Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It originated in India and has evolved there over thousands of years. In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)—more specifically, a CAM whole medical system. Many therapies used in Ayurvedic medicine are also used on their own as CAM—for example, herbs, massage, and specialized diets.

Key Points

  • The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit. This is believed to help prevent illness and promote wellness.
  • Ayurvedic medicine uses a variety of products and techniques to cleanse the body and restore balance. Some of these products may be harmful if used improperly or without the direction of a trained practitioner. For example, some herbs can cause side effects or interact with conventional medicines.
  • Before using Ayurvedic treatment, ask about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.


Ayurvedic medicine, also called Ayurveda, originated in India several thousand years ago. The term “Ayurveda” combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda means “the science of life.”   In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered a type of CAM and a whole medical system. As with other such systems, it is based on theories of health and illness and on ways to prevent, manage, or treat health problems.   Ayurvedic medicine aims to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit; thus, some view it as “holistic.” This balance is believed to lead to happiness and health, and to help prevent illness. Ayurvedic medicine also treats specific physical and mental health problems. A chief aim of Ayurvedic practices is to cleanse the body of substances that can cause disease, thus helping to reestablish harmony and balance.

Ayurvedic Medicine in India

Ayurvedic medicine, as practiced in India, is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. Many Ayurvedic practices predate written records and were handed down by word of mouth. Two ancient books, written in Sanskrit more than 2,000 years ago, are considered the main texts on Ayurvedic medicine—Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. The texts describe eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine:

  • Internal medicine
  • Surgery
  • Treatment of head and neck disease
  • Gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry
  • Care of the elderly and rejuvenation
  • Sexual vitality.

Ayurvedic medicine continues to be practiced in India, where nearly 80 percent of the population uses it exclusively or combined with conventional (Western) medicine. It is also practiced in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan.   Most major cities in India have an Ayurvedic college and hospital. The Indian government began systematic research on Ayurvedic practices in 1969, and that work continues.


Use in the United States

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, more than 200,000 U.S. adults had used Ayurvedic medicine in the previous year.

Underlying Concepts

Ayurvedic medicine has several key foundations that pertain to health and disease. These concepts have to do with universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas). Interconnectedness. Ideas about the relationships among people, their health, and the universe form the basis for how Ayurvedic practitioners think about problems that affect health. Ayurvedic medicine holds that:

  • All things in the universe (both living and nonliving) are joined together.
  • Every human being contains elements that can be found in the universe.
  • Health will be good if one’s mind and body are in harmony, and one’s interaction with the universe is natural and wholesome.
  • Disease arises when a person is out of harmony with the universe. Disruptions can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or a combination of these.

Constitution (prakriti). Ayurvedic medicine also has specific beliefs about the body’s constitution. Constitution refers to a person’s general health, the likelihood of becoming out of balance, and the ability to resist and recover from disease or other health problems.   The constitution is called the prakriti. The prakriti is a person’s unique combination of physical and psychological characteristics and the way the body functions to maintain health. It is influenced by such factors as digestion and how the body deals with waste products. The prakriti is believed to be unchanged over a person’s lifetime.   Life forces (doshas). Important characteristics of the prakriti are the three life forces or energies called doshas, which control the activities of the body. A person’s chances of developing certain types of diseases are thought to be related to the way doshas are balanced, the state of the physical body, and mental or lifestyle factors.   Ayurvedic medicine holds the following beliefs about the three doshas:

  • Each dosha is made up of two of five basic elements: ether (the upper regions of space), air, fire, water, and earth.
  • Each dosha has a particular relationship to bodily functions and can be upset for different reasons.
  • Each person has a unique combination of the three doshas, although one dosha is usually prominent.Doshas are constantly being formed and reformed by food, activity, and bodily processes.
  • Each dosha has its own physical and psychological characteristics.
  • An imbalance of a dosha will produce symptoms that are unique to that dosha. Imbalances may be caused by a person’s age, unhealthy lifestyle, or diet; too much or too little mental and physical exertion; the seasons; or inadequate protection from the weather, chemicals, or germs.

