Migraine is called ardhavabhedaka in Ayurveda. The word ardhavabhedaka is made of two parts, ardha means ‘half’ and bhedaka means ‘piercing or penetrating’; thus, migraine is a sudden and recurrent attack of piercing/penetrating pain in the head that varies in frequency, intensity and distribution. It is the second most common cause of shiroroga (diseases of the head). Diseases of head vary based on the intensity and site of pain; frequency, time of onset and duration of the pain; and precipitating and relieving factors.

Ayurveda describes many treatments for migraine such as seka (fomentation), virechana karma (purgation therapy), rakta mokshana (blood-letting process), basti karma (enema therapy), nasya karma (snuffing therapy), kavala graha (oil pulling), shirodhara and lepa (coating the affected body part with medications). The herbs and medicines used in Ayurveda for the management of migraine are adrak (ginger), tagara (Indian valerian), tribhuvankirti rasa, godanti (gypsum) mishrana and sitopaladi churna.

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

Migraine is a type of shiroroga that results from a combination of blood vessel enlargement and the secretion of chemicals from the nerves that coils around these blood vessels. It causes a piercing and breaking pain in half of the head. Ayurveda states that numerous factors such as lifestyle, diet, environment and climate may lead to a migraine. Some factors such as consumption of dry foods; overeating; exposure to breeze, cold or dew; excessive sexual activity; suppression of natural urges such as belching and defecating; smoking or exposure to smoke; over-exercise; too hot or cold climate; severe sweating; excessive or continuous sleep; drinking excess water or alcohol; the presence of intestinal worms; and unaccustomed odour may lead to a migraine. Migraine usually causes stiffness of the neck and jaw, sensitivity to light. It may also cause a runny nose.

Like all other head diseases, migraine is also caused by tridosha imbalance (three doshas) with a specific dosha dominance that varies from individual to individual. Usually, it involves vitiation of vata and pitta. Various treatments are prescribed based on dosha dominance to mitigate the symptoms and prevent recurrence of the condition.

  • Seka
    • Seka is a type of swedana (sudation or sweat therapy) in which a heated cloth or a metal object is used to provide warmth to the affected part of the body. The heated material is placed directly on the part of the body to be treated.
    • It is a beneficial therapy for migraine caused by vata and kapha doshas.
    • Seka should be avoided in individuals with heart diseases and high blood pressure. It should not be used in the treatment of weak and debilitated individuals.
  • Virechana karma
    • It is one of the main panchakarma (five treatments) therapies with therapeutically significant benefits in the treatment of many conditions.
    • Different purgatives like rhubarb, senna or aloe are given to the individual to induce vomiting. It eliminates and cleanses the toxins from the body.
    • In addition to migraine, virechana also treats many other conditions like abdominal tumours, piles, ulcers, gout, etc.
    • It is not recommended in individuals with conditions like recent fevers, poor digestion, diarrhoea and 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.
  • Rakta mokshana
    • Rakta mokshana involves the release and elimination of the toxic blood from affected sites of the body.
    • The blood is usually dark or purplish at the beginning (impure blood), and as soon as bright red-coloured blood is observed coming out of the body, the process is considered to be complete.
    • Only a prick at certain sites can be useful in relieving the pain. e.g., a prick for rakta mokshana at the eyebrow relieves a headache.
    • It is very useful in pitta disorders such as disorders of the liver, spleen, and skin, and for headaches.
    • Rakta mokshana should not be used in conditions like pregnancy, menstruation, anaemia, oedema, leukaemia, and cirrhosis. It should also be avoided in babies and the elderly and weak individuals.
  • Basti karma
    • In this panchakarma therapy, an enema is given with medicated decoctions or oils in combination with herbs to clear the bowel.
    • The combination of herbs infused in the liquid or oil varies depending on the dosha causing the condition.
    • A triphala enema is useful in the case of vitiation of all the three doshas.
  • Nasya karma
    • According to Ayurveda, nose is the gateway to the head. Thus, using herbs via the nasal route could be useful in healing the diseases of the head, neck and throat.
    • In Nasya karma, a decoction or oil infused with the properties of herbs are instilled in the nose. The herbs used in a nasya will vary depending on the vitiation of the doshas.
    • Nasya is useful in relieving stiff neck, problems of the cornea and vision, pain in the neck, disorders of various parts of the upper body such as the mouth, head, shoulders, ear, nose and cranium.
  • Kavala graha
    • Kavala graha has a very powerful detoxifying effect and is thus used in Ayurvedic treatment for various diseases.
    • In this process, oil is taken in the mouth, gargled for few minutes, and then thrown out. It is a cleansing technique in which various oils are used to clean the oral cavity.
    • Chandanadi taila (chandanadi oil) and mahanarayana taila are used to perform kavala graha in clinical practice.
  • Shirodhara
    • Shirodhara is a very effective Ayurvedic method to manage headaches. In this technique, various liquids like milk or oils infused with the properties of a herbal decoction are poured over the head in a rhythmic manner.
    • The herbs used for making a decoction for shirodhara are selected on the basis of the cause of migraine. Lukewarm cow milk mixed with vata-pacifying herbs is useful in the management of vataja (caused by vata) shiroroga, and sugarcane juice and cold milk are helpful for managing pittaja shiroroga.
  • Lepa
    • A lepa refers to the application of a herbal paste to the head and is mainly used to treat disorders of the brain, head and neck. The herbs used in the preparation of the paste for migraine treatment are haridra (turmeric), saariva (Indian sarsaparilla), vidanga (false black pepper) and maricha (black pepper).
    • Before the application of the paste to the head, a medicated herbal oil is applied to the hair and scalp. After one and a half hour, steam therapy is given followed by a lukewarm medicated bath.
    • It is generally performed only once or every alternate day or daily for a week.

