Ayurvedic treatment, or Ayurveda, is a holistic practice that focuses on diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. It may help relieve inflammation and pain related to rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.

Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle practices, including taking herbs and supplements and practicing yoga, may be beneficial for people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

According to a 2011 study conducted in India and sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), following Ayurvedic practices could be helpful in:

  • reducing inflammation
  • easing RA symptoms
  • limiting flare-ups

It’s important to note that research on this topic is still ongoing.

Ayurvedic treatment, or Ayurveda, is typically based on three doshas: vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (water and earth). A doshais considered to be a primary element, or energy, that exists in the body.

People living with RA are thought to predominantly have a pitta imbalance, according to 2015 research. Researchers suggest that this leads to joint inflammation. They also suggest that the pitta imbalance is often accompanied by a vata imbalance, which contributes to pain.

Results may vary greatly from person to person. Work with your doctor to determine whether Ayurveda practices are safe for your health.

An Ayurvedic diet aims to balance your vata and pitta doshas by pacifying (balancing) them. To do this, eat warming foods to support your kapha dosha, or try a vata or pitta pacifying diet.

Foods to eat

The recommended diet for those living with RA is similar to the diet recommended for the Ayurvedic condition known as amavata. Amavata refers to a disease of the joints and causes similar symptoms to RA.

For amavata, Ayurveda recommends a diet that balances vata.

Examples of foods to eat on this diet include:

  • grains that are easy to digest, like cooked oats, rice, and cream of wheat
  • legumes, such as lentils, dal, mung beans, miso, and tofu
  • lukewarm water, or water boiled with ginger root, to help with digestion and remove toxins
  • green, leafy vegetables
  • berries
  • spices including ginger, turmeric, and garlic, which are anti-inflammatory and aid with digestion
  • buttermilk
  • wild animal meat
  • aged wine in moderate amounts

A sample daily diet may look like the following:

Breakfast• tea
• fruit
• hot porridge or oatmeal with cinnamon
Lunch• sprouted rice or buckwheat
• roasted vegetables (sweet potato, squash, yam, or pumpkin)
Snacks• fruit sprinkled with cinnamon
• instant miso soup
• tea
Dinner• spaghetti squash with ricotta or cottage cheese


• Thai green curry with brown rice
Before bed• warm almond milk with honey
• carob brownie (optional)

Foods to avoid

Eating spicy and raw foods can create heat and inflammation, or pitta, inside your body.

Examples of foods to avoid on this diet include:

In general, foods like fruits and vegetables should be stewed or cooked before you eat them. Look for sweet fruits and vegetables like:

Spices are an important part of Ayurveda, but none of your dishes should be fiery hot. Limit spices like cayenne pepper and chili powder, which pack a punch of heat. Replace them with warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric.

Also, skip cold water in favor of room temperature water, and venture into nut milk, like almond. For an extra treat, try it warm with a spoonful of honey.

Recommended Ayurvedic exercises usually include gentle movements, such as:

Deep breathing and daily meditation are also recommended. Yoga may be especially beneficial for RA. A 2015 study found that yoga for arthritis improved:

  • physical pain
  • overall health
  • energy
  • mental health (e.g., it may help lower depression)

If you live with RA, it’s important to discuss with your doctor whether it’s safe to exercise before starting a new routine. They can determine how often you should exercise based on your symptoms and talk with you about modifying exercise, such as yoga poses.

The Ayurvedic lifestyle may help with sleep if symptoms like pain and stiffness keep you awake at night.

Recommended changes to improve sleep include:

  • going to bed early and rising early
  • avoiding naps during the day, if possible
  • taking a warm shower or bath before bed
  • trying ashwagandha or warm milk before bed
  • eating a light dinner 2 or 3 hours before bed, followed by light walking
  • practicing nighttime yoga and meditation
  • massaging the soles of the feet with warm sesame oil and wiping it off after 15 minutes or putting on socks before getting into bed

Other Ayurvedic practices that may help your RA symptoms include:

  • herbs and other supplements
  • specialized oil therapy
  • purification rituals
  • herbal pastes
  • castor oil
  • cold compress
  • hot therapy, such as sauna use

You can find a specialist in your area that practices Ayurvedic treatment. They can recommend lifestyle practices that may ease your symptoms.

Never try anything new without consulting your primary doctor.

Studies are limited on the efficacy of these practices. And if you take medication for RA symptoms, some of these practices may interfere with your daily intake. Your doctor can help determine what’s safe for you.

Ayurveda encourages gentle exercise like yoga and tai chi. Avoid jarring and high impact movement, such as running. Also avoid drinking alcohol, except for the occasional glass of wine.

It’s important not to use Ayurvedic practices in place of your usual medication or to replace conventional care.

Talk with your doctor about how an Ayurvedic lifestyle can fit into your usual RA treatment plan and improve your symptoms. A combination of holistic and conventional Western treatments may work best for you.

Ayurvedic lifestyle changes may help ease the symptoms of RA. Following a diet rich in herbs, spices, and cooked vegetables is a cornerstone of the practice, along with gentle exercises, such as yoga. These, along with other healthy habits, could complement more conventional therapies.

Talk with your doctor if you’d like to learn more about how Ayurvedic treatment options can be safely integrated into your treatment plan.