Guess what? “Ugh” and “ouch” don’t need to be such a big part of your vocabulary. Thankfully, 5,000 years of Ayurvedic medicine and wisdom have curated a wellspring of herbs to help maintain balance and harmony in your body. Our all-natural, pharmaceutical grade supplements promote joint and muscle health so you can move better and stay active.
Inflammation is a complex network of a variety of molecules, which is self-regulating through the balanced action of anti- and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Controlled inflammation is an adaptive reparative process that appears to be necessary to maintain proper tissue function. This can be contrasted with the ‘pathological’ or maladaptive chronic inflammation which is associated with several chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Stress and inflammation have become the curses of our times and are the main factors in multiple diseases. With the increase in activity, it is not unusual to experience muscle soreness, joint discomfort, fatigue, and in some cases, significant injury.
Inflammation is a very normal, desired effect in the body. To rid itself of illness, the body creates an inflammatory response in situations such as infections, exposure to toxins, restriction in blood supply, trauma, and many other conditions. As soon as inflammation has done its work, the body begins anti-inflammatory processes to control the level of inflammation. In a healthy person, this process is in perfect balance. However, when there is an imbalance, the body does not stop producing inflammation.
A range of anti-inflammatory drugs exist to help reduce inflammation in the body, but many have side effects and are not always effective. In fact, over time, these drugs decrease the proteins (called glycosaminoglycans) that manufacture connective tissue and degrade the joints. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to induce reactive oxygen species in heart and cardiovascular related cells which may explain the increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with NSAID use.
Therefore, there is a greater interest in natural compounds, such as dietary supplements and herbal remedies that have been used for centuries in Ayurveda for improving and restoring health and vitality. Herbal medicine can provide safe and natural alternatives to maintain optimal performance, reduce the risk of injury, support healthy inflammation, and enhance recovery.
Excessive inflammation can result in conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, dermatitis, asthma, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and many others. Inflammation is also a major source of oxidation or free-radical damage, which contributes to the aging process. However, Ayurvedic medicine is blessed with an arsenal of herbs and supplements to help maintain the proper balance of inflammation response in the body.
In Ayurveda, the actions of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) are described as Balya (that which gives inner strength and vitality) and Breehana (that which improved muscle bulk). Ashwagandha is categorized as having "rasayana" (rejuvenator), longevity, and revitalizing properties, thus promoting youthful vigor, slowing the ageing process, enhancing muscle strength and endurance, rebuilding and protecting joint structure, and improving overall health. Ashwagandha has antioxidant and anabolic activities and promotes a healthy inflammatory repsonse.
Several studies support the use of ashwagandha in joint protection, exercise performance, and recovery. One two-week trial, conducted at The Ayurvedic & Naturopathic Medical Clinic in Bellevue, WA, evaluated the use of ashwagandha and arjuna (Terminalia arjuna – a powerful heart tonic) on exercise performance in 18 healthy students.[i] Students were divided into two groups (experimental vs control) and underwent upper body, core, and lower body exercise performance tests. Students in the experimental group received 1 capsule (500mg) of Ashwagandha, three times a day and 1 capsule of Arjuna Heart™, three times a day. Dosage for both supplements was doubled in the second week to 2 capsules, three times a day. At the end of the two weeks, students in the experimental group demonstrated significant improvement compared to the control group in each category. Improvement in upper body capacity was the highest, averaging 71% better than the control group. Core and lower body strength also improved significantly, 16% and 11%, respectively. Total performance in the experimental group was 24% better than total performance by the control group. This small study showed that within 2 weeks, supplementation with these herbs may significantly improve exercise performance compared to baseline.
Another study of recreationally active men found that a 500 mg dose of an aqueous extract of Ashwagandha improved upper and lower-body strength and supported a favorable distribution of body mass over a 12-week resistance training and supplementation period.[ii] Wankhede and colleagues reported data on the impact of ashwagandha supplementation (300 mg of root extract, 2×/day) in 57 young, untrained male participants.[iii] The group taking the ashwagandha extract had significant increases in upper- and lower-body muscle strength, increases in muscle size in the arms and chest, and reductions in body fat percentage. Additionally, blood markers of exercise-induced muscle damage and recovery and basal testosterone levels were also improved in the participants taking ashwagandha.