The doshas are known by their original Sanskrit names: vata, pitta, and kapha.   The vata dosha combines the elements ether and air. It is considered the most powerful dosha because it controls very basic body processes such as cell division, the heart, breathing, discharge of waste, and the mind. Vata can be aggravated by, for example, fear, grief, staying up late at night, eating dry fruit, or eating before the previous meal is digested. People with vata as their main dosha are thought to be especially susceptible to skin and neurological conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia.   The pitta dosha represents the elements fire and water. Pitta controls hormones and the digestive system. A person with a pitta imbalance may experience negative emotions such as anger and may have physical symptoms such as heartburn within 2 or 3 hours of eating. Pitta is upset by, for example, eating spicy or sour food, fatigue, or spending too much time in the sun. People with a predominantly pittaconstitution are thought to be susceptible to hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases, and digestive conditions such as Crohn’s disease.   The kapha dosha combines the elements water and earth. Kapha helps to maintain strength and immunity and to control growth. An imbalance of the kapha dosha may cause nausea immediately after eating. Kapha is aggravated by, for example, greed, sleeping during the daytime, eating too many sweet foods, eating after one is full, and eating and drinking foods and beverages with too much salt and water (especially in the springtime). Those with a predominant kapha dosha are thought to be vulnerable to diabetes, cancer, obesity, and respiratory illnesses such as asthma.


Ayurvedic treatment is tailored to each person’s constitution. Practitioners expect patients to be active participants because many Ayurvedic treatments require changes in diet, lifestyle, and habits. The patient’s dosha balance. Ayurvedic practitioners first determine the patient’s primary dosha and the balance among the three doshas by:

  • Asking about diet, behavior, lifestyle practices, recent illnesses (including reasons and symptoms), and resilience (ability to recover quickly from illness or setbacks)
  • Observing such physical characteristics as teeth and tongue, skin, eyes, weight, and overall appearance
  • Checking the patient’s urine, stool, speech and voice, and pulse (each dosha is thought to make a particular kind of pulse).

Treatment practices. Ayurvedic treatment goals include eliminating impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, and reducing worry and increasing harmony in the patient’s life. The practitioner uses a variety of methods to achieve these goals:

  • Eliminating impurities. A process called panchakarma is intended to cleanse the body by eliminatingama. Ama is described as an undigested food that sticks to tissues, interferes with normal functioning of the body, and leads to disease. Panchakarma focuses on eliminating ama through the digestive tract and the respiratory system. Enemas, massage, medical oils administered in a nasal spray, and other methods may be used.
  • Reducing symptoms. The practitioner may suggest various options, including physical exercises, stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, massage, lying in the sun, and changing the diet. The patient may take certain herbs—often with honey, to make them easier to digest. Sometimes diets are restricted to certain foods. Very small amounts of metal and mineral preparations, such as gold or iron, also may be given.
  • Increasing resistance to disease. The practitioner may combine several herbs, proteins, minerals, and vitamins in tonics to improve digestion and increase appetite and immunity. These tonics are based on formulas from ancient texts.
  • Reducing worry and increasing harmony. Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes mental nurturing and spiritual healing. Practitioners may recommend avoiding situations that cause worry and using techniques that promote release of negative emotions.

Use of plants. Ayurvedic treatments rely heavily on herbs and other plants—including oils and common spices. Currently, more than 600 herbal formulas and 250 single plant drugs are included in the “pharmacy” of Ayurvedic treatments. Historically, Ayurvedic medicine has grouped plant compounds into categories according to their effects (for example, healing, promoting vitality, or relieving pain). The compounds are described in texts issued by national medical agencies in India. Sometimes, botanicals are mixed with metals or other naturally occurring substances to make formulas prepared according to specific Ayurvedic text procedures; such preparations involve several herbs and herbal extracts and precise heat treatment.


Practitioner Training and Certification

Many practitioners study in India, where there are more than 150 undergraduate and 30 postgraduate colleges for Ayurvedic medicine. Training can take 5 years or longer. Students who receive their Ayurvedic training in India can earn either a bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery, BAMS) or doctoral degree (Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery, DAMS) there. After graduation, some Ayurvedic practitioners choose to provide services in the United States or other countries.   The United States has no national standard for training or certifying Ayurvedic practitioners, although a few states have approved Ayurvedic schools as educational institutions.

