Headache Caused By Vata Dosha – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Any type of pain usually has Vata as root cause. This is especially true with headaches. Headaches of Vata are called Vataja Shiroroga in Ayurveda.

Introduction, causes, symptoms

Meaning and definition of Vataja Shiroroga
When a person suddenly suffers from severe form of headache without any obvious causes or due to unknown causes, which aggravates especially during night time and subsides on tightly banding the head or by giving sudation, he is said to be suffering from headache caused by aggravation of vata.
Read – Tension Headache Ayurvedic Treatment, Remedies, Tips, Herbs

Causes and Pathogenesis
Causes and pathogenesis explained in the context of ‘General and Common causes and pathogenesis of all Shirorogas’ is also applicable to Vata headache. It is also caused by the same causes and follows the same course of pathogenesis. Vata is the chief dosha involved in causation of all types of headache / shirorogas.
Read – Main Cause For Diseases As Per Ayurveda

Symptoms of Vataja Headache

  • Throbbing pain in head and eyes
  • Tearing / splitting pain in the temples or over the eyebrows
  • Presence of severe pain as if head is blasting and feel of dizziness in between the eyebrows and forehead
  • Pain vanishes suddenly, without any reasons, as it had come
  • Unusual noises / feeling of deafness and pain in the ears
  • A feel as if someone is pulling the eyeballs out of its sockets
  • Person feels as if the head is rotating very fast (severe giddiness) and also as if all the joints of the head are becoming loose, as if someone is separating his head from rest of his body
  • Severe pulsation in all the blood vessels of the head and neck
  • Feel of tightness in the shoulder blades, neck and jaws, as if someone is tightly gripping them (gripping pain, discomfort)
  • Intolerance to light / sunlight
  • Watery discharges from the nose
  • Pain reduces on application of oil over the scalp, by pressing the head gently, by providing heat to the head (sudation, fomentation) and by tightly banding the head with a cloth
  • If these symptoms and painful conditions explained above appear in the whole body, it is called ‘shirastapa’ and when they occur in half portion of the head; it is called ‘ardhavabhedaka’.
    Read – Migraine – Ayurvedic treatment, Herbs, Home Remedies

Grading, modern correlation

Grading of Vataja headache by master Vagbhata
Seeing the above said description of Vataja headache as given by Acharya Vagbhata, ardhavabhedaka which is often compared to hemicrania or migraine type of headache falls under the category of vataja headache. According to master Vagbhata, vataja headache presents in 3 forms –

  • Vata headache – when the above said symptoms are present in the complete head
  • Ardhavabhedaka – when the same symptoms are present in a part of head i.e. half part of the head
  • Shirastapa – when the same symptoms are seen to be evident in the complete body
    Read – How To Get Rid Of Headache? 20 Things That You Should Avoid

Vagbhata has also mentioned the time limits of manifestation and expression of shirastapa. He explains that shirastapa shows its peak aggravation and expresses with its signs and symptoms over a period of 15 days to 30 days and many times subsides all by itself. If this condition aggravates to severe grade, it makes the person deaf and blind.
Read – Trimarmeeya Chikitsa – Charaka Chikitsa 26th Chapter

Vatik behaviour of Vataja headache
Since Vataja headache has been initiated by vitiated vata, the headache behaves according to the behaviour of vata. Nature of headache is unpredictable and inconsistent. It takes its origin from non-specific causes. It increases during night time, due to cold, dryness in the environment, cold and dry foods, meant for increasing vata. Similarly, the remedies for vata like warmth, banding, oil application, pressing, massaging, hot and vata alleviating comforts give solace in this condition too.
Read – Vata Dosha – Mastermind Behind All Body And Mind Activities

Probable modern correlation
Vata type of headaches can be closely compared to ‘Neuralgia’ or ‘Neuralgic Headache’ / ‘Nervous Headache’. This type of headache has its origin from nervous system and is often caused due to degeneration of nervous system. (read more)

It also happens due to diseases of blood, deficit blood and oxygenation to the head / nervous system, tooth disorders, general debility (due to malnutrition or destruction of tissues) and enormous stress.
Read – Stress Causes, Types, Tips On How To Handle Stress

The best way to tackle this form of headache is to keep away the causing factors, stress and get rid of the causative conditions. Along with that, remedies, measures, simple methods, rest and comforts so as to ease the pain should be implemented.

