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Autoimmune Disorders – Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment

Autoimmune disorders are diseases in which the immune system of the body attacks normal healthy tissue and produces different symptoms of diseases. Nearly 160 diseases are listed as autoimmune disorders; common ones include rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, alopecia areata, SLE, thyroiditis, Addison’s disease, pernicious anaemia, celiac disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Guillain Barre Syndrome.

A genetic predisposition is usually required for the commencement of autoimmune disorders, along with environmental triggers such as infections (bacteria, virus), food allergies, toxins (drugs, smoking, hair dyes, and chemicals) and physical trauma. Common symptoms include joint and muscle pain, general muscle weakness, rashes, low-grade fever, lack of concentration, weight loss, numbness and tingling, dry eyes, hair loss, breathlessness, and palpitations. The hallmark of autoimmune disorders is inflammation, which can affect the heart, brain, lungs, nerves, muscles, skin, eyes, joints, kidneys, glands (thyroid, pancreas etc.) and produce symptoms according to the organ and tissue affected.

The modern system of treatment of autoimmune diseases is by suppressing the immunity with the use of steroids or non steroid medicines such as cyclophosphamide, and vaccines where possible. This treatment can give good results on a short-term basis but it does not cure the autoimmune disease and can result in serious side effects later on. Ayurvedic treatment scores positively in this aspects because it brings about immunomodulation so that the body defence system can gradually take over and help cure the disease completely. This may possibly take more time; immuno-suppressants can bring about improvement of symptoms within a few weeks to a few months, while Ayurvedic treatment may be required from a few months to a few years, depending upon the severity and complexity of the disease.

As mentioned earlier, inflammation is the hallmark of all autoimmune diseases. Steroids can treat inflammation very well; however, the long-term side effects of steroids can be as serious – or probably more serious – than the disease itself. Ayurvedic herbal medicines can significantly reduce pain and inflammation in chronic rheumatoid arthritis. Itching and recurrence of psoriasis can be treated very well with Ayurvedic treatment. Herbs can effectively treat inflammation of glands such as that occurs in thyroiditis, or inflammation and destruction of arteries, nerves, mucosa, muscles, connective tissue and skin such as that occurring in SLE, celiac disease, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, Guillain Barre Syndrome etc.

While steroids and immunosuppressants are common therapy for all autoimmune disorders, the Ayurvedic treatment for each autoimmune disease varies considerably according to the body organs or systems affected. Medical protocol for treatment will also vary considerably according to the severity of symptoms, as well as the treatment response of affected individuals. Most medicines which act on the ‘Rakta’, ‘Mansa’, ‘Med’, and ‘Majja’ tissues are effective in the treatment of autoimmune disorders. These include herbs like Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), and Patol (Tricosanthe dioica). Immunomodulating herbs are also quite important for treating autoimmune diseases and include Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia) and Amalaki (Emblica officinalis).

Most affected individuals on immuno-suppressants experience a relapse or flare-up after about 5 to 6 months of therapy. Ayurvedic treatment may bring about improvement within 4 to 6 months; however the slow improvement is worth it since the patient start going into a full remission and the disease can be completely controlled with regular therapy of 12 to 24 months. After this, medicines can be gradually tapered and stopped completely. Further treatment can be given as short courses as and when – or if – required. Ayurvedic treatment can thus be utilized successfully to provide a comprehensive treatment for most of the common autoimmune disorders.

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