• En

Headache, also known as shirashoola in Ayurveda, is a type of shiroroga (diseases of the head). It may occur as a symptom of some underlying disease or as a problem in itself. Shirashoola is classified into eight types based upon the cause and the dosha involved.

Treatments are determined on the basis of various factors like the clinical condition of the individual and doshas that cause the disease. Some of the treatments are basti karma (enema therapy), nasya karma (snuffing therapy), lepa (coating the affected body part with medications), seka (fomentation), snehana (oleation) and shirodhara (pouring medicated liquids or oils over the head).

Physicians may prescribe following herbs for a headache – pippali (long pepper), peppermint, tulsi (holy basil), shunthi (dried ginger), brahmi (waterhyssop) and jatamansi (muskroot).

Medicines that can be used to treat a headache are mahalaxmi rasa, sitopaladi churna, rasona vati and brahmyadi churna.

  1. Ayurvedic view of headache
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for headache
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for headache
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for headache as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for headache
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for headache
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Headache

As per Ayurveda, both physical and psychological factors are responsible for a headache. Some of the underlying reasons for a headache are vision defects, brain tumour, high blood pressure, stress, indigestion, constipation and abrupt changes in the climate. The signs and symptoms vary depending on the dosha that causes headache.

Ayurveda classifies a headache into the following types:

  • Vataja: This type of headache occurs due to an imbalance in the vata dosha. It usually causes loss of balance while walking.
  • Pittaja: It originates in pitta dosha and leads to a burning sensation along with headache.
  • Kaphaja: It is caused due to kapha and occurs with cold and cough.
  • Sannipatika: The vitiation of tridoshas causes a sannipatika headache, and it could show symptoms from any or all of the types of headaches mentioned above.
  • Ananta vata: In this type of headache, pain is felt all over the head with accompanying nausea and giddiness.
  • Ardhavabhedaka: It involves pain in half of the head.
  • Samkhaka: In this type of headache, pain is confined to the left and right sides of the head, which swells and become red.
  • Suryavarta: This type of headache follows the path of the sun – it starts in the morning, increases till midday, and decreases as the sun goes down.
  • Basti karma
    • Basti refers to a medicated enema. In this procedure, a medicated liquid is used to clean bowels.
    • The type of liquid used in basti karma for headache varies depending on the doshas involved and relieves headache by throwing the vitiated doshas out of body.
    • A combination of herbs mixed with almond oil is used to clean bowels. Almond oil is replaced with castor oil in case of aggravated vata, butter or ghee in aggravated pitta, and ginger powder or honey in aggravated kapha. Triphala enema is used in case of vitiation of all the three doshas.
  • Nasya karma
    • Ayurveda states that nose is the gateway to the head; thus, herbs can be introduced into the body via the nasal route for healing diseases of head, neck and throat.
    • Nasya is useful in providing relief from stiff neck, problems of the cornea and vision-related issues, disorders of the neck, shoulders, ear, nose, mouth, head and cranium.
    • Various nasya herbs are made into a decoction or oil and instilled into the nose. The herbs used in nasya will vary depending on the vitiation of the doshas.
  • Lepa
    • It is a herbal paste that is applied to the head and used to treat disorders of the brain, head and neck.
    • Prior to the application of the paste, medicated herbal oil is applied to the hair and scalp.
    • About one and a half hour after the application of the oil and paste, steam therapy is given, and the treatment ends with a lukewarm medicated bath.
    • It is generally performed only once or, if needed, every alternate day or daily for a week.
  • Virechana (purgation) karma
    • This is given mainly in diseases that involve vitiated pitta.
    • Different purgatives like rhubarb or senna are given to the individual. Purgation eliminates toxins from the body.
    • It is not recommended in individuals who have had a recent fever, and people who suffer from poor digestion, diarrhoea or rectum ulcers. It should also be avoided in children, elderly, weak, pregnant and debilitated individuals.
    • Consumption of rice and lentil soup is advised after the completion of virechana procedure.
  • Seka
    • It is a type of swedana (sudation or sweat therapy) in which a warm cloth or a metal object is placed on the part of the body to be treated.
    • It is the most suitable therapy for headaches due to vitiated vata and kapha doshas.
    • It should not be used in individuals with heart disease and high blood pressure. It should also be avoided in weak and debilitated individuals.
  • Snehana
    • During snehana, a large amount of warm and medicated oil is applied all over the body, and gentle, warm and firm oil massage is given.
    • Sesame oil is commonly used for all the types of doshas. It reduces vata, neutralises kapha and increases pitta. Some other oils can also be used to treat headache based upon the underlying dosha.
  • Shirodhara
    • Shirodhara is an Ayurvedic treatment in which various liquids such as milk or oils mixed with a decoction of herbs are poured over the head in a rhythmic manner.
    • The herbs used for making a decoction for shirodhara vary depending upon the cause of the condition. Lukewarm cow milk with vata-pacifying herbs are used for vataja shiroroga, whereas cold milk and sugarcane juice are used for pittaja shiroroga.

