Many people run to pain killers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) to relieve their headaches. However these over the counter medicines simply suppress the symptoms, only to have the headache surface again. Frequent headaches are an indication of deeper problems, which can be addressed by a preventative medical science such as Ayurveda.
There are many types of headaches such as migraines, tension or sinus headaches. According to Ayurveda it is important to first asses which dosha is involved in order to treat the root cause.
Vata types of tension headaches can be caused from excess mental stress, nervous exhaustion and insomnia. The dry quality of vata can create dehydration in the body leading to constipation and stiff muscles in the neck, shoulder and back, triggering a headache.
Remedy is to relieve systemic dryness by drinking lots of warm water and incorporating more ghee into the diet. If constipation is severe, toxins will ferment in the colon and then their gases rise to the head, creating pressure. In that case, drinking Triphala tea and also performing a sesame oil enema can work wonders to relieve the head pressure. Massaging the stiff neck muscles with warm Mahanarayan oil, can release trigger points that radiate pain in the head region. Try a few drops of sesame oil in the nostrils and inhale deeply. Vata headaches require deep rest and relaxation.
Migraines are most often associated with aggravated Pitta dosha. Some symptoms are dizziness, nausea, sharp piercing pain, burning sensations, irritability and extreme sensitivity to bright lights. Causes of pitta migraines are heat and sun exposure, hypoglycemia due to hunger, and hormonal/estrogen fluctuations.
Remedy is to cool down pitta. Massaging coconut oil on the head and scalp is very soothing. Putting a paste of sandalwood powder on the forehead calms pitta. Herbs such as Shatavari and aloe vera gel maintain female hormone balance. Eating frequent meals prevents hypoglycemia, and in case of acute migraine, snacking on something sweet like fruit or a date can help regulate low blood sugar. Putting a few drops of Brahmi Ghee in the nostrils, relieves migraines.
Kapha headaches are most commonly due to nasal congestion creating lots of pressure on the sinus cavities. It leaves a dull, achy feeling in the face and head. It is often aggravated by allergy season.
There is usually excess ama or toxins in the form of mucus, which needs to be cleared from the system, so that breathing can return to normal. Using a neti pot with salts will help open sinus channels. A few snuffs of the ayurvedic herb Vacha (dry calamus root powder) quickly clears a stuffy head and sinuses. Drinking hot ginger tea and taking in pungent spices like black pepper, cinnamon and cloves reduce mucus congestion. Inhaling Eucalyptus steam provides great relief for kapha congestion headaches.
For all types of headaches, daily meditation along with deep abdominal breathing is an excellent way to relieve stress and emotional tension that is almost always the root cause of dis-ease in the body. Increase the effectiveness of the meditation by using essential oils such a lavender or sandalwood to calm mental activity.
An Ayurvedic spa treatment called Shiro Dhara can provide great comfort to all those who suffer from headaches. Warm oil is poured in a slow, gentle stream along the forehead. The soothing motion of the oil flowing back and forth on the head and scalp, literally melts away the accumulated pressure. It is one of the most divine therapies in Ayurveda, opening the third eye chakra, removing energetic and physical blockages that collect in the head region.
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