Migraine is a burning health problem of modern age, affecting more than 1 in 10. Suitable lifestyle changes, Ayurvedic therapies and medicines hold the key in treating migraine. In Ayurveda this condition is referred as ‘Sooryavarta’ . Soorya means ‘Sun’ and avarta means ‘affliction’ or ‘blockage’. The headache gets worsened on sunrise, peaks during noon hours and reduces in the evening. Even though this is the typical feature of this illness, it may not be true in all cases. Symptoms may vary based on body types and habits.
Migraine is caused by excessive stimulation of brain and blood vessels. Migraine headache is usually associated with one sided throbbing headache, with nausea (tendency of vomiting), vomiting and sensitivity to light. Some people get warning symptoms called aura, having visual changes, just ahead of migraine episode.
Table of Contents
Migraine causes as per Ayurveda:
Suppression of natural urges
Intake of polluted food
Exposure to sunshine for prolonged period
Oily and spicy food
Anger, jealousy, grief, stress etc
Intake of dry, pungent and salty food etc
Migraine attacks can be caused by:
Alcohol or smoking
Sudden stopping of intake of coffee / tea
Changes in hormone levels during a woman’s menstrual cycle or with the use of birth control pills
Changes in sleep patterns – excess sleep or less sleep
Exercise or other physical stress
Excessive stimulation or stress on sense organs by loud noises, bright lights, strong perfumes / odours,
Stress and anxiety
Foods that can trigger migraine:
Usually foods that can cause sudden increase of Kapha dosha or Pitta Dosha triggers a migraine attack.
Baked foods, chocolate, dairy foods, heavy-to-digest non veg foods, Onion, peanuts, processed foods, fermented foods, spicy foods can cause migraine.
Origin of migraine
Origin of migraine headache:
Due to the causative factors, Pitta Dosha obstructs the flow of Vata dosha in brain, causing throbbing pain. In case of Suryavarta type of headache, because Pitta is dominant in the afternoon, headache is at peak. The condition calms down by the dusk.
Symptoms of migraine:
Usually migraines are initiated by aura – visual disturbances. These disturbances can be – blind spot in front of eyes, blurred vision, seeing bright light, zig zag lights, lines etc.
Some may get pre-migraine signs such as yawning, mild confusion, vomiting sensation etc.
Nature of headache
Nature of migraine headache:
pain over the eyebrows,
Headache worsening on exposure to sunshine
Pulsating pain, pain increasing with every pulse
One sided or two side headache, lasting for a few hours to up to 2 – 3 days.
Pain may radiate to neck and even to the shoulder of same side.
Ayurvedic therapies for migraine:
Shirolepa – Application of herbal pastes which pacify Pitta Dosha like Sandalwood, camphor, Jatamansi.
Shiro Dhara – pouring of thin stream of liquid over scalp.
Taila dhara with oils like ksheerabala taila, chandanadi taila is carried out where Vata involvement is high.
ksheera dhara (cow milk) is done when Pitta involvement is more
Takra Dhara (buttermilk) is done when there is obstruction to Vata passage is to be removed.
Kavala graha – Oil pulling, with chandanadi taila, mahanarayana taila
Shirovasti – Retaining the medicated oils over the leather cap fitted over the scalp. Any vata-pitta pacifying oils are beneficial for this purpose.
Sneha nasya – Instillation of medicated oils can be carried to the nostrils. Shadbindu taila or Anu taila yield significant benefits in this condition.
Herbs useful in migraine
Yastimadhu – Indian licorice – Glycyrrhiza glabra
Sariva – Hemidesmus indicus
Hareetaki – Chebulic myrobalan-Terminalia chebula
Amalaki – amala – Eemblica officinalis
Bala – Sida cardifolia
Mallika – Jasminum officinarum
Kumari – Aloe vera
Ayurvedic medicines useful in migraine:
Pathyadi khada – used in the treatment of headache, earache, pain in temporal region, migraine etc.
Shirashooladi vajra rasa – used in the Ayurvedic treatment of headache, migraine, tension headache, vascular headache etc.