Concerns About Ayurvedic Medications

Ayurvedic practice involves the use of medications that typically contain herbs, metals, minerals, or other materials. Health officials in India and other countries have taken steps to address some concerns about these medications. Concerns relate to toxicity, formulations, interactions, and scientific evidence.   Toxicity. Ayurvedic medications have the potential to be toxic. Many materials used in them have not been thoroughly studied in either Western or Indian research. In the United States, Ayurvedic medications are regulated as dietary supplements. As such, they are not required to meet the safety and efficacy standards for conventional medicines. An NCCAM-funded study published in 2004 found that of 70 Ayurvedic remedies purchased over-the-counter (all manufactured in South Asia), 14 contained lead, mercury, and/or arsenic at levels that could be harmful. Also in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12 cases of lead poisoning occurring over a recent 3-year period were linked to the use of Ayurvedic medications.   Formulations. Most Ayurvedic medications consist of combinations of herbs and other medicines. It can be challenging to know which components are having an effect and why.   Interactions. Whenever two or more medications are used, there is the potential for them to interact with each other. As a result, the effectiveness of at least one may increase or decrease in the body.   Scientific evidence. Most clinical trials (i.e., studies in people) of Ayurvedic approaches have been small, had problems with research designs, lacked appropriate control groups, or had other issues that affected how meaningful the results were. Therefore, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Ayurvedic practices varies, and more rigorous research is needed to determine which practices are safe and effective.

Other Points To Consider About Using Ayurvedic Medicine

  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use, including Ayurvedic medicine. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help to ensure coordinated and safe care.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who are thinking of using Ayurvedic therapy to treat a child, should be especially sure to consult their health care provider.
  • It is important to make sure that any diagnosis of a disease or condition has been made by a provider who has substantial conventional medical training and experience with managing that disease or condition.
  • Proven conventional treatments should not be replaced with an unproven CAM treatment.
  • It is better to use Ayurvedic remedies under the supervision of an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner than to try to treat yourself.
  • Before using Ayurvedic treatment, ask about the practitioner’s training and experience.
  • Find out whether any rigorous scientific studies have been done on the therapies in which you are interested.



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When most people hear the word acupuncture they immediately think of the insertion of needles in various parts of the body. While this is the most common type of treatment, acupuncture can refer to a variety of different stimulation techniques.

It has had a long history as part of traditional Chinese and Asian medicine before growing in popularity in the United States in the early 1970s. Frequently used for pain relief, the Chinese philosophy believes by putting needles in certain locations the body’s energy flow or qi can be rebalanced and provide relief. Many Westerners think the stimulation of certain nerves, muscles and connective tissues increases the body’s blood flow and release of endorphins which can lessen discomfort.

How It Works

An initial evaluation can take about an hour. Exact details depend on the practitioner and his or her approach but it may include examinations of the area in pain along with the tongue, face color and wrist pulse. Discussion of general health, lifestyle and behavior factors may also occur. After the first meeting, treatments generally last about 30 minutes. Depending on the problem 6 to 12 appointments over several months is often typical. Between 5 and 20 very thin needles are inserted in various locations of the body (sometimes some are nowhere near the area in pain). Discomfort should be very minimal or nonexistent. Once the needles are in the practitioner has a variety of options from twirling them to heating them to applying light electrical pulses to them. After 10 to 20 minutes the needles are removed.


Acupuncture can by tried for a number of painful ailments ranging from headaches, back pain and dental pain to fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and even labor pain.

Accupuncture is beginning to emerge as a combination therapy across western medicine that has been shown to show relief for patients after surgery.

When approaching menopause, accupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce the duration and intensity of hot flashes and other symptoms associated with that phase of life.


Acupuncture is generally considered pretty safe but there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, practitioners should always use sterile, disposable needles to prevent infections and exposure to serious diseases. A little bit of soreness or even small amounts of bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted is possible. In rare cases needles can puncture organs if they are pushed in too far. Individuals with bleeding disorders or who take a blood thinner may not be good candidates for acupuncture. Similarly anyone with a pacemaker should likely avoid this treatment as the electrical impulses to the needle could affect the pacemaker. Finally, acupuncture in some forms may trigger labor so pregnant women may need to avoid it.


Acupuncture is an ancient Asian treatment that involves very thin needles inserted in certain locations to help relieve pain.


