Rheumatoid arthritis occurs as a result of your own immune system attacking your body. It mainly attacks the joints of the fingers and toes but can occur in any joint as well as other body areas such as skin, blood vessels and eyes. The disease can even attack internal organs, such as the heart and lungs.
The sufferers always have it worse in the morning and can take up to half hour to warm and loosen up. In addition, they can have fever, tiredness and weight loss. The joints themselves can become very hot, swollen and painful and in many instances the long term, chronic inflamation causes deformities in the joints.
Though not exactly known what triggers the disease, it is believed to have a genetic disposition and environmental factors may also play a role in starting the disease process. Some suspect that viruses and bacteria may also be a contributing factor.
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine look at rheumatoid arthritis?
In some ways the traditional way at looking at the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is similar to the modern scientific way. Modern science tells us that rheumatoid arthritis has a genetic disposition. Traditional Chinese medicine says people are born with constitutional strengths and weaknesses with some more prone to certain diseases. Environmental factors also play a role in the cause of diseases in Chinese medicine and in particular long term exposure to weather extremes such as cold, damp and wind are said to cause problems with joints. The modern view that viruses and bacteria can cause diseases like arthritis also correlates to what the famous Chinese physician Zhang Zhong Jin wrote about in his classic diagnosis and herbal text, the Shang Han Lun in 200 A.D. Diseases enter the body through attack from the outside environment bringing in the disease pathogen into the body. This is in essence how ancient physicians described pathogens, viruses and bacteria enetering the body.
What is rheumatoid arthritis called in Chinese medicine?
In traditional literature it is referred to as Bi Syndrome which equates to the modern day arthritis symtoms of swelling of joints, painful stiff joints and deformed joints. In simplified Chinese medicine terms, it is caused by wind damp invasion.
Are there many different herbs or formulas for rheumatoid arthritis?
In Bob Flaws book The Treatment of Modern Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, there are at least five base herbal formula addressing some of the different causes of rheumatoid arthritis. Then there are about a hundred additional herbs that may be added or subtracted depending on the individual needs and symptoms of the patient. In reality there are hundreds of potential combinations.
What are some examples of formulas or individual herbs?
One example of a herbal formula is Bai Hu Jia Gui Zhi Tang and some common individual herbs that could be used are pearl barley and sang zhi (mulberry twigs).
How do I find a qualified Chinese herbalist in New Zealand?
There are over 700 members of Acupuncture NZ and some of those have done additional degrees in Chinese herbal medicine as well as acupuncture. Feel free to contact me if you need a recommendation of someone in your area or contact Acupuncture NZ direct.