How Ayurveda Can Help Treat Migraines
For some, few things are more dreaded or painful than a migraine. Migraines are intense headaches that bring about a serious pulsing, throbbing sensation. They can at times be accompanied by nausea, visual sensitivity or difficulty speaking when they take the form of a more severe attack. Furthermore, leading up the headaches themselves, migraine symptoms like neck stiffness, food cravings and fatigue can appear a day or two in advance.
While the direct causes of migraines are not fully understood, it is believed that certain lifestyle habits can trigger migraines, such as the consumption of alcohol and other inflammatory foods, exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants and excessive stress. It also appears to be linked to genetics.
For many, conventional pharmaceutical treatments do little to alleviate their frequency or intensity. By contrast, an Ayurveda-informed approach offers a holistic, natural way to treat migraines. Many Ayurvedic remedies work to treat the root cause of an ailment, thereby alleviating the variety of symptoms that can manifest as a result. In the case of migraines, Ayurvedic therapies like panchakarma can help mitigate factors like stress, diet and digestion that all affect one’s experience of migraines.
Ayurveda views migraine as resulting from an imbalance of the Pitta dosha, which causes the buildup of pressure and heat, leading to burning, pulsating sensations. As a result, simple lifestyle changes like eating more Pitta-balancing foods can help cool down the body’s internal balance, alleviating the onset of migraines.
There are also a number of other Ayurvedic practices and remedies that are lauded for their ability to treat migraines. Here’s a breakdown of some of these practices, which not only help mitigate migraines but also promote overall health and well-being.
According to Ayurveda, the pain resulting from migraines, including sensitivity to light and sound, derive from the accumulation of toxins in the head. Undergoing a panchakarma, which is a multi-day detoxification program, is a powerful way to cleanse the body of the toxins that contribute to migraines while also reducing stress, promoting immunity and enhancing cognitive awareness. Typically, you can undergo a panchakarma with the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can formulate a personalized treatment plan depending on your dosha and specific ailments.
Traditional detoxifying elements of panchakarma include:
- Vamana: Therapeutic vomiting to clear the respiratory and upper gastrointestinal tract
- Nasya karma: Pouring medicated oil into the nose to treat migraine, congestion and facial paralysis
As you can see, panchakarma is intended to deeply purify the body of toxins, thereby alleviating conditions beyond just migraine, such as bronchitis, arthritis, indigestion and insomnia. If you have the opportunity, we highly recommend trying it out to promote powerful detoxification and purification. You can also try a number of panchakarma techniques at home with our DIY panchakarma guide.
One practice often carried out during a panchakarma that is especially effective for migraines is shirodhara. Shirodhara involves pouring warm, medicated oil onto the forehead, which helps restore doshic balance and soothe the nervous system. Especially given that migraine pain is often most prominent in the forehead area, this is a particularly useful practice for alleviating that pain. It also helps to and reduce stress, anxiety and mental confusion, all of which can accompany migraines.
Oil pulling is a detoxifying wellness practice that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Oil pulling involves swishing 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the mouth for 10-20 minutes in the morning. The oil helps remove toxins and impurities from the mouth, thereby potentially mitigating the toxic buildup of migraines. If you’re just starting out, you can use coconut oil or sesame oil, which both contain powerful cleansing, antibacterial properties. Or you can try out our UMA Pure Detox Oil Pulling Treatment, which is formulated with a targeted blend of detoxifying and rejuvenating peppermint, coconut, sesame and clove.
As both research and Ayurvedic wisdom have demonstrated, the benefits of yoga on both our mental and physical health are immense: it reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, boosts circulation, promotes mental and emotional grounding and more. As one study showed, the benefits of yoga extend to migraines, too—those who practiced yoga experienced less severe and less frequent migraine attacks. Poses especially helpful for migraines include Child’s Pose, Downward Dog and Bridge Pose.
One hugely beneficial element of yogic practice is Pranayama, or yogic breathwork. Learning calming, grounding breathing techniques can help you mitigate migraine pains and their accompanying feelings of stress, anxiety and panic. According to Ayurveda, different breathing techniques are suitable for different doshas. To learn more about how to tailor your breathing for maximal calm, check out our blog on Pranayama here.
Though migraines might seem out of our control, a holistic, Ayurveda-informed approach can make a serious impact on our overall experience, boosting our mental, physical and emotional health all at once.