How Responsive Is Ayurvedic Migraine Treatment?

Ayurvedic Treatment for Migraine

How Responsive Is Ayurvedic Migraine Treatment?

Although migraines are often confused with headaches, there’s no confusing the two if you’ve ever experienced a migraine. Unlike headaches, which can cause a little to considerable discomfort, migraines cause severe pain and a range of symptoms that can be debilitating. Migraines can also recur with regular frequency or upon exposure to certain triggers, often classified as a chronic condition. The precise causes for migraines are not clearly understood in modern medicine and treatments can vary in efficacy. In fact, most patients find little to no relief with allopathic medications that can include prophylactic, antiepileptic, and antidepressant drugs, as well as beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, and pain relievers. This is why most people who suffer from migraines look for safe natural alternatives. Ayurvedic medicine for migraine is particularly valuable in this regard because of its long history of use and holistic approach to health care.

Ayurvedic Perspective of Migraines

Not every modern condition is described or can be identified in classical Ayurvedic texts that date back over 3000 years ago. This isn’t the case with migraines and the condition closely resembles what is described as Ardhaavabhedhaka. A key difference in the Ayurvedic approach is that it does not follow standardized treatments for all individuals, recognizing the role of natural energy or dosha in the development and progression of diseases. As every individual has a unique prakriti or balance of doshas, ayurvedic treatment for migraines aims to first identify and correct the root cause of imbalances and restore the individual’s natural dosha balance. 

Although any of the individual doshas can play a role in the development of migraines, it is generally regarded as a vata-pitta or tridoshic condition. The buildup of ama or toxicity is regarded as another cause of migraines. One of the most important aspects of treatment is dietary modification. As your diet needs to be dosha specific, it is advisable to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner to get an accurate diagnosis and personalized dietary recommendations. Other Ayurvedic treatments for migraine can be helpful for most patients and include herbal remedies and medications, as well as lifestyle changes and practices like yoga. Here’s how these Ayurvedic approaches measure up in terms of responsiveness and efficacy. 

Efficacy & Responsiveness of Ayurvedic Treatments for Migraines

1. Herbal Medications

Because of the varied causes or triggers for migraines, there are numerous Ayurvedic medicinal herbs that can be used to relieve the condition. Some of the herbs that are recommended in Ayurvedic texts and modern research include the likes of jatamansi, ginger, tulsi, nagarmotha, brahmi, and ashwagandha. Most of these herbs have proven anti-inflammatory effects that can relieve migraines. Some of them also work to relieve blood vessel dilation, which is often associated with migraines. Ashwagandha is a known adaptogen, which can reduce stress levels, while brahmi is also documented as an effective relaxant and sedative that reduces muscular and mental tension, lowering the risk of migraines. Researchers have found that ginger can not only help relieve migraine nausea, but can also reduce migraine severity as effectively as sumatriptan and without the risk of side effects. As it can be hard to pinpoint the precise cause it is best to use a blend of herbs with different therapeutic actions for complete relief. You can also look for Ayurvedic migraine medications that contain these ingredients.

2. Herbal Balms

Herbal extracts and essential oils can also be used to make pastes or balms that can be applied to the entire forehead, scalp, or temples for quick migraine relief. Some herbal topical applications can also be used as soon as you anticipate an oncoming migraine, as they may help prevent or reduce the severity of the migraine. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils are regarded as particularly effective as topical treatments for migraines and are often used as primary ingredients in Ayurvedic balms for migraine management. Studies have found that the active ingredient in peppermint, menthol, can reduce migraine pain, nausea, and light sensitivity, when applied topically. 

Ayurvedic massage oils that contain eucalyptus, mint or menthol, camphor, brahmi, and other ingredients can also help fight migraines. Although Ayurvedic oils containing these ingredients are often marketed for hair care routines, they can also be massaged onto the neck, shoulders, temples, and scalp to relieve muscular tension and stress. Studies show that weekly massages or abhyanga can help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, also improving sleep quality.

