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Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches

Updated: 3 days ago

In this article, we'll cover headache and migraine causes, which doshas are involved, how migraines occur, migraines for men, migranes in women, risk factors, stress hormones, menstrual cycles and migraines, thyroid hormone, the connection between the thyroid and migraines and Ayurveda's approach. We'll even cover Ayurvedic headache and migraine home treatments.

Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image woman with headache

Explore more on the Saumya Blog, selected top Ayurveda blogs and websites to watch.


Headaches are unfortunately common, and once a headache has started, it can be difficult to focus on anything except finding relief. Migraines are a painful and disruptive neurological and vascular tsunami that hit most people with far too much regularity and intensity. According to the National Institute of Health, migraines are a rising tide world-wide, and it's common in women and men.


Suffering with a Pounding, Pulsing, Painful Head? Let's Address it the Ayurveda Way.


If you’re fortunate enough to have not experienced a migraine, there’s no way to know how it feels. Migraines are not just a headache (though those are awful too). Migraines are a multi-system massive disruption that leads to significant suffering, limiting how we participate in our work, family, and social life. The bottom line is migraines reduce our quality of life.


According to the Cleveland Clinic, "About 96% of people experience a headache at least once in their life. About 40% of people across the world have tension-type headaches and about 10% have migraine headaches."

"Migraine is one of the most common neurological diseases worldwide, with the global prevalence of migraine being estimated to be 1.1 billion" according to the NIH.


Per, The American Journal of Managed Care, “The total indirect cost associated with migraine in the United States has been estimated at $19.3 billion.”


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image chart showing example of dosha constitution


Headache and Migraine Causes according to Ayurveda


All of us are comprised of a certain amount of vata, pitta, and kapha, and often one or two tend to have a stronger role in our lives. Picture a bar graph, such as the one above. What that bar graph looks like may change with the seasons, stage of life, and other life transitions.


During transitions, whether its changes in hormones that occur monthly, or the larger hormone shift known as the perimenopausal transition or say moving to a new climate--whenever there's a transition, big or small, the doshas are more likely to become imbalanced. Ever feel like changes are difficult? It's because our bio-enerrgetic equilibrium can get pushed out of balance.

While vata, pitta, and kapha can each cotribute to headaches and migraines, it's usually pitta dosha screaming its head off, and no doubt got our attention.



Headaches and Migraines are Dosha Imbalances


Migraines specifically are primarily considered an imbalance in Pitta dosha, but Vata has its role and even Kapha can get in there. Headache and migraine prevention and treatment in Ayurveda is about rebalancing the doshas, holistically and systemically.


woman balancing on rocks

How Do I Know If I Have a Dosha Imbalance?

Peruse these comprehensive and convenient lists of signs and symptoms of dosha imbalances.

Peruse these comprehensive and convenient lists of signs and symptoms of dosha imbalances. As we are comprised of all Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, there can be an imbalance in any of the doshas, or a combination of dosha imbalances. Read all three lists and see if anything looks familiar. Explore More on the Saumya Blog: The 3 Ayurvedic Doshas and Their Impact on Your Life How to Reduce Pitta and Body Heat with Ayurveda and Keep Your Cool What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond Cooling Foods in Ayurveda


clear glasses with earth, water, air, and fire representing the elements that comprise the doshas

Which Doshas Cause Migraines

The dominant dosha involved in migraines is pitta, yet, when Vata is aggravated, it is the wind (air + ether) behind the fire that pushes heat up to the head resulting in that excruciating pain.


How Do Headaches and Migraines Occur from Ayurveda's Perspective?


Pitta aggravates and overflows from its home in the digestive tract, picture a cup that is full, and one keeps pouring—this liquid spills out and enters the body's inner ocean (circulation) where it dilates the blood vessels of the brain producing pitta's classic qualities of hot, sharp (ouch!), and spreading. These qualities then act on the nerves and result in this excruciating condition.


Explore More:

Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image man holding head in pain


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches for Men

Ok guys, we know you're suffering too, but don't suffer in silence anymore, please. According to the National Institute of Health, "Migraine is common in men – it is not just a female complaint."

"While migraines tend to affect more women, migraines in men do happen.


An estimated 9% of men are regular sufferers" according to Harvard Medical School. And yet, men are more unlikely to seek to relieve their suffering. From an Ayurvedic approach to migraines and headaches, this pain in your head is trying to tell you something important!


According to NIH, “Men more often cope with their headaches without any medical support, simply “dealing with pain when they have to.” Men will seek out care for insomnia and back pain, but not headaches, but hold on again, back pain is a signal that something is wrong and needs help, so is that migraine and headache.


There's an imbalance in the doshas from Ayurveda's view and chances are you're feeling it not only with headaches, but stress, anxiety, and fatigue.


Sounds familiar, right? Keep reading please.