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Mayo Clinic


Tai Chi

Sometimes described as “moving meditation,” tai chi began long ago in China as a type of martial art. Today it is an exercise-with-meditation combination used to improve health and decrease stress. Tai chi employs the idea of yin and yang along with qi or life force. Some of the movement names are nature-centric and often groups of people gather in parks to practice.

How It Works

A number of styles of tai chi exist but generally the focus is on a series of flowing movements accompanied with deep breathing. One pose runs into the next gently and gracefully which allows for exercise and increased flexibility. Tai chi is considered a kind of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and boasted approximately 2.3 million practitioners in a 2007 survey according to the National Institutes of Health.


Tai chi offers a number of benefits. It is weight-bearing which can help bone health while still being low impact and easy on the joints. Muscle strength and flexibility can also increase from regular practice. The focused, meditative aspect can promote decreased stress and anxiety. It may also aid existing problems. Balance and coordination can improve which may lessen the risk of falls while the gentle stretching movements can ease stiffness and pain. More research needs to be done but initial reports indicate tai chi may also boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure and increase overall well-being in the elderly.


Tai chi is generally considered quite safe though it is important to make sure moves are being done correctly. (While it can be done at home with a DVD, experts recommend beginning with a live instructor to provide feedback and lessen risk of injury.) Individuals who are pregnant, have a hernia or suffer from any joint or back issues should check with their doctor before beginning tai chi to ensure which movements are safe for them.


Tai chi is a gentle flowing form of physical exercise coupled with mental focus and meditation. It is generally safe for most people and can offer benefits from reduced stress to increased strength, flexibility and balance.


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Mayo Clinic



Juicing is the process that includes extracting juices and vital nutrients from vegetable, fruit, and plant sources.  The process results in a nutrient-rich drink that is easily consumed and digested for optimum use of vitamins and food performance.

How It Works

Juicing requires the use of a quality juicer that is designed to extract only the juice from its source.  It is generally a mechanical operation that will result in a complete separation of juice from pulp, skin, flesh, and seed.  Different combinations of vegetable, fruit, and plant juice are combined to create high-energy health drinks that are free of preservatives, colors, and additives.


One of the many benefits of juicing is the ease of digestion into the system.  While the body can utilize vegetables, fruits, and plants efficiently in their whole form, eliminating the extra bulk from the source ensures that the body can use the nutrient rich juice to its highest capacity.

It also has a convenience factor when produced in advance for busy schedules.   Preparing juice mixes is easy and can provide quick on-the-go nutrition and energy for busy lifestyles.

Juicing can make getting nutrition more palatable for those that are prone to food sensitivities by eliminating the texture, flesh, and skin components of the source.  These are often the components responsible for digestion issues or distaste.  Juice mixes can be combined with nutritional powerhouses such spinach and kale while being made more palatable by adding flavorful components such as apple, banana, and strawberry.


While juicing can provide quick delivery of nutrients and vitamins, it can also provide large quantities of natural sugar.  It is important that those with diabetes or other sugar-based conditions use discretion when introducing juicing into a diet.

Juicing can give a quick natural energy boost to aid in workouts and daily routines, however as with any quick delivery method of energy there can be a “crash” associated with it as well.  Without the pulp and body of the juice source, the body can digest the energy source much quicker resulting in a natural depletion of energy.

Juicing can treat an array of illnesses, diseases, and common ailments.


Juicing can be a healthy alternative to sports drinks, nutrition supplements, and artificial energy sources.  Juicing combinations can treat an array of illnesses, diseases, and common ailments.  It can also be used to increase the nutritional value of diet and provide supplementation for those who may otherwise forgo eating healthy fruits, vegetables, and plants.






  • How it Works
  • Precaution

Herbal Medicine

An herb is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor or therapeutic properties.

Plants have the ability to synthesize a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to perform important biological functions, and to defend against attack from predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals.

Many of these phytochemicals have beneficial effects on long-term health when consumed by people, and can be used to effectively treat diseases. At least 12,000 such compounds have been isolated; a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total.