Rumox pain balm

3. Herbal Inhalers or Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is an independent form of natural medicine in which essential oils are used to treat a variety of conditions including migraines. This practice has also been used widely in Ayurveda, but it falls within Ayurvedic herbal medicine. When using essential oils they need to be diluted in very precise blends to be used safely, making Ayurvedic inhalers a more convenient alternative. Herbs and herbal extracts like eucalyptus, menthol, sandalwood, tulsi, and brahmi, are among the best ingredients to look for in any herbal inhaler.  This method of migraine treatment is particularly effective at preventing or treating migraines that are linked to sinusitis or nasal congestion, as these herbs have a relaxing and anti-inflammatory effect that opens up the airways allowing for uninhibited airflow. Studies have shown that a peppermint-eucalyptus blend relaxes the muscles and lowers stress levels, while eucalyptus oil also lowered blood pressure and reduced pain. 

4. Panchakarma

Panchakarma is one of the most highly valued therapeutic procedures in Ayurveda, with growing evidence to support its use as a treatment for various lifestyle diseases like heart disease and diabetes. As a purification therapy that comprises of 5 procedures, panchakarma is also regarded as useful in dealing with migraines as it can help to destroy ama and reduce any vitiation of the doshas. In the context of migraines, abhyanga, swedana (heat therapy), virechana (purgative therapy), and snehana (internal oleation) are particularly effective. According to one study, administration of panchakarma with these procedures offered significant relief with the first treatment and up to 90% relief following virechana. 

Ayurveda is a vast discipline and it would be impossible to cover every treatment option in a single article. There are many other herbs and practices that can also help in the natural treatment of migraines, but we’ve just touched upon the most effective ones. It should also be stressed that in addition to diet therapy and the practices listed above, it is important to follow the Ayurvedic dinacharya or daily routine and a yoga and meditation practice. Exercise is particularly important as it triggers the release of endorphins and yoga is the best choice as it also includes meditation, which is a proven stress reliever. 

References:

  • Chandrasekhar, K et al. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian journal of psychological medicine vol. 34,3 (2012): 255-62. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
  • Aguiar, Sebastian, and Thomas Borowski. “Neuropharmacological review of the nootropic herb Bacopa monnieri.” Rejuvenation research vol. 16,4 (2013): 313-26. doi:10.1089/rej.2013.1431
  • Maghbooli, Mehdi, et al. “Comparison Between the Efficacy of Ginger and Sumatriptan in the Ablative Treatment of the Common Migraine.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 28, no. 3, Mar. 2013, pp. 412–415., doi:10.1002/ptr.4996
  • Haghighi, A. Borhani, et al. “Cutaneous Application of Menthol 10% Solution as an Abortive Treatment of Migraine without Aura: a Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossed-over Study.” International Journal of Clinical Practice, vol. 64, no. 4, Mar. 2010, pp. 451–456., doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02215.x
  • Lawler, Sheleigh P., and Linda D. Cameron. “A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Massage Therapy as a Treatment for Migraine.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 32, no. 1, Aug. 2006, pp. 50–59., doi:10.1207/s15324796abm3201_6
  • Göbel, H, et al. “Effect of Peppermint and Eucalyptus Oil Preparations on Neurophysiological and Experimental Algesimetric Headache Parameters.” Cephalalgia, vol. 14, no. 3, June 1994, pp. 228–234., doi:10.1046/j.1468-2982.1994.014003228.x
  • Jun, Yang Suk, et al. “Effect of Eucalyptus Oil Inhalation on Pain and Inflammatory Responses after Total Knee Replacement: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, 2013, pp. 1–7., doi:10.1155/2013/502727
  • Shambharkar, nitesh, et al. “AYURVEDIC MANAGEMENT OF MIGRAINE-A CASE STUDY.” International Journal of Applied Ayurved Research, vol. 3, no. 3, Jul-Aug 2017, pp. 701-704., Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324246803_AYURVEDIC_MANAGEMENT_OF_MIGRAINE-A_CASE_STUDY

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