Migraine is a neurological disorder that causes intense, pulsing attacks that feel like headaches.
It’s also associated with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to sound or light. When these symptoms occur, it’s called a migraine attack.
In conventional medicine, migraine is typically treated with pharmaceutical medications and lifestyle changes. If these treatments don’t relieve your symptoms or if you prefer more natural remedies, you may be interested in adding an integrative approach.
One option is Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine. Ayurveda uses nonconventional treatments, like herbal remedies, to manage your symptoms.
Although some people have found migraine relief with Ayurveda, there isn’t scientific evidence to support its use. Some treatments might also be harmful.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Ayurvedic treatment for migraine and how it differs from traditional treatment.
Ayurveda is a traditional form of medicine based on ancient writings. It’s mainly practiced in India but has gained popularity around the world.
Ayurveda uses a holistic approach to health. It considers the body, mind, and soul when treating a condition.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that every living thing consists of five elements, or mahabhutas. These elements are said to make us who we are.
- air, which is associated with breathing and nerves
- space, or ether, which is associated with the spaces in your body (like your mouth or ears)
- fire, which is associated with metabolic activity
- earth, which is associated with structural body parts (like your bones)
- water, which is associated with fluids (like your saliva and blood)
Your combination of elements determines your type of energy, or dosha.
The doshas include:
- vata (air and space elements)
- pitta (fire and water elements)
- kapha (earth and water elements)
According to Ayurveda, every person has all three doshas, but one is typically dominant. The other two should be in balance in order to maintain good health.
If all your doshas are out of balance, you may feel unwell.
It’s said that migraine is caused by an imbalance of vata (or vata and kapha). Ayurveda aims to stabilize these doshas through holistic treatments.
Using a conventional approach, migraine is treated with:
- over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers
- migraine drugs (pills, nasal sprays, or shots)
- anti-nausea drugs
- antiseizure drugs
- Botox injections
- lifestyle changes
- self-care remedies
Although pain relievers and migraine abortive medications can help, long-term use can lead to medication overuse headaches. These headaches may cause more complications.
Ayurveda, on the other hand, uses:
Since Ayurvedic medicine doesn’t use prescription drugs, there isn’t a risk of medication overuse headache.
To treat migraine, Ayurveda uses natural methods meant to promote doshic balance.
An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you decide which methods are right for you.
Your treatment plan may include any combination of the following:
Panchakarma therapy is meant to detoxify, or purify, the body. This is said to remove toxins contributing to your migraine.
Examples of purification treatments include:
- pouring medicated oil into the nose (nasya karma)
- whole body oil massage
- eating medicated ghee
- sweating therapy
Panchakarma therapy may also involve lifestyle changes meant to promote overall wellness.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these options.
Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together your mind and body. It incorporates various breathing techniques and poses to promote relaxation.
By calming your mind and body, yoga helps ease stress and anxiety and may also reduce sensitivity to pain, including migraine pain.
According to a 2014 study, people who practiced yoga while following their regular migraine treatment reduced the frequency and severity of their migraine attacks.
Specific yoga poses may help boost your circulation and increase blood flow to your brain specifically.
Poses that may be especially beneficial for migraine relief include:
- Child’s Pose
- Downward-Facing Dog
- Bridge Pose
Scientific evidence suggests that regular exercise may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and also help manage symptoms.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are natural pain relievers. These also elevate your mood.
This may be especially beneficial if you’re prone to stress and anxiety, which are common migraine triggers.
You don’t need to do strenuous exercise to reap the rewards of physical activity. Moderate exercise like brisk walking, swimming at a leisurely pace, or water workouts may help relieve stress and support overall wellness.
Various relaxation techniques use the link between your mind and body to help reduce stress and tension.
Research shows that these techniques can also help ease stress symptoms, such as pain, headaches, and high blood pressure.
Some relaxation techniques that may be especially helpful for reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety include the following:
- Deep breathing. Also known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing, this technique involves breathing deeply from your belly, not from your chest. When you breathe more deeply, you nourish your body with oxygen, creating a calming effect.
- Meditation or mindfulness. Meditation and other mindfulness practices help you focus on the present moment instead of distracting thoughts of the past or future. This can help you think more clearly and change the the way you respond to stress.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Also known as Jacobson’s relaxation technique, this involves tightening and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. You usually start at your head or feet and work your way up or down, focusing on one muscle group at a time. This may help reduce stress, ease anxiety, and lower blood pressure.
- Mental imagery. Also known as guided imagery, this technique involves conjuring up a picture in your mind of a place that makes you feel happy and relaxed. These mental images can have a calming effect on your body.
A Pathyadi decoction is a liquid supplement made from multiple herbs. It’s created by heating or boiling plants to create a concentrated liquid.
For migraine treatment, a Pathyadi decoction will include Ayurvedic herbs with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
- amla berry
Ayurveda encourages certain lifestyle changes that have been well researched and are considered safe.
The methods outlined below are recommended by most mainstream doctors for migraine prevention and relief:
However, some Ayurvedic treatments haven’t been well researched and might be harmful.
Since Ayurvedic supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, they may contain toxic levels of metals like lead or mercury.
The herbs could also interact with your prescription medications. You might also be allergic to an herb without realizing it.
Additionally, the supposed benefits are reported by people who practice Ayurveda. There aren’t enough well-designed clinical trials to prove the safety and effectiveness of these treatments.
In addition to Ayurvedic treatments, there are other natural remedies that may help prevent migraine attacks or ease migraine symptoms.
Some examples include:
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture may reduce chronic pain, including migraine attacks.
- Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraine. Rich sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, eggs, and leafy greens.
- Ginger. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce migraine symptoms. Try drinking ginger tea or adding fresh ginger to your food.
- Butterbur. The purified root extract known as Petasites is used in pill form to treat migraine attacks. According to a 2012 study, Petasites may be effective for migraine prevention when taken twice daily as 50- to 75-milligram doses. This root can be toxic to the liver, so treatment must be monitored by a doctor.
- Ginkgo biloba. Made from the leaves of a tree native to China, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of ginkgo biloba may help ease migraine symptoms. However, more research is needed.
Ayurveda shouldn’t replace routine medical care. If you get headaches or migraine attacks frequently that disrupt your daily life, see your doctor for a diagnosis.
You should also get medical help if you have:
- an abrupt, intense headache
- a headache after an injury
- a headache with fever or stiff neck
- double vision
- numbness or weakness
- trouble speaking
- mental confusion
These symptoms could indicate a serious underlying condition.
Ayurveda is an ancient medicinal system that uses a holistic approach to health. It considers the body, mind, and soul when treating a condition, such as migraine.
However, it’s not clear if some of these methods are safe and effective, so it’s important to use caution, especially with treatments that are unproven.
Before trying Ayurveda, take time to learn about the potential benefits and risks.
Also be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to try any new treatment for your migraine.