Guys--we need to take care even if you can tough it out, and here’s why. At the root of those headaches and migraines are factors and triggers you need to pay attention to and will already be familiar to you.


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image lean man holding fat roll on abdomen

Have you looked down and wondered why that roll of fat is there, even if the rest of your body is lean? It's likely stress.


Risk Factors for Migraines (NIH)


1. Biological factors: hormone imbalance, including cortisol dysregulation

2. Metabolic factors: diabetes, obesity, cholesterol issues, hypertension

3. Psychological factors: anxiety, stress, panic, and phobias

* These risk factors also apply to women.


Now that we’ve got your attention, and you recognize what might be behind that throbbing head, stress, anxiety, high cholesterol, hypertension, are serious issues that need addressing, and in so doing, with Ayurveda’s approach, we’ll also be addressing the headaches and migraines.


“You’re not a set of symptoms and you’re not going to be divided into pieces, we treat you, all of you.” – Veena, Saumya Ayurveda


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image woman curled up in menstrual pain

Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches for Women

Your menstrual cycle is a window into your wellbeing. According to Ayurveda, each month your cycle shows you which doshas are imbalanced.


“That time of the month” can feel like a never-ending treadmill of mood issues, heavy bleeding, painful migraines and… the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, these symptoms are so pervasive, we often don’t recognize them as signs of a deeper imbalance.


Ask yourself, do you truly know what a healthy cycle is? Or do you cramp, take Midol, use birth control to suppress disruptive symptoms, and still find yourself saying you’re “all good?”


In many parts of the world, menstruation was once revered as a time for women to recharge and reflect. Today, we’re expected to maintain 60-hour work weeks, drop the kids at soccer, make dinner, and organize our family calendar – all while bloated, cramped, and suffering.


Contemporary lifestyles simply don’t support a balanced cycle. As a result, many people endure painful periods for years, and debilitating headaches and migraines, even their whole lifetime. But with Ayurveda, menstruation doesn’t have to be synonymous with suffering.


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image woman grabbing head due to menstrual migrain

Symptoms of Menstrual Imbalance

  • Migraines

  • Heavy flow and clotting

  • Irregular or scant periods

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Weight gain or bloating

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Anemia or weakness and exhaustion

  • Acne flare-ups

  • Anxiety or feeling tense

  • Crying spells or depressed moods

  • Mood swings, irritability, anger

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Diminished concentration

  • Extended symptoms (feeling like your cycle lasts all month)

Read more: Ayurveda and Menstruation – Creating a Healthy Flow (from menarche to menopause)


image woman with headache and PMS

Hormone Imbalances:


There are two biological factors impacting headaches and migraines in women: 1. Female reproductive hormones

2. Stress hormones


Yes, it's a double whammy and it's no surprise that women experience migraines at two times the rate as men.

"Migraine attacks are often associated with fluctuating hormone levels…Menstrual migraine is a specific condition when the timing of the attacks are associated with drops in estrogen levels a few days before menstruation (40, 43).

There are close interrelationships between estrogen and several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, catecholamines, and endorphins." (National Institute of Health)


Hormones fluctuate and that movement is connected to brain chemistry. If hormone imbalances are present, it’s no wonder migraines attack, and moods swiftly shift.


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image woman stressed at work

Let’s consider that second biological factor impacting headaches and migraines in women, stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol).


"Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress (47). Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes and effects a wide range of processes, such as body metabolism, blood pressure, and the immune system." (National Institute of Health)

We’re not in the moon lodge during our cycles, we’re out there, full force and on several fronts—all the while reproductive and stress hormones may be slam dancing.

Is it any wonder women suffer with menstrual migraines?


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image woman holding hand over thyroid gland in the neck


Wait, wait, there’s one more biological factor impacting headaches and migraines. Thyroid Hormones

The thyroid gland produces hormones that help to regulate body function. When the thyroid gland is not working effectively, it can cause many adverse health symptoms, such as fatigue, dry skin, thinning hair, anxiety, and aches, and a host of other symptoms including headaches and migraines.


"A bidirectional relationship between migraine and hypothyroidism has been suggested (49). Migraines may be as a result of high thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels" (National Institute of Health)

What’s the connection between the thyroid and migraines?


According to the National Headache Research Institute, “It’s no surprise then to learn that your thyroid function can cause headaches, and even migraines if it’s not up to par. For many people suffering from headaches and migraines, being able to point to their thyroid as the cause of their pain would be a welcome answer

Having the ability to attribute chronic migraines or headaches to thyroid function would not only make diagnosis simpler, but it would also open the doors to faster, more effective treatment.

Ayurveda can bring the body's doshas back into balance, which can support healthy thyroid function.

Clients often report that they have normal thyroid labs and yet they experience symptoms. There are two items to review. First, what labs were run? Often providers run TSH, but what about the rest of the hormone cascade?