Ayurvedic Herbs for Headache

  • Pippali
    • Pippali treats many underlying factors of headache such as kapha disorders, abdominal distension, cold and cough.
    • It is also useful in removing ama (toxins) from the body.
    • Pippali is used in the form of infusion, powder or oil.
    • It should be used with caution as it increases pitta dosha.
  • Peppermint
    • Peppermint has stimulant, carminative (reduces bloating) and pain-relieving properties.
    • It is useful in the treatment of many conditions like cold, flu, fever, sinusitis and allergies. A headache caused by any of these conditions can be treated with topical application of peppermint oil.
    • Headache occurring due to stress can also be treated with peppermint oil as it opens the mind and senses and promotes emotional well-being.
  • Tulsi
    • Tulsi is a safe and effective herb that can be used for improving blood glucose levels, blood pressure and lipid profiles. It also helps in dealing with and managing psychological and immunological stress.
    • Stress is one of the major underlying causes of headache but it can also be triggered due to other diseases like high blood pressure.
    • Tulsi treats headaches by reducing stress levels and bringing body functions back into balance.
  • Shunthi
    • Shunthi is a wonder drug with pain-relieving, digestive, expectorant and carminative properties.
    • Shunti is a perfect herb for healing all kind of headaches. It reduces vata when used with rock salt, reduces pitta when used with mishri (rock sugar) and kapha when used with honey.
    • Headaches caused by a cough can also be managed by the appropriate use of dried ginger.
  • Brahmi
    • Brahmi is the best rejuvenator for brain cells and nerves. It boosts immunity and helps in the management of nervous disorders and bowel disorders that may lead to a headache.
    • Brahmi should be used with caution and only after consulting a doctor as an excess dose may increase headache and cause itching.
  • Jatamansi (muskroot)
    • Muskroot is useful as a nervine tonic and aromatic. It also promotes digestion.
    • It improves the overall strength, clears impurities from blood, treats a nervous headache, and is also helpful in the treatment of respiratory, digestive and gastric disorders that may be the underlying cause of a headache.

Ayurvedic Medicines for Headache

  • Mahalaxmivilasa rasa
    • Some of the ingredients of mahalaxmivilasa rasa are suvarna bhasma (calcined preparation of gold), raupya (silver) bhasma, abhraka (mica) bhasma, tamra (copper) bhasma, vanga (tin) bhasma, mauktika (pearl) bhasma and naga (lead) bhasma.
    • It increases immunity and strength.
    • It helps in the treatment of a headache caused by vitiated vata dosha, weakness due to long-standing vata diseases, and headaches due to ringing in ears.
  • Sitopaladi churna
    • Sitopaladi churna consists of mishri, vanslochan (bamboo resin), chhoti pippali (a smaller variety of long pepper), chhoti elaichi (green cardamom) and dalchini (cinnamon) in different proportions.
    • It is useful in the treatment of fevers associated with flu and respiratory disorders. It starts relieving symptoms in three to four days and treats the condition within eight weeks.
    • Sitopaladi churna is useful in treating headaches caused due to cold.
  • Rasona vati
    • Rasona vati contains garlic, cumin, rock salt, processed sulphur, dried ginger, black pepper, long pepper, asafoetida and lemon juice.
    • These ingredients are known to manage kapha disorders and treat headache.
  • Brahmyadi churna
    • Brahmyadi churna contains brahmi, shankhapushpi (aloe weed), jatamansi, jyotishmati (staff tree), vacha (calamus) and ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) in equal parts.
    • It helps manage high blood pressure and symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and giddiness associated with the condition.

As treatments vary according to numerous factors and an individual’s prakriti (constitution), consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor to get appropriate medications and treatments for your specific complaints.