Curcuma longa, commonly known as turmeric, contains curcumin that may promote a healthy inflammatory response. Curcumin, the yellow pigment provider of the spice is also the most medicinal component of the herb. Cultivated in the tropical regions of India, turmeric has been used for centuries in Indian households as a culinary spice. It is the most widely recognized and used curry spice worldwide. Turmeric has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a supplement to support healthy joint function. The herb is equally revered in Eastern tradition medicine. Although curcumin is most widely valued for its muscle and joint supporting benefits, it is also a potent antioxidant known to support liver function and nourish brain tissue. Since large amounts of turmeric are required to deliver the same benefit from food, many people choose supplementation with curcumin for optimal support. In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is a general tonic, blood purifier, and supports a healthy inflammatory response.
Boswellia serrata is a large, branching, deciduous tree native to India that grows to an average height of 12–15 feet (4–5 meters). Boswellia yields a gum resin known as salai guggal. The main constituents of the gum resin are boswellic acids and other compounds such as volatile oils. Although salai guggal has been used for centuries, preparations concentrated and standardized for the active components, boswellic acids, have shown better results. Boswellia supports a healthy inflammatory response as well as healthy blood circulation and proper joint and cartilage function.
In a 6-month randomized, double-blind, controlled study, Ayurvedic supplements (extracts of Tinospora cordifolia, Zingiber officinale, Emblica officinalis, and Boswellia serrata) significantly reduced discomfort and improved knee function with results equivalent to the use of glucosamine.[iv] In another clinical trial, an extract from boswellia was shown to confer prompt and significant relief and improvement in physical ability in as few as 7 days.[v] When boswellia is combined with other supplements such as curcumin, the benefits are synergistically enhanced, which boosts their protection of joints and muscles.
Narayan oil is one of the most respected of all the Ayurvedic herbal oils. Used for centuries, this rejuvenating combination of more than 20 herbs can be used topically to soothe aching muscles and joints and enhance the flexibility of muscles and tendons. Ancient Narayan oil is especially effective to relieve vata imbalance.
Strategies that reduce age-related inflammation, such as exercise, may improve the quality of life. As little as 20 minutes of exercise can stimulate the immune system and produce anti-inflammatory effects. Incorporating herbal formulations aids the body in maintaining optimal function and balance. Preventing and reducing inflammation not only allows us to continue playing hard but is essential for long-term health.
[i] Sodhi, V. (2016). Athletic Performance Enhancement with Ayurvedic Supplements. International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 3(3), 00073.
[ii] Ziegenfuss, T.N., Kedia, A.W., Sandrock, J.E., Raub, B.J., Kerksick, C.M., & Lopez, H.L. (2018). Effects of an aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on strength training adaptations and recovery: the STAR Trial. Nutrients, 10(11), pii:E1807. PubMed PMID: 30463324
[iii] Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S.R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society od Sports Nutrition, 12, 43. PubMed PMID: 26609282.
[iv] Chopra, A., Saluja, M., Tillu, G., Samukkaddam, S., Venugopalan, A., Narsimulu, G., Handa, R., Sumantran, V., Raut, A., Bichile, L., Joshi, K., & Patwardhan, B. (2013). Ayurvedic medicine offers a good alternative to glucosamine and celecoxib in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, controlled equivalence drug trial. Rheumatology (Oxford), 52(8), 1408-17. PubMed PMID: 23365148.
[v] Majeed, M., Majeed, S., Narayanan, N.K., & Nagabhushanam, K. (2019). A pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of a novel Boswellia serrata extract in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee. Phytotherapy Research, doi: 10.1002/ptr.6338 [Epub ahead of print].