Sanskrit verse Vataj Shirorog

Ayurvedic treatment

Read – How To Balance Vata Dosha? Line Of Treatment And Reasoning
Ayurvedic treatment for Vataja Headaches
All vata alleviating remedies, comforts, therapies, food and lifestyle changes will help in reversing and treating the vataja headaches effectively.

Principles of treating Vataja Headaches
All the measures mentioned in the treatment of vata diseases i.e. oleation, external usage of oil treatments, sudation, massage, showering or stream pouring of medicated fluids and oil enemas etc should be skilfully used in the treatment of vataja headaches. Milk should be used as a drink or after drink. Ghee and oil should also be taken orally.
Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Vata Dosha Body Type

Snehana / administration of medicated fats
Medicated fats are the best in handling vata conditions including the vataja headache. It can be administered internally (oleation therapy) and externally.
Read – Oleation – Snehakarma Dose, Benefits, Side Effects, Management

Internal administration of medicated fats – medicated fats in the form of ghee, oil, muscle fat and bone marrow or combination of 2 / 3 / or all of them should be given for oral consumption. Sushruta recommends ghee and oil for oral consumption.
Read – Vicharana And Achcha Snehapana: Utility, Practical aspects

External administration of fats – this can be administered in the form of oil massage, stream pouring of medicated oils / ghee over the head and other treatments done on the head using fats i.e. murdhni taila procedures. Head massage with medicated oil is recommended as an effective remedy in curing vataja headache.

Medicated oils used –
Rasnadi taila
Baladi Taila
Ksheerabala taila
Narayana taila,
Dashamula taila etc
Read – Ayurvedic Head Massage: Benefits, Procedure

Medicines for Shiroroga From Sahasra Yoga Text Book
Mashadi Taila
Triphaladi Taila
Asanabilwadi Taila
Manjishtadi Taila
Bala Hathadi Taila
Bala Dhatryadi Taila
Tungadrunadi Taila
Amrutadi Taila
Kacchuradi Choorna (brihat)
Nasika Choorna
Korit Talam
Shirastoda Gutika
Villam Pacchotyadi Taila
Kayyonyadi Taila
Jati Manyaladi Taila

Swedana / sudation
Heat is antagonistic to vata. Heat application to the head and body through sudation is recommended in vataja type of headaches. Hot compresses over head and neck, following a soothing massage will help.
Read – 4 Types Of Swedana As Per Sushruta And Vagbhata

Nasya / nasal medications
Errhine with milk medicated with Brihat Panchamula – Milk should be processed in the kshirapaka method using 5 herbs constituting Brihat Panchamula (5 greater roots). This milk should be filtered and made lukewarm. The drops of this milk shall be instilled in the nostrils to cure vataja headache.
Read – Nasya therapy benefits types indication – Ashtang Hruday Sutrasthan 20

The Brihat Panchmula consists of the roots of –

Shwasakutara rasa nasya – Shwasakutara Ras, a herbo-chemical preparation in the form of tablet should be crushed. The powder should be instilled in the nose in the form of nasal medication.
Read – Shwas Kuthar Ras – Benefits, Dosage, Ingredients, Side Effect

Kulira Taila Nasya – After proper oleation, the person suffering from vataja headache should be administered errhine with oil processed with meat of a crab.