Do’s

  • Include cereals like wheat, pulses like black gram and fruits and vegetables like paravala (pointed gourd), brinjal, pomegranate, phalsa (falsa), grapes, garlic and drumsticks.
  • Include clarified butter, oil, milk, coconut water, sesame and sour vinegar in your diet.
  • Gentle massage (whole body and head) and fomentation
  • Adequate rest.

Don’ts

  • Do not include the kodrava and samvaka varieties of rice in the diet.
  • Do not consume green grams, chickpea, pigeon pea and peas.
  • Do not eat jamun (Indian blackberry) and bitter gourd.
  • Avoid betel nut and excessively heavy meals.
  • Avoid over-exercise, use of an uneven bed, suppression of natural urges, and staying awake at night.

Migraine is a type of headache which is severe in intensity and is experienced periodically. A clinical study was done to evaluate the effectiveness of Ayurvedic therapy in combination with yoga in the management of a migraine headache. In a group of 86 people, a total of 30 participants were enrolled in the Ayurveda-yoga group and were given virechana therapy followed by yoga for a period of 90 days. It was found that  headache was relieved in a majority of the participants irrespective of their body's constitution and the dosha dominance. Thus, integrated Ayurveda and yoga therapy can be used in the management of a migraine headache and for improving the overall quality of life.

Another study evaluated the efficacy of topically applied peppermint oil for the treatment of a tension-type headache. The efficacy of peppermint oil was compared with synthetic drug paracetamol and the effectiveness was found to be comparable. It is a recommended standard treatment for acute management of a tension-type headache in individual aged six years and older.

Although the herbs and medicines stated above are effective in the treatment of a headache, they should be used only after consulting an Ayurvedic physician. Some of the medicines may have side effects, e.g., pippali causes a rise in the levels of pitta and an overdose of brahmi may cause a headache instead of treating it. 

Headache is a very common problem that occurs due to various causes. A headache may occur as an independent condition or as a symptom of other underlying diseases. Irrespective of the cause, it affects the quality of life and needs to be managed appropriately. Various Ayurvedic treatments like snehana, nasya karma, etc., provide immense relief from pain and help you focus on your daily chores. Also, herbs and medicines such as peppermint oil and ginger have been used since ancient times to treat diseases effectively and have been proven scientifically for their effectiveness in the management of a headache.

Dr. Gurpreet Virmani

Dr. Gurpreet Virmani

Ayurveda
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Shradha Chaubey

Dr. Shradha Chaubey

Ayurveda
4 Years of Experience

Dr. Sunil Kilaniya

Dr. Sunil Kilaniya

Ayurveda
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Tanushri Yeole

Dr. Tanushri Yeole

Ayurveda

References

  1. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Ayurvedic Standard Treatment Guidelines. [Internet]
  2. Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. Handbook of Ayurveda .Concept Publishing Company (1987) : Delhi, India.
  3. Asit K Panja, Abichal Chattopadhyaya, Supriyo Chaudhuri. A comprehensive outlook of Sannipata. Ayu. 2011 Apr-Jun; 32(2): 154–164, PMID: 22408295.
  4. K. Sivabalaji et al. Ayurvedic management of Episodic Tension Headache : A Case Report . International Journal of Research IN. 7(6), Nov- Dec 2016.
  5. Göbel H et al. [Peppermint oil in the acute treatment of tension-type headache].. Schmerz. 2016 Jun;30(3):295-310, PMID: 27106030.
  6. Negar Jamshidi, Marc M. Cohen. The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017; 2017: 9217567, PMID: 28400848.
  7. Cleveland Clinic. [Internet]. Cleveland, Ohio. Chronic Cough Overview
  8. Vaidya PB, Vaidya BS, Vaidya SK. Response to Ayurvedic therapy in the treatment of migraine without aura.. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Jan;1(1):30-6, PMID: 20532095.
  9. Arshiya Ali. Effect of Brahmyadi Churna (Brahmi, Shankhapushpi, Jatamansi, Jyotishmati, Vacha, Ashwagandha) and tablet Shilajatu in essential hypertension: An observational study. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2015 Oct-Dec; 6(4): 148–153, PMID: 26605154.
  10. Sharma VM, Manjunath NK, Nagendra HR, Ertsey C. Combination of Ayurveda and Yoga therapy reduces pain intensity and improves quality of life in patients with migraine headache.. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2018 Aug;32:85-91, PMID: 30057065.
cross
Ask your health query now and get connected with a doctor within 10 minutes!