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.
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