Varunadi ghrita nasya – Ghee prepared from milk processed with Varunadi group of herbs should be instilled into the nostrils.
Read – Varanadi ghrita Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects, Ingredients

Trivrit Ghrita and Balataila nasya – nasal medication should be done with Trivrit Ghrita explained in the context of Mahavyadhi Chikitsa chapter and also with Balataila explained in the context of Mudagarbha chapter. The same ghee shall be used for administering enema, massage, oleation and stream pouring.
Read – Bala Tel Benefits, How To Use, Ingredients, Side Effects

Vasti – Enemas –
Medicated enemas are the best remedies for vata disorders and can be readily used in the treatment of vataja headaches too. Unctuous enemas are especially beneficial.
Decoction enemas which are nourishing shall also be used. If cleansing is needed evacuation enemas may be initially given and later followed by oil / ghee enemas.
Tricrit Ghrita and Bala Taila are recommended for enema purpose but any vata alleviating oil or ghee or a combination of both may be skilfully used.
Read – Basti Chikitsa: Benefits, Routes, Types, Indications, Equipment

Upanaha / medicinal poultices –

  1. Aguru upanaha – Aquilaria agallocha should be pounded into paste and fried in oil. This paste should be used for poultice and should be applied warm.
  2. Jeevaniya upanaha – the paste of the herbs constituting Jeevaniya group of herbs should be heated / fried in oil and used warm for application of poultice. (Read Jeevaniya group of herbs)
  3. Matsya Mamsa upanaha – hot / warm poultices prepared from the meat of fish should be applied.
  4. Tiladi upanaha – sesame seeds, rice and black gram added with salt should be cooked. This preparation should be applied warm in the form of poultice so as to relieve vataja headache.
    Read – Vata Disorders (Vatavyadhi): Definition, Causes, Symptoms

Snaihika dhumapana / unctuous medicated smoking –
Herbal smoking with unctuous substances / medicament is beneficial to ward off the headache caused by vitiated vata.

Diet to follow

Vatarogahara annapana – Anti-vata foods and dietetic recommendations –

  • Foods should be rich in sweet, sour and salt tastes, unctuous and hot.
  • Avoid eating foods which are cold, rich in astringent, bitter and pungent tastes, dry in nature, stale, preserved and eating untimely food.
  • Avoid wrong combinations of food and untoward fasting.
  • Food should be taken along with meat soup, unctuous substances / fats like ghee, oil etc, milk or processed food materials.
  • Patient should be served milk processed with Varanadi gana group of herbs after adding with ghee and sugar.
  • At night time, green gram, black gram or horse gram should be boiled and processed with spicy and hot materials and ghee and served. Later the patient should be given warm milk as after drink.
    Read – Bad Food Combinations And Solution As Per Ayurveda

Mardana, Abhyanga / Soothing Herbal oil massages –
Vata alleviating herbal oils should be used to give soothing massage and gentle fist blows to the entire body, specifically the head.

Lepa / application of medicinal pastes, anointments –

  1. Kushtadi lepa – Paste of Saussurea lappa and roots of Castor plant prepared by grinding them in buttermilk or fermented liquid.
  2. Kushtadi lepa 2 – Paste of Saussurea lappa, castor roots and ginger ground in buttermilk is beneficial.
  3. Muchkunda lepa – Paste of Pterospermum acerifolium should be applied warm to the person suffering from vataja headache.
  4. Devadarvadi lepa – Paste of Cedrus deodara, Saussurea lappa, Valeriana wallichii, Nardostochys jatamamsi and ginger ground in sour fermented liquid (kanji) or buttermilk should be mixed with little ghee and applied hot. Milk processed with the decoction of same herbs should be used for dhara (stream pouring over the head).
  5. Vataghna aushadha siddha payasa lepa – A sweetened preparation prepared with milk processed with the paste and decoction of vata alleviating herbs should be applied warm over the headache.
  6. Matsya mamsa lepa – boiled meat of fish should be ground on stone, mixed with salt and applied warm over the painful head.
  7. Chandanadi lepam – The paste of sandalwood, lotus, Saussurea lappa and long pepper should be applied.
    Read – Lepa Kalpana: Ayurvedic Dosage Forms For External Application

Shirobasti / Shirovasti – oil pooling over the head
Shirobasti is one of the four procedures of oil treatments called murdni taila (read more) done over the head. Shirobasti is pooling of medicated oil on the head, within a cabin constructed by leather and sealed with its junction with the scalp by the paste of black gram, for a stipulated time period.
Read – Shirovasti: Indications, Benefits, Procedure, Limitations

This is one of the best treatments for many vata disorders, including vataja type of headache.
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