The Ayurvedic approach to pain management is a holistic one. When treating a patient with chronic pain, I always advise an integrated approach, and look beyond the outward pain to discover the underlying source. Very often, chronic pain is caused by an inflammatory response within the body. Ayurvedic herbal treatments are effective for healing and controlling excess inflammation; but, for long-term results, such treatments must be part of an integrative approach combining diet and nutritional changes, detoxification, therapeutic exercise, yoga and breathing exercises. What follows is a sampling of my clinical experience using Ayurvedic herbs.
This herb is unrivaled as a treatment for osteoarthritis. In a 2008 double-blind, placebo controlled study, Boswellia serrata produced very rapid results in patients with osteoarthritis, many of whom were bedridden. The patients’ pain scores and functional abilities were markedly improved, and blood levels of cartilage-degrading enzymes decreased.1 In another study, all of the osteoarthritis patients treated with Boswellia reported reduced knee pain, increased knee flexion and increased walking distance. Swelling was also reduced considerably.2 I have been able to take many patients off prescription pain medications, including steroids.
My personal belief is that turmeric is responsible for the low cancer rate in India. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial and hepatoprotective spice. I have used it with remarkable results in treating cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders.
As a pain-reliever, turmeric is potent in treating every aspect of inflammation. Various laboratory studies have demonstrated that turmeric’s active principle inhibits the action of inflammatory agents, including phospholipase, lipoxygenase, cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox-2), leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins, nitric oxide, collagenase, elastase, and others.3
Turmeric has a much broader spectrum of anti-inflammatory activity than Cox-2 inhibitors, such as Celebrex and Vioxx, without the side-effects. Turmeric has been used as a culinary spice in many areas of the world for centuries, and its safety for human consumption is well-established.
Clinical studies have shown Ashwagandha to relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. When the herb was given to a group of RA patients for a period of four weeks, more than half of them experienced pain relief. Some of these patients were completely free of pain and swelling after the herbal treatment.4
Ashwagandha is one of the Ayurvedic herbs that offers promise as an alternative to steroids and its effects are comparable to hydrocortisone. I always choose Ashwagandha for patients with a need for steroids. Ashwagandha always comes to the rescue with flying colors, allowing such patients to reduce or eliminate their need for steroids.
Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. It was studied in patients with rheumatic arthritis in two clinical trials. One in seven RA patients reported pain relief, increased joint mobility, decreased swelling and reduced morning stiffness.5
The second clinical study treated twenty-eight rheumatoid arthritis patients, eighteen osteoarthritis patients, and ten patients suffering from muscular discomfort with powdered ginger at high doses over periods of up to two-and-a-half years. Seventy-five percent of both the rheumatoid arthritis and the osteoarthritis patients reported relief from pain and swelling. All ten patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief. The patients who took higher doses of ginger experienced the fastest results. In another study, ginger relieved migraine headache.6
In a recent study in southern California, thirty osteoarthritic patients, both male and female, were treated with 500 mg of guggal extract three times a day over a period of one to two months. The patients showed significant improvements in their symptoms, including pain and mood, and no side effects were observed.7
I have been able to take patients off medications like Methotrexate, Enbrel and Prednisone after three to sixteen months of Ayurvedic treatment. Even though my patients show tremendous improvement, I always advise them to stick to their nutritional program and lifestyle changes to ensure a lifetime of great health. I usually use combination formulas of standardized extracts of guggal with ashwagandha, turmeric, boswellia and ginger, for a synergistic anti-inflammatory effect.
Dr. Virender Sodhi is an internationally respected Ayurvedic and Naturopathic physician, and one of the first to practice Ayurvedic medicine in the US, and is the founder of Ayush Herbs Inc. For more information about Dr. Virender Sodhi and the Ayurvedic Clinic, visit www.ayurvedicscience.com and www.ayush.com.
See references on page 46
Please note: This article is purely informative and should not replace the guidance of your physician. If you suffer from an illness, you should consult a physician before taking any herbs, vitamins, minerals or enzymes. Even at the peak of health, it is best to consult a qualified practitioner before taking any dietary supplement. TAC