Ayurveda has effective herbal remedies to support healthy conversion of thyroid hormone. Secondly, the TSH range is wide, from California to China! So, one may have a "normal" TSH, but still be symptomatic. Also, what feels correct for one person, may not feel correct to another. Optimal and normal are not the same.


image Saumya Ayurveda nasya nose oil dropper bottles


Ayurveda Headache and Migraine Home Treatments



1. Calm and Cool Your Mind with Daily Nasya Oil


Daily Nasya oil treatments offer numerous benefits. It's an excellent way to clear out your sinus channels, reducing congestion, cool pitta and soothe Vata doshas. Saumya Ayurveda has several types of traditional herbalized nasya oils.


“Your nasya oil really had a strong, positive effect on my life. My mind was racing, and I have been highly stressed for a long time. I did the nasya and suddenly all went quiet. I felt like meditating. Your nasya oil really calmed the mind.”

--S.L., New Mexico

2. Eat Pitta Reducing Cooling Foods


In some cases, a headache may be caused by indigestion or stomach imbalances. The best way to get relief from a headache like this is to eat foods with cooling properties, such as watermelon or cucumber. Search for naturally hydrating foods that will instantly cool your body and soothe your headache symptoms.


Some types of headaches, including migraines, can be caused by a pitta imbalance. Cooling foods are an excellent way to restore balance. Not only can cooling foods provide relief after a headache has started, but including these foods in your daily diet can reduce the frequency of headaches.


Saumya Ayurveda's treatment trifecta includes using food as medicine as a foundation to treatment. Selected top Ayurveda recipes blogs, please visit our Online Recipe Box for Pitta Reducing Recipes.


3. Try Eucalyptus or Peppermint Steam


Aromatherapy is an important tool in Ayurvedic medicine. Eucalyptus and peppermint oil can be a highly effective way of treating headaches at home. Breathing in Eucalyptus steam is naturally soothing, and it can be a fantastic way to unwind when you're coping with a headache.


Eucalyptus steam can work especially well when you're dealing with headaches that are caused by dryness in the air, like vata headaches. If you're able to relieve the dryness in your body, you'll start to feel your headache symptoms fade away.


* These steams are for headaches caused by sinus congestions.


4. Eat a Good Breakfast


We've hear it before, breakfast is an important meal. For those prone to headaches and migraines, it may be helpful to give that digestive fire a job to do so that heat does not rise to the head.


Sounds too simple, but give it a try.


5. Avoid Direct Sun


Another common sense suggestion, yet as migraines are usually a Pitta dominant event, in which heat rises to the head, avoid more hot, sharp, penetrating qualities of the sun makes


6. Yog-asna (yoga poses)


  • Moon Salutations

  • Hidden Lotus

  • Boat Pose

  • Spinal Twists (see our Liver articles)

  • Standing o Toes


7. Shitali


  1. Curl your tongue to make a straw shape.

  2. Inhale slowly through the straw hole.

  3. Exhale through the nose, keep the mouth closed.

  4. The inhalation will be cooling to your mouth, tongue, and mucus membranes and the head in general.

* Note: If you cannot curl your tongue, clench the teeth gently together and press your tongue up against the teeth. Inhale through the teeth, exhale through the nostrils with the mouth closed.


Benefits of Shitali Pranayama

  1. Cools the oral temperature down

  2. Improves digestion, assimilation, and absorption

  3. May lower blood pressure

  4. Reduce symptoms of hot tongue and mouth

  5. Alleviates burning eyes

  6. Cooling to the entire body and mind


Saumya Ayurveda's 3 steps for transforming your daily life with image of a woman meditating by a lake


8. Saumya Ayurveda's 3 Steps tor transforming your daily life


There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 Step Meditation Process shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode. Give it a try for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.


"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."

- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda


1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.


2. Daily Guided Practices: 11 minutes in the morning and in the evening, as anchors of your daily Ayurveda routine.



"Choose a couple of practices from the routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda

Saumya Ayurveda's Two Minute Meditation


“Veena was able to help me regain my energy in just a few months and I’m feeling like my “young” self again! I love the food plan she designed for me, and all the supporting practices (am/pm routines, breathing techniques, herbs, and spice mixes) are so enjoyable to incorporate into my day. I highly recommend Saumya Ayurveda if you want to feel better and have more vitality.”

-Molly Rossini, Minnesota


image of woman jumping in the air

Ayurveda’s Holistic, Systemic Approach Makes a Difference with Headache and Migraines

Saumya Ayurveda is received with a sigh of relief and renewed hope because clients feel heard and understood. What you’re experiencing is not just all in your head! What you’re going through is substantial, real, you’re not imagining it, and you didn’t invent it.


