff, junk foods, aerated drinks are a strict no no.

11. Oil massageAyurveda is not all about pouring oils and rubbing on body. In Rheumatoid arthritis, oil massage is not advised, generally.


This article is meant only for the purpose of information and should not be treated as substitute for advises by healthcare professional.

  • There are many diseases explained in Ayurveda, the causes and symptoms of which match exactly with the current day diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is one such example.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis mainly affects joints. Stiffness, pain and swelling are the main symptoms.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto immune disease.
  • There are different treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis as per Ayurveda.

22 comments on “Causes And Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis: Ayurveda And Modern Perspective, Diet

  • Marianne

    10/01/2011 - 10:20 pm

    Great article Dr Hebbar. What is panchakarma therapy? Does Ayurvedic treatment cover spiritual causes and remedies also….like meditation practices or breathing exercises?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      10/01/2011 - 10:38 pm

      Panchakarma therapy means a course of Ayurvedic treatment specific to Dosha involvement. It takes a minimum of 3 days to a maximum of 30 – 40 days. It is a bit difficult to explain in a few terms. Let me write an article on this. But one thing I can tell for sure. In many spas and resorts, oil massage and its oil massage is practiced in the name of Panchakarma, which actually is not. Regarding relationship between spiritual causes, remedies etc., I will write an article with better preparation, rather than a quick cooked up answer.
      Thanks for inspiring questions. Keep them coming. 🙂

      Reply to comment
  • abhilasha

    19/11/2011 - 10:35 pm

    is the disease called, ‘vat’ or vat ki shikayat is somewhat similar or is actually arthritis??
    Plz reply Dr..

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      21/11/2011 - 10:33 pm

      Vat or vat kee shikayat (health complaints due to Vata imbalance) may lead to many complications, among which osteo arthritis (Sandhivat) is one.
      Please note that in Rheumatoid arthritis, along with Vata, there is also involvement of Kapha.

      Reply to comment
  • velan

    12/04/2012 - 1:02 am

    Dr Could you please let me know whether Rheumatoid arthritis is curable through Ayurvedic treatment . I desperately need an answer for this because I have this problem since last 4 years and taking english medicine they are saying there is no cure for RA. Please let me know.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      12/04/2012 - 10:13 am

      Rheumatoid arthritis is definitely can be well managed with Panchakarma, Ayurvedic medicines and home remedies.

      Reply to comment
  • Saravanan

    25/11/2013 - 9:05 pm

    Hello Sir,

    Is Rheumatoid arthritis completely cureable or can be well managed through Panchakarma, Ayurvedic medicines and home remedies. I’m sure Alopathy is NOT the right solutions because they give all side effects – kidney, liver damage, high pressure and Sugar.


    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      17/12/2013 - 11:38 am

      Hi, Rheumatoid arthritis can be well managed with Panchakarma, Ayurvedic medicines and home remedies.

      Reply to comment
  • Saravanan

    25/11/2013 - 9:12 pm


    Also I have one more questions, Spondylitis is an auto immune disease, immune system sadly thinks that all body cells are foreign cells and send out of the body (which is just a reverse reaction for cancer). I’m trying to understand how that metabolism is changed through Ayurveda & Siddha treatments. I myself a Ankylosing Spondylitis patient undergoing only Ayurveda treatment. Please advice.


    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      17/12/2013 - 11:40 am

      Ayurvedic treatment for spondylitis try to correct the immune response to the body tissues. The exact way in which Ayurvedic treatment brings about the cure in this disease is not established. It can only be explained in Ayurvedic terms.

      Reply to comment
  • megha

    09/01/2014 - 10:24 am

    Hello sir, is the cervical spondylitis also have same line of treatment as that of RA? what about griva basti ? how it help in spondylosis condition?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      10/01/2014 - 7:28 pm

      Hi, cervical spondylitis and RA are two different entities. One is a degenerative disorder and RA is auto-immune / digestion tract related disorder.

      Reply to comment

    15/04/2014 - 3:07 pm

    hello sir, how do u plan virechana for rhumatoid patients.? which ghrita is best and what virechana medicine is best for RA?

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      04/07/2014 - 10:39 pm

      I would plan Virechana only after Vamana, for rheumatoid arthritis.
      Ardraka Ghrita, Varanadi ghrita, Panchakola ghrita, Dhanwantaram ghritham are the few that I would consider.

      Reply to comment
  • Shamshad Taj

    06/01/2015 - 3:12 pm

    Hello Sir , Is it possible to correct deformation of the hand and feet…my mother has had RA for about 20 years and her fingers are completely deformed. She has corn problem under her feet also.

    Reply to comment
  • Hopeful of a Cure

    11/08/2015 - 11:50 pm

    This is very inspiring. How much time will be required to get treatment for RhA ? It sounds like follow-up can be done from a distance but should start with direct consultation – for someone coming form out of town, how many / hours /day or number of days should be planned for proper diagnosis and direct treatment.

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      04/09/2015 - 9:58 pm

      Hi, initial checkup and diagnosis might take just half an hour. Treatment might be required for 2 – 6 months or even up to one year, depending on the chronicity of disease.

      Reply to comment
  • Dr Tasnim Syed

    30/08/2015 - 11:56 am

    This article is enlightening about diet and management of RA.WHO also recommends Ayurveda treatment for RA

    Reply to comment
  • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

    17/01/2017 - 10:39 pm

    Please consult another doctor.

    Reply to comment
  • Sulabha

    06/02/2017 - 8:27 pm

    After Reading ur article on arthritis I was confused about the advice on no oil massage in this condition. Your thoughts please

    Reply to comment
    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu)

      06/02/2017 - 9:47 pm

      In the initial phase of rheumatoid arthritis, oil application is not indicated.

      Reply to comment
  • bhawna

    12/09/2017 - 3:25 am

    Hi sir, I am in currently located in USA and I have RA for last 4 years, can we get connected online and you can help me for my condition. Please reply

    Reply to comment

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