Headaches are a very complex phenomenon. Ayurveda speaks a great deal about the etiological factors behind headaches and the many ways headaches manifest.
Generally, headaches are classified as vata type, pitta type, and kapha type. In vata indi?viduals, fear, anxiety, stress, nervousness, constipation, and physical over activity can aggravate systemic vata, which can go into the skeletal, muscular, or nervous system and cause headaches. Vata-caused headaches will tend to be in the occipital area (the back of the head) or on the left side.
In pitta individuals, acid indigestion, hyperacidity, acidic pH of the saliva and stomach, excess pitta in the intestine and colon, and getting overheated, as well as a diet high in pitta-provoking food, can create a headache. That headache will be more in the temple or temporal area.
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Because of a kapha-producing diet, systemic kapha in the stomach increases, enters into the general circulation, and can lodge in the sinuses and create kapha-type sinus headaches. Kapha headaches tend to be more in the frontal and nasal areas of the head.
Headaches can also be due to ear problems, eye problems, insomnia, food allergies, exposure to cold temperatures, tension in the neck, or working too long (for instance, in front of a computer) in a wrong position. Even using two pillows below the head for sleeping can cause headaches.
Clearly the causes are extremely varied. Remember that in Ayurveda, treatment is determined by the specifics of each situa?tion. Thus in order to successfully treat your headache you need to know as much as possible about its cause.
These headaches are in the back (occipital) portion of the head. They are characterized by throbbing, pulsating, migrating pain that radiates from the back of the head and may go to the front. A vata headache may be associated with tension in the neck and shoulder muscles, back stiffness, constipa?tion, and sciatica. This kind of headache is aggravated by high altitude. It gets worse when you move your body and subsides when you rest.
Vata headaches are often due to toxins accumulated in the colon. Ayurveda recommends using a warm water enema to relieve any constipation and taking triphala (1/2 teaspoon at night with 1/2 to 1 cup warm water) over several weeks to systemat?ically detoxify the colon.
Probably the best way to pacify vata is by oil basti (enema). Half a cup of warm sesame oil injected into the rectum and retained for at least 5 to 10 minutes helps to calm vata.
For tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the tight muscles there with sesame oil. Then take a hot shower.
Putting 3 to 5 drops of warm ghee in each nostril will help reduce vata and will be effective for soothing your headach.
Before you go to sleep at night, rub some sesame oil gently on the top of your head and on the soles of your feet. This is one of the most effective ways to keep vata under control.
Vata headache is frequently associated with dehydration, especially if you have just gone to a higher altitude. If dehydration has occurred, make some homemade dextrosaline: Mix 1 table?spoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and about 10 drops of lime juice in a pint of water and drink it. The moment the dehydration is corrected, a vata headache will disappear or at least be greatly reduced.
If, after this treatment, the headache does not subside, then take 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder in your palm, and add sufficient water to make a paste by rubbing your hands together. Apply the paste to your forehead. Leave it on for about half an hour and then wash it off. This should help to soothe a vata-type headache.
Remember that if you are prone to vata headaches and other vata-related problems such as constipation and insomnia, follow. ing a vata-pacifying diet will help a lot.
Pitta head. aches start in the temple area and go to tne central part of the head. A pitta headache characterized by shooting, burning, piereing, or penetrating pain, and it is worsened by bright light, hot sun, or high temperatures, or by eating sour fruits, pickles, or highly spicy food. It may be associated with nausea and/or burning of the eyes. The person may also become quite irritable. A pitta headache is often felt behind the eyes and may be associated with dizziness.
These headaches are related to the stomach and intestines.
If you have a pitta type headache, take 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel, up to 3 times in a day.
Drinking cumin-coriander tea (equal amounts of each, about 1 teaspoon of the mixture per cup) can help to relieve a pitta-type headache. Let the tea cool to room temperature before you drink it.
This cooling paste may help to quickly relieve a pitta headache. Mix 1 teaspoon sandalwood powder with suffi?cient water to make a paste, and apply it to your forehead and/or temples. Leave it on your skin for about half an hour, then wash it off.
A few drops of warm ghee placed in the nostrils will be ben?eficial for soothing a pitta-type headache.
Sometimes a pitta headache responds quickly if you just have something sweet to eat. Try a piece of sweet fruit, or some ice cream.
At night, rub a little bhringaraj oil or brahmi oil on the soles of your feet and on your scalp. Take precau?tions not to get oil on your pillow and sheets.
If you have a pitta-type headache-or are prone to getting them don't walk or work in the sun without wear?ing a hat. A hat on your head protects against aggravating pitta and helps to pre?vent the headache.
If your headache occurs in winter or spring, strikes in the morning or evening, and gets worse when you bend down, it is a kapha headache. It is often associated with sinus congestion and clogging of the nose, and it often accompanies a cold or a cough. It may go along with hay fever and other allergies. The pain of a kapha headache is usually dull and deep-seated. It starts in the upper frontal area of the skull, moves down to the fore?head, and sometimes comes down to the sinuses.
To immediately relieve a kapha headache, put 10 drops of eucalyp?tus oil in boiled water, cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam. This helps to relieve the congestion and often completely takes care of the headache. Ginger steam boiling fresh ginger or dried ginger pow?der and then inhaling the steam-is also effective.
A warming gin?ger paste can be quite helpful. Take 1 tea?spoon ginger powder, mix together with sufficient water to form a paste, and apply it to your forehead. You can also put some of the paste across the bridge of your nose and over your cheekbones. A paste of vacha pow?der (calamus) is also helpful and is preferable for pitta individuals, as the ginger powder may burn their skin. Leave the paste on for about half an hour, then wash it off. Be careful when washing off ginger paste: Avoid getting any in your eyes.
Note: Ginger paste can sometimes create a burning sensation on the skin, especially in pitta individuals. It is not dangerous, but if you begin to feel an uncomfortable burning feeling, wash the ginger off with warm water.
For sinus headaches (usually related to kapha), make a paste out of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and suffi?cient water, and apply it locally.
For some individuals, a kapha-type headache can be quickly relieved by this simple remedy: Mix 1 teaspoon warm water and at least '/8 teaspoon salt to make a thick, concentrated solution. Put 3 to 5 drops of this salt water in each nostril. This greatly helps to drain and unclog the sinuses and relieve the headache.
Generally headaches can be relieved using Ayurvedic remedies. However, if you have a headache that persists for more than a couple of days; if your headache is accompanied by a fever or stiff neck; if you also experi?ence neurological symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty with coordi?nation or speech, memory loss, numbness, or weakness in your arms or legs; if you wake up at midnight with a headache; or if you are having headaches often that seem to be becoming more severe, then please see a doctor.
Generally, a person having headaches should do the Moon Salutation. Certain yoga postures are also helpful, such as the Boat pose, Hidden Lotus, Bow pose, Spinal Twist, Palm Tree pose, and Standing on the Toes. Inverted poses such as Headstand, Shoulder Stand, and the Plow pose are not recommended.