“Clients often arrive at my door having exhausted every other option, after multiple specialists, and report feeling dismissed, patronized, and worst of all—not helped and devoid of hope. When they experience relief and reversal of symptoms and conditions, they ask me, ‘Why didn’t my doctors see it?! All my labs and tests were normal.’


My response is, ‘Isn’t that a relief to rule out concerns.’ Here’s what's different from the lens through which your doctor is looking. I’m looking at the entire you, every system, every aspect, on many levels, and from birth to today. This provides me a different and complete picture.”

--Veena, Saumya Ayurveda


 

Veena has literally changed my life. I was struggling with mental and physical symptoms that my doctor had no answer for. I thought I was going crazy and just making symptoms up.


With Veena’s guidance, with herbs and diet changes, I soon realized that my symptoms were very real. After making the changes, I made small victories along the way, and became better with each appointment with her.


Now almost 6 months later, I am a completely different person. I still have some things to work on, but with Veena’s help, I know I will be able to take control of my health and not leave it to Western medicine that was giving me little to no help and covering up my symptoms with another medication.


I highly encourage getting the longer package, especially if you are working with challenges with your monthly cycle. Working with Veen has been the best decision I have made for my health. You won’t be disappointed!” -- Maria Fumagalli, San Diego, California



Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches image sign saying success stories


“I had trouble keeping weight on and had lost 10 pounds. No matter what I ate, I felt like

something was missing. My family doctor said I had colitis. Also, my energy level was very low,

and I was using medication almost daily for a skin condition that my dermatologist

recommended. Add to this severe migraine headaches about every two weeks. Following

Veena’s guidance, all of these conditions have been nearly eliminated!


I gained 10 pounds and my energy level is now strong and stable. When I eat, I feel satisfied. My

skin condition has stabilized, and the migraines have essentially disappeared. I’m very grateful

to Veena for the wonderful results and the healthier quality of life we have attained together.

Without reservation, I highly recommend Veena at Saumya Ayurveda.”

-Chris Schirber, Minnesota

"I have suffered from chronic headaches and migraines for as long as I can remember. I had

talked to multiple PCPs and specialists about these issues, had been prescribed a variety of

medications that helped somewhat, but never really fixed the issue.


Veena promptly put together a plan of action that consisted of herbal remedies alongside some

simple changes to my diet. Right away I noticed a significant decrease in the number of

headaches I was getting, and when I did get them, they were much less severe than they had

been in the past. This is certainly the headache treatment plan that I have seen the biggest benefit from, and I plan to continue my new regimen moving forward.


I am very thankful for Veena's knowledge and advice and would not hesitate to recommend her

services to friends and family alike."

-Adrienne Sobering, New Mexico

Read and watch more of our client's stories.


image of tree roots


Healing Headaches and Migraines with Ayurveda


Our Ayurvedic Approach to Migraines and Headaches is rooted in our treatment trifecta of using food as medicine, herbs, and Ayurvedic lifestyle techniques to restore balance to the doshas and the whole you.


Migraines and headaches are complex. The Ayurvedic approach to migraines and headaches focuses on addressing the underlying imbalances, at the root cause.


Headaches and migraines can be incredibly debilitating, which is why it's so important to find the help you need. Whether you're dealing with severe migraines or milder headaches, Ayurveda may help. Schedule a free phone consultation today to find out more about our Ayurvedic approach to migraines and headaches.


antique compass and map

Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way


We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.


Deep down, you already know what you’re searching for: a new framework for living – one that brings your entire being back into balance. With Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive individualized guidance to create the physically, mentally, and spiritually vibrant life you crave.


Saumya Ayurveda provides concierge, top-notch, award-winning Ayurveda care. We strive to keep it simple, so you can focus on you! Opt for virtual consultations and we'll come to you.


Our practice model is client focused, we’re not in the retail herb business. We’ll guide you where to order herbs directly online. Our top-shelf Ayurveda oils and herbalized ghees are the best in the land and we’ll ship your care package right to your doorstep.


Our effective multi-appointment consultation packages provide you with experienced Ayurveda care, enthusiastic guidance, and inspiring support.


Explore our personalized services and book your FREE discovery call today. Psst! Our clients say it best – so read and watch our client's stories.


Veena at Saumya Ayurveda

Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.


She is President Emeritus and teaching faculty of the Meditation Center.


Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home, learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee.

These childhood experiences were the seeds of a lifelong passion. For over 30 years, Veena has dedicated her life to the world’s oldest healing system: Ayurveda.


She draws on this ancient wisdom to help others find their compass to a healthy life – and support those left wanting by Western medicine.


An experienced Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Veena’s deep, intuitive knowledge of Ayurveda empowers her clients to reclaim their fullest, most vibrant lives –mentally, physically, and spiritually. Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven in your lifestyle, naturally.

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