Ever experienced a migraine? It can be a debilitating experience, and, frustratingly, sometimes its onset a total mystery. I have investigated the Western science and the Ayurvedic perspective to get some insight into this painful phenomena.
Migraines are pressure headaches, much different than tension headaches. They come as a result of vasodilation of cerebral arteries, which increases intracranial and arterial pressure.
Tension headaches typically happen when neck and shoulder muscles tighten, usually due to stress. Massage can work wonders for tension headaches, but unfortunately, tends not to do much for migraines.
Studies show that people from all walks of life suffer from occasional migraines, although curiously, they are most prevalent in women, people between 35 and 45, and in populations with lower incomes (under $10,000 per year), suggesting that stress may be a contributing factor.1
An estimated 18% of women and 6% of men experience sporadic migraine headaches.2 Studies show that intermittent migraines can be spurred by many factors.
Contributors to Intermittent Migraines
- weather changes
Ayurveda + Migraines
According to Ayurveda, a common culprit behind occasional migraines is stress and digestion, as well as the body’s inability to effectively detox. Vessels in the head can dilate in an attempt to release toxins, causing pressure and pain inside the skull.
In a similar way that skin dilates in order to sweat and remove waste, vessels in the head can do the same, but only if some other detox channel has been compromised.
Newly discovered brain and central nervous system lymph vessels called glymphatics may play a role here. If brain lymph becomes congested, waste can accumulate, increasing pressure and forcing a vasodilation headache. The key here is to address the source of lymphatic congestion.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, stress is processed through the gut and can compromise digestion, the source of lymphatic flow. Addressing underlying digestive and lymphatic issues is key to resolving this issue.
Learn more about brain lymphatics and the lymphatic system here.
Ayurvedic Therapy for Occasional Headache
To distinguish whether you have a pressure or tension headache, try the following:
- Lie down and apply hot water bottles or heating pad to both feet, with most heat hitting your soles.
- Apply cool ice cloth to forehead.
- Rest for 20 minutes.
The cool cloth on the forehead will constrict swollen vessels in the head, while heat on the feet will dilate their many blood vessels. Blood and toxins are shunted away from the head in the direction of the new exit ramp: vasodilated feet. If this resolves the issue, then it is a pressure-related concern.
If this trick worked, it’s time to determine which detox system may be involved. Each Ayurvedic body type has its strengths and weaknesses with regard to detox pathways. Knowing your dosha can help you know where to start addressing the problem.
The vata body type is hypermetabolic in nature, both physiologically and mentally. Vata types think and act fast, tend to have dry skin and, under stress, are prone to occasional constipation. If elimination concerns linger, toxins from the gut can reabsorb back to the lymph and liver and enter the brain lymphs and bloodstream.
Under stress, blood vessels can constrict, followed by a rebound dilation. Dilation can cause pressure, pain, and toxicity from undigested material to flood into the dilated vessels and neck in an attempt to release it from the body.
Headaches in pittas are typically due to liver congestion and excess stress that has irritated and inflamed the intestinal tract. In the same way toxins accumulate from the gut back to the liver in vatas, in pittas, congestion and toxicity due to liver and sometimes gallbladder congestion can pass impurities to the bloodstream.
Liver congestion predisposes cranial vessels to inflame and dilate, which can cause an occasional migraine.
Read my Safe Liver + Gallbladder Cleansing eBook for an effective strategy for pitta-related headaches.
Headaches in kaphas are typically a result of poor body and brain lymph circulation. The lymphatic system is the largest detox system of the body, and kaphas, who have slower metabolisms, commonly experience lymphatic circulation concerns.
Toxins build up in the bloodstream due to poor lymphatic circulation, causing pressure, vasodilation, and pain.
NASYA: Most Effective Therapy for Occasional Headaches (for All Types)
- Drop 2-3 drops raw, organic sesame oil (or LifeSpa’s Nasya Oil) into both nostrils and sniff twice daily.
- Open and close nostrils quickly as you inhale through the nose for best results.
Daily nasya will have benefits, but a more clinically effective therapy is our SAN (Shiro Abyhanga Nasya) that I administered for 26 years in my panchakarma clinic.
To make this original nasya technique available to all, especially those who get occasional migraines, I wrote a detailed article and video on exactly how to administer this SAN “super-nasya” at home. There’s a reason nasya is one of the five most effective detox therapies in Ayurveda.
Learn advanced nasya techniques here.
- Nasya is best done on an empty stomach.
- Best not to do before bed to prevent dripping into larynx.
- It’s normal to taste oil in back of mouth or have some drip out nose for a minute or two.
- Nasya therapy is not indicated for children under 13. Children do not have a fully developed glottis and a small amount of oil can drip into the larynx.
We RecommendNeti + Nasya: The Dynamic Duo
NOTE: For more information on how to treat detox pathway related to your type, please see my archived articles and videos on detox and lymph. If you have more than just occasional headaches, please see a medical professional.