How it Works

Chemical compounds in plants mediate their effects on the human body through processes identical to those already well understood for the chemical compounds in conventional drugs; thus herbal medicines do not differ greatly from conventional drugs in terms of how they work. This enables herbal medicines to be as effective as conventional medicines, but also gives them the same potential to cause harmful side effects.


The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal among non-industrialized societies, and is often more affordable than purchasing expensive modern pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.

Studies in the United States and Europe have shown that their use is less common in clinical settings, but has become increasingly more in recent years as scientific evidence about the effectiveness of herbal medicine has become more widely available.


Chemical compounds in plants mediate their effects on the human body through processes identical to those already well understood for the chemical compounds in conventional drugs; thus herbal medicines do not differ greatly from conventional drugs in terms of how they work. This enables herbal medicines to be as effective as conventional medicines, but also gives them the same potential to cause harmful side effects.

To use an herbal product as safely as possible:

  • Consult your doctor first
  • Do not take a bigger dose than the label recommends
  • Take it under the guidance of a trained medical professional
  • Be especially cautious if you are pregnant or nursing


Herbal medicine products are dietary supplements taken to improve one's health. Many herbs have been used for a long time for claimed health benefits. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants.


  • Wikipedia contributors. Herbalism. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. November 26, 2012, 22:12 UTC. Accessed November 27, 2012.
  • NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine


Qigong literally means life energy cultivation, and it is nearly a 5 thousand year old Chinese art that is the practice of graceful movement with breathing to improve flow of energy. It is very closely related to the martial arts and is a wonderful holistic practice that will enhance health on all levels of body, mind and spirit.

How it Works

It combines certain movements with abdominal breathing and focus of the mind to unblock energy pathways to produce healing of the body, mind and spirit. The big focus is here is on the breath for in the breath there is life.


Qigong is a wonderful healing art that has been around for thousands of years. It works to unblock energy pathways and create better flow of energy in the body. Whenever there is better flow of energy in the body there is more health. It will improve sleep, augment recovery time, reduce stress and enhance the immune system.


In order to learn this correctly it would be wise to seek out a good teacher of Qigong and then cultivate your own practice at home with the use of DVD instructional videos. If you have any health concerns please check with your doctor prior to participating in a class.


Qigong is a wonderful healing art that has many different forms of practice. It is of great benefit to the body, mind and soul in that it is a gentle but highly effective modality that is non-invasive, economical and good for many physical ailments as well as emotional imbalances.


  • The Way of Qigong the Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing by Ken Cohen
  • Heal Yourself with Qigong by Suzanne Friedman
  • The Root of Chinese Qigong by Yang Jwing-Ming


Reflexology is a natural non-invasive technique that involves the use of gentle pressure on certain “zones” of the feet, hands or ears that correspond to other areas of the body or organ systems producing a beneficial effect on those systems.

How it Works

Its works by the practitioner pressing on certain parts of the hands, feet or ears that has association with another body area or organ. The belief being that this pressure will have a beneficial effect on the organ or system being worked on.


This has been found to be very useful in lessening anxiety, reducing stress and promotes a feeling of wellbeing. It is known to lessen fatigue and reduce muscular tension as well.


This modality has been found to be extremely safe. However if you have pain in your hands, feet or ears you may want to consider an alternative healing method as this one uses those areas to complete a session.


Reflexology is a wonderful non invasive natural healing modality that involves the gently use of pressure to cause a beneficial effect on the body.

Many report that it has been beneficial on their journey to wellness. Reflexology is also an economical, natural way to augment your health, and you can easily learn to do this for yourself and your family.


  • The Everything Reflexology Book by Valerie Voner The Reflexology Bible by Louise Keet
  • Reflexology and Acupressure: Pressure points for Healing by Janet Wright
Natural Health News and Articles

Foods to Fight Arthritis

Food is the best natural medicine for many health conditions. It is a concept that is all too often forgotten by many people who have an orientation towards taking pharmaceutical drugs for any ailment.

Arthritis Today recently put together a list of the foods that are most helpful to people with arthritis. These foods boost your immune system, fight inflammation and strengthen bones.