Ayurvedic Herbs for Migraine

  • Adrak
    • Adrak is useful in treating many conditions and it mainly acts as a digestive, pain-relieving agent, expectorant and stimulant.
    • It is a wonder drug that helps in treating diseases caused due to vata, pitta or kapha dosha. A reduction in vata is seen when adrak is taken with rock salt, it reduces pitta when taken with rock candy and reduces kapha when taken with honey.
    • In addition to the treatment of migraine, it is also useful in the treatment of other types of headaches, nausea, vomiting and diabetes.
  • Tagara
    • Tagara is one of the best herbs for vata disorders. It acts by cleansing and removing ama (toxins) from the body.
    • In addition to the treatment of migraine, Tagara also treats cough, exhaustion and mental stress.
    • It should be used with extreme caution as an excessive dose can cause paralysis.

Ayurvedic Medicines for Migraine

  • Tribhuvankirti rasa
    • It is a herbo-mineral formulation that contains many ingredients. Some of the components of this medicine include herbs like shunthi (dried ginger), maricha, pippali (long pepper), tulsi (holy basil), dhattura (devil’s snare), and adrak.
    • Depending upon the dosha dominance, it is used with various bhasmas (calcined preparations) like godanti bhasma, shringa (deer horn) bhasma, and abhrak (mica) bhasma.
    • Tribhuvankirti rasa is useful in treating fever, inducing sweating and relieving pain. It can help in the management of various conditions like migraine, influenza, laryngitis, pharyngitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, and tonsillitis.
  • Godanti mishrana
    • It contains godanti bhasma, jahar mohra (serpentine) pishti (powdered preparation) and rasadi vati.
    • It can be used alone or in combination with other medical therapies to effectively treat a migraine.
  • Sitopaladi churna
    • The various ingredients in sitopaladi churna are mishri (rock sugar), vanslochan (bamboo resin), chhoti pippali (a smaller variety of long pepper), chhoti elaichi (green cardamom) and dalchini (cinnamon) in fixed proportions.
    • In addition to migraine, it is also effective in the treatment of fevers, flu and respiratory disorders. This medicine helps relieve symptoms in the initial three to four days, and the condition is treated completely within eight weeks.
    • Sometimes, when an individual has a cold, excess kapha travels to the head, causing a headache. Sitopaladi churna is useful in treating such a headache.

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

Do’s

  • Include the following food in your regular diet:
  • Gentle massage, fomentation, and gentle and mild pressing on your head along with sufficient rest in your routine is also recommended.
  • Perform meditation and yoga regularly.