Bhoonimbadi khada – Used in fever, cold, sinusitis, headache
Kamadugha rasa (mouktika yukta) – Used in all high Pitta conditions
Godanti Bhasma – 250 mg of this medicine is given twice a day. In many occasions, it gives immediate relief from migraine, within 20 – 30 minutes, much faster than Paracetamol (By Mr.P.A Vora)
Ayurvedic home remedies
Simple home remedies useful in migraine headache:
1. Tender leaves of jasmine or tender leaves of pomegranate are taken along with a pinch of salt and crushed well to obtain fresh juice. Early in the morning, preferably in empty stomach, 2-3 drops of this fresh juice is instilled to both the nostrils. Procedure is repeated once again evening hours (6-7 pm). This reduces the severity of headache in migraine.
2. One fist full of Doorva grass (cynodan dactylon) is taken and its fresh juice is obtained. To this, 2 pinch of licorice powder is added and mixed well. This is consumed during the noon hours. Procedure is repeated for 20-30 days. This helps to reduce the severity of illness significantly.
3. Take coriander seed powder – 1 teaspoon. add it to one cup of water, leave it as it is for whole night, next day morning, drink it on empty stomach.
4. Soak 5 raisins and 5 almonds in water at night, next day morning, eat them.
5. Saffron home remedy for migraine (click to read more)
Stress and anxiety and migraine:
Stress and anxiety may act as trigger factors or migraine patients tend to develop anxiety and depression over a period of time. Hence, leading a well organised, stress free life is key in controlling migraine.
Anxiety tips and remedies
Stress symptoms and relief
Migraine and constipation:
In many cases, migraine patient often suffers from constipation and gastritis symptoms such as burning sensation in stomach, bloating etc. In them,treating constipation is very effective in reducing migraine attacks and intensity.
Migraine and Pranayama:
In many patients, Pranayama techniques requiring holding breath may cause or worsen an attack. Hence, resorting to simpler techniques like Anulom Vilom Pranayama or avoiding holding of breath for long is advised.
Migraine and women:
Migraine is seen in women nearing to periods and in elderly nearing menopause. In them, treatment for hormonal balance is useful.
Do not take pain mitigating medicines frequently. Over intake of pain medicines may cause rebound headache and may eventually increase the frequency of migraines.
Make sure to sleep and eat at regular intervals.
Make sure to sleep at least 7 hours at night.
Avoid fasting. It will increase both Pitta and Vata dosha, worsening migraines. Do not skip meals.
Use a very mild deodorant / perfume
Quit smoking and get rid of alcoholic addiction
Do not drink strong coffee / tea. Make it light.
Do not abruptly stop taking coffee or tea. Be very gradual in withdrawal.
Try to avoid pubs and clubs with loud music and flashy bright lights
Wear sunglasses wherever possible.
Make sure to have proper ventilation at your place. Do not use a/c for long period of time.
Early morning walking for 10 minutes in fresh air will help you immensely.
If you get time, go to a nearby Ayurveda centre and get massage with Maha Narayana Taila. (once a week).
Or take the oil and do massage yourself once a week and then take bath.
Use an umbrella or hat to protect yourself from direct Sun.
Avoid or restrict green chilli use.
You can have cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger and pepper.
Do not hear to loud sounds.
Try to control your anger.
Lower computer / TV screen brightness
Do not take too hot water bath or too cold water bath.
Watch for those things or foods that trigger a migraine attack. Make a list of them and avoid them.
Migraine headache is a troublesome health complaint in significant number of patients. Some are having hereditary contribution too. In some other victims, junk food, irregular food habits, untimely food intake etc can be traced. Even through these are not the exact factors of origin of the disease, surely they act as provoking factors for the illness.
In addition, stress, night awakening, tour and travel, cosmetics (body spray, deodorants etc),smoking are found to be contributing in worsening this condition. Hence, a well disciplined lifestyle will arm you better to keep away migraine attacks.
Article by Dr Krishnamurthy and Dr Hebbar
By Ms Lisa Shoreland
Although there are many Western treatments that are known to help treat migraines, many of them are packed full of chemicals that could cause side-effects or cause psychological and physical damage to your brain and/or body.