Food  Functional Benefit Particularly Helpful for
Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel & Herring Omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation Rheumatoid Arthritis
Soybeans Omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation Rheumatoid Arthritis
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Heart-healthy fats for reducing inflammation Rheumatoid Arthritis & Osteoarthritis
Cherries Anthocyanins for reducing inflammation Gout
Low-fat Milk, Yogurt & Cheese Calcium & vitamin D for increased bone strength OsteoporosisOsteoarthritis
Broccoli Calcium for its bone-building benefits Osteoarthritis
Green Tea Antioxidants for reducing inflammation and slowing cartilage destruction Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis
Oranges, Grapefruits & Limes Vitamin C to prevent inflammatory arthritis and maintain healthy joints  Rheumatoid ArthritisOsteoarthritis
Oatmeal, Brown Rice and Whole-grain Cereals Lowers C-reactive protein (CRP) for reducing inflammation  Rheumatoid Arthritis
Red Beans, Kidney Beans & Pinto Beans Fiber to lower C-reactive protein (CRP) and protein for muscle health Rheumatoid Arthritis
Garlic Diallyl disulphine to limit cartilage-damaging enzymes in human cells Osteoarthritis
Walnuts, Pine Nuts, Pistachios & Almonds Protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E for reducing inflammation and muscle health Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis


  • photo credit:

Natural Health News and Articles

Preventing Youth Sports Injuries May Prevent Future Osteoarthritis

Trends in Youth Sports

If it appears that sports are starting younger and getting more competitive over the years, they are. Approximately 30 million children and adolescents participate in sports each year. Seventy percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 will play at least one team sport. The peak ages of sports participation is between 13 and 14 years old. While there are a lot of health and social benefits to sports, there are also inherent problems. One is sport-related injury which can have a long-lasting impact. In fact, three and a half million children and teens will visit the emergency room with a sports-related injury annually.

Injury: A Consequence of Competition

One might ask “Aren’t sports healthy?” Yes, with a caveat. Along with an increase in youth sport participation there also appears to be an increase in pressure to be highly competitive. As a result, kids are playing one or more sports year round, ignoring pain, and minimizing injuries to “get back in the game.” This makes them more vulnerable to both overuse and impact injuries.

What does all of this overuse and injury mean to young, developing bodies? Injury during youth sports can increase the risk of knee, hip and ankle Osteoarthritis in adulthood. In fact, the risk of developing Osteoarthritis of the knee following an ACL injury is 50%.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful disease that effects more than 27 million Americans. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the most common type of arthritis. By age 40, 90% of all people will have some level of OA in their weight bearing joints. OA occurs when the cartilage that acts as a cushion around the joint becomes thinner and rougher causing the bones to eventually rub against each other.

Factors placing people at higher risk for developing OA include: being overweight, age, family history, being female, and damage to tissues secondary to sports or other injury. Though there are several risk factors that contribute to OA, managing the intensity of our participation in sports and preventing sports injuries to the best of our ability goes a long way in preventing this disease.

Preventing Future Osteoarthritis In Our Youths Today

Most kids are not going to the Olympics, so it is up to the adults to keep sports in perspective – as a healthy form of exercise and a great way to learn about teamwork. For most children and adolescents, having fun and staying fit is where it should begin and end. However, there are certainly many talented youths who can go far in their sport and have many doors open because of it.

Tips for young athletes of all levels to prevent future OA:

  • Exercise is certainly a preventative factor in OA. It is the sports injury that increases risk. If possible, chose a sport with a lower risk of injury, such as non-contact sports with minimal joint impact. Soccer, football, weight lifting, and rugby carry the highest risk for knee injury particularly among female athletes. Running is still debated.
  • Exercise regularly but avoid REPETITIVE stress on the joints. This means instead of doing one sport all year, alternate between a few. – Focus on proper technique in sports and cross-training.
  • Take 10 weeks off of all sports each year.
  • Listen to your pain and take time to recover from injury or strain. Pain is your body’s signal that you are overdoing it. Previous joint injury is a common cause of OA because the improper alignment that results from injury wears away at the cartilage once sports resume. Make sure you seek proper treatment and allow for a full recovery before returning to the sport.
  • Focus on health and nutrition. Being even 10 pounds overweight increases force on the knee by 30 to 40 pounds with each step taken increasing the risk of injury.

