Almost all of us have been victims of a headache at one time or the other. Although headaches are the most common type of pain, all of them aren’t alike. Technically, there are more than 100 types of headaches!
Migraine is a type of headache that causes intense throbbing or pulsating pain in one area of the head. It may be accompanied by symptoms like nausea, watery eyes, runny nose, vomiting and sensitivity to light or sound.
The exact cause of migraine remains unknown, but research suggests that genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
A migraine attack will typically last from four to 72 hours. However, a migraine headache can last for several days too. The frequency of attacks varies from person to person. Some people experience migraines several times a month, others less frequently. Migraines are about three times more common in women than in men.
Stress or anxiety at work or home can cause migraine. So can extremely bright or flickering lights (such as sun glare), loud noises, strong smells (from perfume, room fresheners, cleaning products, paint, diesel/kerosene or smoke from incense sticks or cigarettes) and insufficient sleep. Even a change in weather can trigger a migraine.
Migraines can also be set off by chocolate, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Some drugs, especially oral contraceptives, have been linked to migraine. Intense physical exertion may also trigger an attack.
Other lifestyle habits that can contribute to headaches include staying up late at night, working with computers or watching television for extended periods.
Although there is no cure as such for migraine headaches, pain management can be achieved with a combination of diet and lifestyle advice. Personalised medicines may be necessary in chronic and severe cases.
Diet & lifestyle
Since faulty digestion is the root cause of most headaches, it’s wise to eat lighter food. Opt for freshly-cooked, wholesome, organic foods that are served warm and are easy to digest. Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t miss or skip meals. Have timely meals. Strictly avoid fasting.
- Avoid hot, spicy foods, fermented foods, refined foods, sour or citrus fruits as well as aged cheeses, butter, red meat, leftovers and processed, frozen, canned and packaged foods.
- Drink about 2.5-3 litres of water a day and eat more fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Avoid excessive sugar, salt, coffee, tea and alcohol.
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun and reduce the brightness of electronic gadgets.
- Never suppress natural urges of micturition, the bowels, sneezing and the like.
- A 10-15 minute head massage with coconut oil or castor oil is beneficial.
- Reflexology can be quite helpful.
- Get adequate sleep but don’t oversleep.
- Avoid painkillers, reduce stress, practice meditation and exercise daily.
If you have a burning headache, apply a thin layer of sandalwood paste made with rose water over your forehead and keep it on for 30 minutes. Wash off with cold water.
Grind some black pepper with sufficient water and heat it in a spoon on a low flame for about a minute. Apply this paste on your forehead and remove after 20-30 minutes. This is effective for a pounding headache.
Take one teaspoon of a coarse powder of coriander seeds. Mix in a glass of water (150 ml) and leave overnight. Drink this on an empty stomach the next morning. Regular consumption of this helps prevent migraine.
Soak five raisins and five almonds in water or milk overnight. Consume the next morning on an empty stomach to prevent migraine attacks.
Gently massage your scalp with Bhringaraja taila/Chandanadi taila for about 10 to 15 minutes. Regular scalp massage (at least twice a week) will help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
q Sutashekara ras/Kamadugha ras (Baidyanath/Dhootpapeshwar) 2-2-2 pills along with Godanti bhasma (Baidyanath/Dhootpapeshwar) 2 pinches (250 mg), thrice daily with ghee will give immediate relief from migraine pain.
- Ashvagandha, Yashtimadhu and Amalaki tablets (Himalaya) — 2 tablets each, twice daily before meals for about three months will help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine.
- Pathyadi khada (Sandu)/Pathyakshadhatryadi kashaya (Kottakkal)/Pathyadi shadangam Kashaya (Vaidyaratnam) — 2 teaspoons, mixed with 6 teaspoons of boiled and cooled water — twice daily, preferably on an empty stomach, before breakfast and before dinner for about 2-3 months will keep you migraine-free for many months.
In migraine associated with complaints of gastritis and constipation, Triphala and Yashtimadhu tablets (Himalaya) 2-2-2, before meals for about 45 days will be beneficial.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 17 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company