Arthritis - A Holistic Approach

Naturally alleviate and prevent joint discomfort.

I was recently asked to share an Ayurvedic perspective on arthritis, diabetes, and fibromyalgia.

These three conditions, which may not seem to be related, are very complex and can share underlying imbalances. I’ll address arthritis in this post, and will cover diabetes and fibromyalgia in future newsletters.

Even if you don’t have arthritis you will find benefits in this post on how to balance vata dosha, care for your joints, and prevent future painful imbalances.

Arthritis can make even the simplest tasks a challenge as the joints degenerate and mobility lessens. Ayurveda offers deep insights into simple diet, lifestyle, and environmental changes that can have a big impact on improving discomfort and range of motion, as well as potentially slowing or stopping the progression of the imbalance.

In Ayurveda, Arthritis is said to be predominately an imbalance of vata dosha.

If pitta and kapha are also out of balance, it would influence your approach to therapeutics. For example, if you’re experiencing inflammation with your arthritis (such as in Rheumatoid arthritis), pitta is likely also involved. Heat is typically used to treat vata imbalances BUT in this case, when pitta is imbalanced with vata, heat may aggravated the imbalance even more if not administered properly.

This idea is further explained in my post. Case by case differences in people’s conditions, constitutions, and imbalances make it very important to seek the guidance of an Ayurvedic professional.

If you’re unfamiliar with what the doshas are, be sure to check out my previous post Doshas Decoded.

Ama (undigested food and toxins) can also play a significant role in arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, it is said that ama becomes accumulated in the joints along with vata dosha. As the body tries to remove the deep seated ama or toxins from the joints they can become inflamed and very painful. You can learn more about ama and 3 Effortless Yet effective Ways to Detox here.

This post will give you a basic overview of ways Ayurveda recommends to begin restoring harmony in your physiology when it comes to Arthritis. But there are many types of arthritis, and an Ayurveda professional can help you customize a plan for your specific vata imbalance.

Imbalanced Vata

There are many factors that can cause vata to become aggravated and imbalanced. A few of the most common… 👇

REMINDER: Vata’s qualities are rough, cold, moving, light, subtle/minute, clear/non-sticky, and coarse/brittle. Think → windy cold winter day.

Vata is also responsible for all the transportation, communication, and movement throughout the body.

When vata becomes vitiated or imbalanced, its qualities 👆 become increased throughout the body causing various problems and disrupting the transportation, communication and movement in the physiology.

Vata’s qualities become increased by consuming foods that have vata qualities, being in environments with vata qualities, and/or having a lifestyle/routine that is dominate in those qualities.

Remember ‘like’ increases ‘like’. Adding coldness to something already cold will increase the coldness. Similarly, adding dry, rough foods to the body increases the dry and roughness in the body.

As vata’s qualities steadily increase in the body, one of the most common places vata can become localized in is the joints.

Vata’s nature of dry, rough, hard, brittle, and cold causes joints to become cold, rough, and brittle as the lubrication within the joints dry up. This results in the joints becoming painful, rigid, and sometimes deformed.

Balancing Vata

The following recommendations are generally what Ayurveda would suggest. To get the most effective protocol for how you should approach your unique situation, an Ayurvedic professional will take into consideration your type of Arthritis, your lifestyle and diet causative factors, as well as your mind-body type (prakriti) to create a custom plan.

The approach to osteoarthritis (OA) vs rheumatoid arthritis (RA) would be somewhat different, but would have some similarities. OA is mostly a vata imbalance whereas RA involves vata, pitta, and ama. So typically in cases of OA, a more nourishing approach is needed to strengthen and rejuvenate. In RA, a more lightening approach is needed to remove the accumulated ama in the joints before a more nourishing treatment can take place.

Balancing vata in the joints is required when there is degeneration. To restore harmony to vata you need to increase kapha.

REMINDER: Kapha is said to be almost the complete opposite of vata, with its qualities being heavy, soft, unctuous, sweet, stable, sticky, and cold. Think → wet spring mornings.

Kapha is responsible for the lubrication, structure, and cohesion throughout the body.

Think of ways you can enhance theses qualities of kapha in your diet, routine, and environment.

Addressing your diet and routine is always the first line of therapeutics in Ayurveda. No herbal remedy can compensate for consistently unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices.

Look to see what vata aggravating foods or habits you can remove or reduce in your day to day.


  • dry, hard, cold, raw foods (chips, salads, ice-cream, iced drinks - yes that includes ice water)

  • nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, bell peppers)

  • popcorn

  • crackers

  • legumes

  • long periods in cold weather/wind

  • staying up late

  • irregular routine

  • irregular meal times

  • stress

Avoid the vata aggravating factors listed above as much as possible.

Regularly consuming foods that are bitter, pungent, and astringent can further imbalance vata. Vata thrives on regular meal times, regular daily schedules, and regular bedtime/rising times (before 10 pm/ 6 am).

All disease begins in the gut.


Favoring foods that are well cooked, warm, and unctuous help sooth vata. Soups, stews, and hot cereals are great meal choices. Warm diluted boiled milk is also a wonderful way to nourish and calm vata. You can even add a pinch of cardamon or dry ginger for a delicious afternoon or evening snack that will also support your digestion.

Vegetables should be eaten cooked (not raw like in a salad) to avoid increasing vata further, due to their rough and hard nature. Favor vegetables such as beets, carrots, asparagus, cucumbers, fennel, green beans, leeks, okra, spinach, squash, and sweet potatoes. In moderation, peas, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and zucchini are ok. It’s best to consume the veggies cooked in ghee and digestive spices (cumin, ginger, black pepper, mustard seeds, or hing) to aid in proper digestion.

Fruits to help bring vata into balance have a natural sweet and/or sour taste such as oranges, apricots, dates, figs, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapple, mangos, kiwi, lemon, limes, papayas, and soaked raisins.

In Ayurveda, balancing your digestion is a key component to restoring health. This is done through the spices listed above but also by regular meal times and chewing your food extra well so your body produces the proper enzymes needed to breakdown the foods you’re consuming.

Your Ayurveda professional can help you pick, make, and incorporate the best spice blends for your digestive system. They may also recommend herbal compounds that can kindle your digestive fire (agni) and improve nutrient absorption, while also removing ama.

You’re not what you eat. You’re what you digest.

Ayurvedic proverb

Herbal oils

Typically in Ayurveda, herbal oils will also be recommended for local application to offer fast relief from the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis. Depending on the dosha imbalance and the type of arthritis, different oils and oral herbal compounds will be recommended by your Ayurvedic professional.

In Ayurveda, plain Castor oil is a very commonly used oil for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and many other vata imbalances. Castor oil is said to balance vata while reducing pain, inflammation, and ama (toxins). After applying the oil topically to the effected joints, it’s recommended to apply dry heat (like a heating pad) to the joints to allow the oil to penetrate deeper into the tissues and joint. Traditionally, equal parts of sand and powered rock salt where heated in a pan and then added to a cotton or linen bag and applied to the joint.

Wet heat (such as a warm wet wash cloth or water pack) is NOT recommend to be used as it can further aggravate the obstruction and congestion associated with RA.

A few other topical oils my clients have had success with are NAO Ayurveda Muscle + Joint Body Oil and, if inflammation tends to be an issue, Joint Soothe ll. Another traditional Ayurvedic formula that is often used for Arthritis is Balaguluchyadi Oil (also known as Balaguluchyadi Tailam, Balaguduchyadi Taila).

Herbal oils are applied topically 2-3 times a day or as needed. While oils can be an amazing way to offer quick relief, they should be only one part of a holistic approach to restoring balance to the body.

Instead of only treating symptoms, Ayurveda teaches us to address the underlying imbalances and the root cause to see lasting and profound progress.

An Ayurveda professional can help guide you in the best foods, lifestyle routine, and herbal compounds that will have the greatest impact on your unique situation.

Schedule a call with me today to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can bring more balance, health, and vibrance to your every day life.

P.S. If you have a specific question or topic that you’d like us to cover, just reply to this email and we’ll address it in an upcoming newsletter! 💜🌿

** The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a medical doctor or qualified healthcare provider before attempting any new health practices or routines.