No one is saying that you must yank little Johnny out of soccer to save his knees from a future of pain. Staying active in sports is a great thing for our children and exercise prevents many health problems. Yet we need to be aware that some sports carry a greater risk of injury to joints than others. Knee injury prevention and proper medical management post-injury may go a long way in preventing the pain and debilitation of OA in the future.

By: Alicia DiFabio, PsyD


  • Marshall, SW, Golightly, YM. Sports injury and arthritis. N C Med J 2007; 68 (6): 420-433.
  • Future Shock: Youth sports and osteoarthritis risk )ct 2011 in Lower Extremity Review.
  • Lohmander LS, Ostenberg A, Englund M, Roos H: High prevalence of knee osteoarthritis, pain, and functional limitations in female soccer players twelve years after anterior cruciate ligament injury. Arthritis Rheum 2004, 50:3145-3152.
  • Ratzlaff, C.R. and Liang, M. H. (2010) New developments in osteoarthristis. Prevention of injury-related knee osteoarthritis: Opportunities for the primary and secondary prevention of kneee osteoarthritis in Arthritis Research and Therapy, 12: 215.
  • Chambers, A. E. L., & Cooper, Grant. The role of Sports and Activity in Osteoarthritis on

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her personal essays and parenting articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girls, one of whom has extensive special needs. She can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at her blog, Lost In Holland.

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis

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Spice Up Your Life and Stop Arthritis in its Tracks with Curcumin

It has long been recognized in holistic health that in order to reduce pain, you must reduce the inflammation associated with and contributing to that pain. In addition, holism works to allow the body to heal itself by providing the necessary nutrients and to allow it to build back up and heal. The effects of chronic inflammation and pain can be devastating not only to your muscles and joints, but to the whole body.

Curcumin, a main ingredient of turmeric, has been used for thousands of years for its ability to reduce inflammation and to help in the treatment of pain. Because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties, it has demonstrated benefit not only in the treatment of arthritis, but also has been shown to have significant heart benefits and anti-cancer properties. For those suffering with osteoarthritis, the addition of turmeric can be extremely helpful in lowering inflammation, treating pain, and helping to restore function and improve quality of life.

How does turmeric work to fight inflammation? Well, in one study the authors demonstrated that turmeric can inhibit different pathways in the body that stimulate the inflammation. Unlike prescription medications, it has no detrimental side effects. For example, nonsteroidal medications (aka NSAIDS) have  significant risks associated with them such as gastrointestinal bleeding, elevated blood pressure and worsening kidney function.

This makes Turmeric invaluable in the treatment of osteoarthritis. In one research study, Turmeric was found to be very beneficial in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. It is well tolerated and has a wonderful safety profile with few side effects. When it is combined with other herbs and supplements such as Devils Claw and the Omega 3 fish oils, the synergistic effect of all three can reduce inflammation and relieve pain compared to using Turmeric alone.

By Rich Snyder, DO
Rich has written several books, including What You Must Know About Kidney DiseaseWhat You Must Know About Dialysis, as well as the upcoming Adrenal Fatigue For Dummies.


  • Funk JL, Frye JB et al. “Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis.” Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64..
  • Henrotin Y, Priem F et al. “Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management.” SpringerPlus. 2013 Dec;2(1):56.
  • Hu P, Huang P et al. “Curcumin attenuates cyclooxygenase-2 expression via inhibition of the NF-κB pathway in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated human gingival fibroblasts.” Cell Biology International. 2013 May;37(5):443-8
  • Madhu K, Chanda K et al. “Safety and efficacy of Curcuma longa extract in the treatment of painful knee osteoarthritis: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.” Immunopharmacology. 2013 Apr;21(2):129-36.

Natural Remedies for Osteoarthritis

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Adding Alkaline Water to Ensure Bone and Joint Health

Osteoarthritis (OA) affects millions of people in the United States. With the current obesity crisis affecting one out of every three Americans, OA is not simply a condition limited to the elderly population anymore. Systemic acidity and inflammation contribute to the joint and cartilage destruction associated with OA and acidity can dramatically worsen the health of your bones and joints over time.

Our Standard American Diet (SAD) is very pro-inflammatory and very acidic. Meat protein can be extremely inflammatory; it is processed by the body and is broken down into hydrogen ions. The higher the hydrogen ion load (the lower the pH) the greater the total body acidity. Our bones are significant buffers for this continued acid load. Alkaline minerals, including magnesium and calcium are in essence removed from the bone and into the bloodstream to buffer the excess acid that is built up on a daily basis. This weakens the bone over time and increases the risk of developing severe bone and joint problems, including worsening osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and fractures.

