Migraines aren’t just severe headaches. While headaches can cause considerable discomfort, migraines involve severe pain and other symptoms that can leave you incapacitated. They also tend to occur with a regular frequency or may be triggered by certain factors, from stress to certain foods or smells. Modern medicine still has no clear explanation for migraines, which is why they are classified as chronic and incurable. In fact, conventional treatments like antiepileptics, antidepressants, beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, and pain relievers only provide symptomatic relief. Moreover, these treatments have varying efficacy and a wide range of side effects. This is why most people prefer to turn to Ayurvedic treatments and home remedies for migraines. As is often the case, Ayurveda is one of the best sources of information on the natural management of migraines.
Migraine closely resembles what Ayurvedic texts describe as Ardhaavabhedhaka. The pathogenesis of migraines gives us insights into treatment as well, with the fundamental concept of doshas playing a central role. This natural energy is categorized as Vata Dosha, Pitta Dosha, and Kapha Dosha, with every individual having a unique balance of these Doshas – called Prakriti. Every health condition, including migraines, develops from imbalances in the Doshas. As every individual has a unique Prakriti, this therefore calls for personalized treatment, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
When it comes to migraines, all of the Doshas can play a role, but it is mainly linked to Vata, Pitta or Tridoshic factors. The accumulation of Ama or toxins in the body is seen as another major cause of migraines. Accordingly, the primary goal of Ayurvedic treatment of migraine is to correct the underlying Dosha imbalance. This is best achieved through Ayurvedic diet and therapy, for which you need to eat in accordance with your Prakriti. You can get such personalized diet recommendations from any skilled Ayurvedic doctor. In addition to a personalized diet, however, there are other traditional ayurvedic treatments for migraines using a combination of herbal remedies and medicines, lifestyle changes, and other Ayurvedic practices.
Ayurvedic medicine provides us with a vast repository of medicinal herbs, many of which can be used as herbal remedies for migraine prevention. These Ayurvedic herbs for migraines can be used in the form of herbal supplements, polyherbal formulations, or topical applications. When it comes to herbs used in oral Ayurvedic medicines, classical texts and modern research support the use of herbs such as Jatamansi, Brahmi, Ashwagandha, and Ginger, among others. These herbs are effective at relieving migraines because of their anti-inflammatory effects, with some also helping relieve blood vessel dilation.
Rasayana herbs like Ashwagandha and Brahmi are known to have adaptogenic effects, with studies showing that Ashwagandha can lower stress and anxiety levels, while Brahmi also has sedative and relaxant effects (1,2). These properties help to reduce both muscular and psychological tension, lowering the risk and severity of migraines. Ginger is helpful not just because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, but because it can reduce migraine nausea. Researchers have also found it to be as effective as the drug sumatriptan at reducing migraine severity but poses no risk of side effects (3).
In addition to oral Ayurvedic medicines for migraines, you can also use topical treatments in the form of herbal balms and oils. The application of such herbal balms and pastes over the forehead or scalp can work as an effective herbal treatment for migraine pain and may even be used to prevent the onset of migraines. Whether you wish to use homemade herbal remedies for migraines or packaged Ayurvedic balms, you should look for ingredients like peppermint or Pudinha, as studies show that menthol can relieve migraine pain and symptoms like nausea or light sensitivity when used topically (4). Ingredients like eucalyptus and Brahmi are also good choices for herbal balms or oils to fight migraines.
When it comes to Ayurvedic therapies and lifestyle measures, the most notable treatment for migraines is Panchakarma therapy. The purification therapy actually includes five procedures such as abhyanga or massage therapy, Sweden or heat therapy, Virechana or purgative therapy, and Snehana or internal oleation. This treatment cleanses the body and eliminates ama or toxins, which are known to increase the risk of migraines. Research shows that administration of Panchakarma treatment with these procedures can provide significant relief from migraine pain and other symptoms with the first treatment itself (5). To undergo panchakarma therapy it would be best to check into a reputed Ayurveda clinic or retreat.
Aside from using herbal medicines and panchakarma therapy, migraines can also be managed with other lifestyle changes. It would help to lower stress levels and be more active with practices like yoga and meditation. Following a more structured daily routine, as recommended in Dinacharya, can also help to strengthen your circadian rhythm, reducing the risk of imbalances and migraines. If your migraines do not respond to such treatments alone, it is advisable that you visit an Ayurvedic physician for a personalized diet plan to correct any dosha imbalances. Ideally, this should be your first line of treatment, but most patients respond effectively to Ayurvedic herbal medicines and Panchakarma treatment.