Don’ts

  • Do not consume some varieties of rice such as kodrava and samvaka.
  • Avoid eating green grams, chickpeas, pigeon peas and peas.
  • Avoid eating betel nuts and bitter gourd.
  • Avoid excessively heavy meals and eating before the digestion of a previous meal.
  • Avoid excessive workout, suppression of natural urges, sleeping on an uneven bed and frequent night awakening.

A comparative clinical study involving 44 participants indicated the efficacy of laghu sutashekhara rasa and nasya karma with brihat dashmoola taila in individuals with migraine. Both the therapies noted improvement in severity, duration and frequency of pain, nausea, vomiting, vertigo and aura. The group on combined therapy showed augmented results as compared to those on individual therapy.

Astudy involving 30 participants indicated the efficacy of combination treatment including nimbadi guggulu and mashadi kashaya along with nasya karma with shatahvadi taila. About 60% of the participants experienced complete relief from migraine whereas the remaining 40% reported marked relief. This observational clinical study proved the efficacy of combination therapy in treating migraine.

Another study evaluating the efficacy of gunja taila nasya and pathyadi ghana vati reported improvement in the clinical condition of the individuals treated using these therapies. It concluded that this combination is an effective, safe and dependable method for the management of migraine.

Although herbs are known to be safe and effective in the treatment of migraine, they should be used with extreme precaution and only when prescribed by an Ayurvedic physician. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines should be used in doses and frequency prescribed by the doctor as overdoses are harmful to health and may prove to be dangerous, e.g., an overdose of tagara can cause central paralysis.

Specific care is needed while treating children, elderly, and pregnant women and the clinical condition of the individual is usually taken into consideration before recommending therapy, e.g., rakta mokshana is not performed in pregnant women, babies and those with bleeding disorders.

Headache is a common complaint faced by everyone at some point in their life, and a migraine is the second most common cause of headache after a tension-type headache. Many synthetic pain-relieving drugs are used to provide temporary relief from headache.

Ayurveda identifies the root cause of the disease and treats the doshas involved. Age-old Ayurvedic techniques have been successfully used in the management of migraine and preventing relapse. Consulting an Ayurvedic physician and using herbal remedies not only relieves the condition but also improves the overall quality of life.

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. Naveen D, Praveen kumar T. Short Communication Open Access Ayurvedic Resolution to Migraine. Journal of Traditional Medicine & Clinical Naturopathy, (2014)
  3. National Institute of Indian Medical Heritage (NIIMH). Ardhāva-Bhedaka. Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS); Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India.
  4. Prakash Balendu Vaidya, Babu S. R. Vaidya, Sureshkumar K. Vaidya. Response to Ayurvedic therapy in the treatment of migraine without aura. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Jan-Mar; 1(1): 30–36, PMID: 20532095.
  5. Vaidya Bhagwan Dash. Handbook of Ayurveda .Concept Publishing Company (1987) : Delhi, India.
  6. Dr Shyam Kumar, Dr Deeraj BC, Dr Ashwini MJ. Conceptual Study of Migraine in Ayurveda (Ardhavbhedaka). International Journal of Trend in Scientific Research and Development, Vol.2 Issue 4.
  7. Nithyananda Niraharee under Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam. Pancha Kriya – 5 Yogic Cleansing Practices. Bidadi, Bangalore [Internet].
  8. Mustafa T, Srivastava KC. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in migraine headache.. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Jul;29(3):267-73, PMID: 2214812.
  9. Dr. Sheelpriya R. Walde, Dr. R. Rachana Devendra. [link]. World Journal Of Pharmaceutical Research, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2017; 1219-1236.
  10. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Essential Drug List - Ayurveda. [Internet]
  11. Hemalparekh, Manjusha Rajagopala. Aclinical study on the role of Brihat Dashamoola Taila Nasyaand Laghu Sutashekhara Rasa in the management ofArdhavabhedaka w.s.r. to Migraine. Institute for Post Graduate Teaching and Research in Ayurveda, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan.-Mar.) 2009, Pp 29-33 29.
  12. Ajay Kumar Sharma, Vikas Singh. Clinical Evaluation of Gunja Taila Nasya and Pathyadi Ghana Vati in the management of Migrane ( Ardhav Abhedaka). National Institute of Ayurveda, Vol. 35; Jan- Dec 2014.
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