What can we do about this? Well, one of the main things that can be done to help eliminate the acidity and reduce inflammation is to eat a more alkaline diet. This means increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables that you eat in the diet. One of the values of such a diet is that it provides for significant micronutrients that many of us are lacking if our diet is full of processed foods.

Something else to consider is the use of alkaline water. Our bodies are over 70 percent water; maintaining proper hydration and alkalinity is responsible for maintaining the health of the synovial fluid that protects and lubricates your joints. Proper hydration is also essential for maintaining the stability of your cartilage. Some research suggests that dehydration can affect the ability of the cartilage to bear weight and alkaline water that is mineralized can improve bone health and hydration. Research has demonstrated that the use of alkaline water can improve markers of bone health and decrease the calcium that is being removed from bones. Calcium and magnesium staying in your bones where they belong is a good thing.

It is only through holism that we are going to be able to maintain and improve our bone health. Consider not only adding a plant-based alkaline diet but also adding mineralized, alkaline water to your treatment plan.

By: Dr. Rich Snyder, DO


  • Photo Credit:
  • Fick JM, Espino DM. “Articular cartilage surface rupture during compression: investigating the effects of tissue hydration in relation to matrix health.” Journal of Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials. 2011 Oct;4(7):1311-7.
  • Wynn E, Krieg MA et al. “Alkaline mineral water lowers bone resorption even in calcium sufficiency: alkaline mineral water and bone metabolism.” Bone. 2009 Jan;44(1):120-4.
  • Wynn E, Krieg MA et al. “Postgraduate Symposium: Positive influence of nutritional alkalinity on bone health.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2010 Feb;69(1):166-73.

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis

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Use of Arnica Montana for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis

The use of conventional medicines for the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) is not without the potential for developing serious side effects. Narcotic medications for example, can produce lethargy, fatigue, constipation, and in certain cases can even depress your breathing. Other medications may preclude the use of prescription medications. Nonsteroidal medications, such as ibuprofen may not be the best choice for someone with heart disease or kidney disease. Long term use of acetaminophen can affect your liver and kidney health over time. It is not uncommon to experience severe pain and stiffness associated with OA. A natural alternative to add to your treatment regimen is Arnica Montana.

This is a homeopathic preparation that is safe, has minimal side effects, and is effective in treating the inflammation and pain of OA as well as other forms of inflammatory arthritis. Arnica Montana has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation in the joints; it is felt to inhibit the NF-kappa B pathway which is an important pathway that promotes inflammation. It may also decrease the formation of proinflammatory proteins in the joint space itself.

Arnica Montana comes in an oral form and topical forms. If you are suffering from knee OA or hand OA, applying Arnica topically can help improve pain and regain overall function. In one study, the application of a topical Arnica plant gel to the knee for those suffering from significant OA of the knee in over 80 men and women noted significant improvement in pain and stiffness as well as overall functioning.

It has also been found effective for the treatment of hand arthritis as well. In another study when compared to ibuprofen gel, it was found to be as effective in reducing pain and increasing functional use of the hands. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about adding Arnica Montana to your treatment regimen.

By: Dr. Rich Snyder


  • Jager C, Hrenn M et al. “Phytomedicines prepared from Arnica flowers inhibit the transcription factors AP-1 and NF-kappaB and modulate the activity of MMP1 and MMP13 in human and bovine chondrocytes.” Planta Medica. 2009 Oct;75(12):1319-25.
  • Knuesel O, Weber M et al. “Arnica montana gel in osteoarthritis of the knee: an open, multicenter clinical trial.” Advances in Therapy. 2002 Sep-Oct;19(5):209-18.
  • Ross SM. “Osteoarthritis: a proprietary Arnica gel is found to be as effective as ibuprofen gel in osteoarthritis of the hands.” Holistic Nursing Practice. 2008 Jul-Aug;22(4):237-9.
  • Widriq R, Sutter S et al. “Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study.” Rheumatology International. 2007 Apr;27(6):585-91

Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis