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Evidence Supports an Ancient Remedy for Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term that refers to chronic inflammatory conditions in the joints. In actuality, there are three separate diseases that fall in this category: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout. While ashwagandha has historically been prescribed in traditional medicines for arthritic conditions, modern research has also shown it to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.34

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) typically presents with painful inflammation of the membranes in the joints (usually in the hands, knees, hips, wrist, and feet) and morning joint stiffness. Swelling is typically symmetrical, and about 80% of RA patients have an antibody in their blood called rheumatoid factor.35 Called amavata in Ayurvedic medicine, RA is thought to be caused by an accumulation of toxic waste (ama) caused by dosha-aggravating diet, lack of exercise, and poor digestion.34 Arthritis patients with RA factor typically have a vata-pitta constitution and those who are negative for RA factor usually have a vata-kapha constitution.34

Osteoarthritis is similar to RA and is also characterized by pain and stiffness in the joints. It usually develops in the fingers, hips, knees, and back, but not the ankles. A sedentary lifestyle is believed to be one cause of the condition, and in Ayurveda osteoarthritis is caused by aggravated or impaired vata dosha. Patients with this type of arthritis are negative for RA factor in their blood.34

Frequently called neck arthritis, cervical spondylosis is osteoarthritis of the neck and refers to the gradual deterioration and stiffening of spinal discs in the neck due to age. It can cause neck, shoulder, arm and chest pain, as well as headaches and stiffness. Unless there are complications cervical spondylosis is typically treated with rest, chiropractic manipulation or physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or steroid injections.36

A clinical study conducted on 25 confirmed cases of cervical spondylosis demonstrated ashwagandha's anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits in arthritis patients. In combination with another Ayurvedic herb (Smilax china), ashwagandha proved to be as effective as the NSAID ibuprofen in these patients.11

Evidence of Ashwagandha's Anti-Arthritic Activity

Research indicates that ashwagandha is a powerful anti-inflammatory. In fact, in animal studies ashwagandha has been found to be more potent than hydrocortisone, reducing swelling and degenerative bone changes more than the steroid.24 In a clinical trial involving 77 RA patients who were given 3 grams of ashwagandha orally three times a day with milk, over 75% experienced moderate to good improvement of symptoms.34 When combined with frankincense, turmeric, and a zinc complex, ashwagandha helped to significantly reduced pain and disability for patients with osteoarthritis compared to the untreated control group in a randomized clinical trial.34

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Boswellia serrata.
Curcumina longa.