I know several people who suffer, on a regular basis, from migraines which can last for days. I know just how debilitating they can be and just how much they disrupt the sufferer’s life. Migraines often run in families with more women sufferers than men. Studies also link migraine with anxiety and depression.

Orthodox medicine sees migraine as a disturbance of blood flow to the brain. With blood vessels constricting – which gives the visual disturbances followed by vaso dilation responsible for the severe pain associated with an attack. However, in discussing their experience of migraine with them it seems to me a much more complex condition involving an imbalance within the body which is expressed as a serious headache.

There are many symptoms associated with migraines and numerous triggers – too many for me to discuss in this article – which, unfortunately, makes migraine quite a complex condition to treat.

In Ayurveda, a migraine is seen a predominantly pitta (fire) disturbance. However, all 3 doshas can also be involved. Diet, is seen as one of the key elements of treatment by avoiding heating foods, such as hot spices, fermented and foods with yeast, aged cheeses or cured meat, alcohol, shellfish and sour fruits and coffee.

Energetically, the liver and stomach are often involved in triggering an attack. Symptoms of a liver imbalance include visual disturbances and feeling hot and irritable. Whereas vomiting, before or during a migraine, is indicative of a stomach imbalance. There are many other contributory factors to take into account from stress to insomnia and constipation.

The location of the pain is a key indicator in identifying where the imbalance in the body originates and gives clues for targeting treatment. If the pain is centred around the temples, this indicates an imbalance in the liver. However, if the pain is primarily across forehead this points to the stomach.

Some suggestions:

Abdominal Breathing for relaxation for 10 minutes per day. All too often we are guilty of shallow breathing from our chest rather than from our abdomen.

Massage the neck and head gently before and between attacks every day to aid smooth blood-flow to the brain.

There are two well known herbs which can help and which are readily available as a tea. Firstly, Rosemary, which has high salicylate content for pain relief and known as a ‘head herb’, aiding memory and concentration. Secondly, Chrysanthemum has been used by the Chinese to treat digestive problems and specifically may help with the liverish symptoms which can go with a migraine. It would be particularly helpful for anyone who becomes hot and irritable, with symptoms similar to PMT during an attack. This is usually taken as a tea, but can be taken in different forms from an herbalist as part of a formula.

Fortunately, there are numerous herbs, that are not available over the counter, which can be made up into a personalized and holistic formula that take into account all of the symptoms and to address the underlying causes of chronic migraines. Whilst my suggestions can all help, they are probably not going to be a complete panacea.

Carolyn Wood


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