• Dr A A Mundewadi

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – Modern (Allopathic) Versus Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a medical condition characterised by inflammation, swelling, and pain in symmetrical joints, usually involving the smaller joints. This disease typically runs a chronic course, while having a varied long-term outlook. About half of those affected may have mild symptoms, which are usually well controlled with conventional treatment, one-fourth may have a chronic but limited course, while the remaining one-fourth have an aggressive form of the disease, with severe pain and joint disfigurement.

The modern treatment of RA is usually with standard, oral anti-inflammatory and pain-killing medications, as well as local applications having the same mode of action. Most of these medicines cause acidity and ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract, and may harm the liver and kidneys if taken for prolonged periods. People affected with refractory RA are usually put on steroids and immune-suppressant drugs. The response to these medications is usually good to start with; however, the long term benefits are usually limited, while the side effects are substantial and serious. For most patients with severe symptoms, modern drugs are not able to stop the progression of the disease.

Ayurvedic treatment helps reduce the chronic inflammation process related to RA and modulates the immune system of the body, so that it helps positively in combating the disease. Herbal medicines act on the joints to reduce pain as well as swelling, and help repair the joint structure. Deformities in joints can either be prevented or reduced with the long term use of Ayurvedic medicines. Regular Ayurvedic treatment for about 8-18 months is usually sufficient to significantly reduce all associated symptoms even in patients with severe forms of RA. Most such patients may also have concurrent symptoms related to other auto-immune disorders, especially of the skin and mucous membranes. These symptoms too can be treated aggressively, in order to bring about a remission of arthritis.

Most of the herbal medicines which are regularly used in the treatment of RA have to be given in high doses and for prolonged durations, in order to be effective; in spite of this, these medicines do not exhibit any serious side effects. Ayurvedic medicines have a major edge in treating refractory patients, while limiting the potential side effects. For those patients with very active disease and not responding even to standard Ayurvedic treatment protocols, supplementation of treatment with Ayurvedic Panchkarma procedures usually brings about a favourable response. The procedures include induced vomiting, induced purgation, blood-letting, and one or several courses of medicated enemas.

To sum up, Ayurvedic medicines have a major role to play in the treatment of aggressive and refractory types of rheumatoid arthritis because of their efficacy and safety as compared to modern medicines which have an immediate effect in suppressing symptoms, but prove to be ineffective and harmful in the long run. It is pertinent to note that patients should refrain from self-medication even with Ayurvedic treatment, and take the advice of a qualified and experienced Ayurvedic physician.

rheumatoid arthritis, RA, joints swelling and inflammation, auto-immune disorder, Ayurvedic herbal treatment, herbal medicines

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