It is believed that migraines are caused by spasms in the arteries that supply blood to the brain, but scientific studies have proven that the cause of migraines could be related to stress and/or an imbalance in the body, such as improper digestion.
So if migraines are caused by stress or an imbalance in the brain or body, why pump your body full of chemicals when yoga can give you a healthy dose of relaxation and balance?
When you’re suffering from a migraine, going to a yoga class may seem like the last thing that will help treat the pounding in your head. Here are two simple breathing exercises you can try at home that are known to be effective in treating migraines:
1. Nadi Sodhana (Alternate nostril breathing)
- Close your right nostril with your thumb
- Use your left nostril to do all the breathing
- Continue for 5 minutes
- Repeat every two hours
This breathing exercise is extremely effective in helping to calm the brain and nervous system. Because we don’t breathe equally in both of our nostrils, doing this exercise can help clean the nasal passages and balance both sides of your brain. (It has been scientifically proven that the function of our nasal cycle is directly related to the function of our brain). Thus trying this breathing exercise will not only clean and rejuvenate your nasal passages, it will also help you feel more balanced as well.
2. Cooling Pranayama
- Sit in a crossed-legged position
- Curl the sides of your tongue so it forms a “tube” shape, or make an “o” shape with your mouth
- Inhale through your tongue
- Exhale through your nose (be sure to keep your mouth closed)
As soon as you exhale you immediately start to feel relaxed as your body’s temperature begins to cool down, (hence the name of this exercise). Essentially the purpose of this breathing exercise is to supply your body with oxygen, which can help give energy to your brain, nerves, and other vital organs while stimulating the endocrine glands.
Saffron is very widely used in Ayurveda treatment. Here is a simple and effective Ayurvedic home remedy using saffron and ghee to relieve migraine type of headache.
What you need –
Saffron – fine powder – 1 small pinch.
Ghee – 1 teaspoon.
How to prepare?
Add the small pinch of saffron to a teaspoon of ghee and mix thoroughly.
How to use?
This fine mixture of saffron and ghee (clarified butter) is instilled into each nostril early in the morning, on empty stomach. (Nasya treatment)
Better to do a facial massage with plain sesame oil or Maha Narayana taila followed by mild hot fomentation with a towel dipped in hot water over the face, before instilling 2 drops of saffron-ghee into each nostril.
After instilling, it is better not to take bath or food for 20 minutes.
Some people may expel mucus from nostrils after this treatment.
As a measure of precaution, it is better to start with one drop to each nostril.
This remedy can be continued for a period of two weeks.
Better to avoid this remedy during cloudy days.
It is best to take up this home remedy after consulting your Ayurvedic doctor.
कुंकुमं घृत संयुक्तं नस्यं च अर्धशिरोव्यथां नाशयेत् क्षणादेव ।
– भारत भैषज्य रत्नाकर
kuṃkumaṃ ghṛta saṃyuktaṃ nasyaṃ ca ardhaśirovyathāṃ nāśayet kṣaṇādeva |
bhārata bhaiṣajya ratnākara
Applying sandalwood paste on the forehead can relieve migraine pain.
The Yogasanas for migraine are designed to balance the blood flow and vascular health of the brain. Shirshana might cause too strong a blood flow to the head, hence often not recommended by Yogis. However, other Asanas that require slight lowering of the head are advised. Often these are coupled with Asanas that make your stay in the top position.
Hastapadasana – Standing forward bend – Here, the head is bent downward.
Padmasana – Lotus pose – This would bring down the blood supply
Setubandhasana – Bridge pose – Causes mild increase of blood flow to brain
The below four poses involve just a small downward bending of head
Shishu Asana – Child pose
Marjarasana – Cat Pose / Cat Stretch
Paschimottanasana – Two-legged forward bend
Adhomukha Shwanasana – Downward facing dog pose – Again this brings extra flow of blood to the brain
Bhujangasana – This brings the head upward
Shavasana – Corpse pose – Finally doing Shavasana causes balancing of blood flow and prevents you from feeling dizzy.