The Ayurveda Approach to Migraine, Tension and Cluster Headache Pain

Ayurveda complements the modern medical approach to migraine, cluster and tension headaches by introducing subtle techniques for determining the root imbalance at the basis of headaches and providing natural approaches to removing those imbalances.

There is a general agreement as to what physiological changes in the brain create headache pain. In every case there must be some stimulation of the pain sensitive structures in the head. Stimulation of these pain centers is usually created by a dilation or constriction of blood vessel walls that aggravate nerve endings in the pain sensitive areas. It is less clear to modern medicine as to why certain stimuli like estrogen fluctuation, barometric pressure change, light, insomnia and hunger trigger these intense headaches.

Ayurveda can often provide individuals with a new perspective on what is causing their headache through the technique of pulse assessment. An expert in Ayurveda pulse assessment can determine which divisions of biological intelligence (doshas) have become imbalanced. Ayurveda describes how it is these imbalances in the inner intelligence of the body that prevent the natural self-repair processes from removing the physical sources of migraines and other headaches.

Pulse assessment will provide an understanding of the degree to which mental stress and a build-up of toxins may be contributing to the episodes of headaches. In this way the root causes of vascular fluctuations in the brain can be more precisely pinpointed.

Let’s look at the Ayurvedic approach to headaches:


The vascular changes in the brain at the basis of headache pain are often created by nervous system instability. Excess vascular wall dilation and constriction occurs due to an inappropriate response from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Ultimately it is the imbalanced performance of these divisions of the nervous system that creates the experience of headache pain.

Ayurveda calls the principle of biological intelligence that controls nervous system activity Vata. By assessing the extent and location of Vata imbalance within the body, an Ayurveda expert is able to offered targeted natural recommendation to address the root imbalances in Vata and nervous system disfunction. Because Vata is the most commonly disturbed principle within the body, there is a great wealth of recommendations within Ayurvedic medicine to help restore Vata’s proper functioning.


Certain foods increase the activity of Vata and others decrease Vata activity. By eating Vata balancing foods and avoiding Vata aggravating foods, individuals can gain a powerful dietary approach to reducing imbalances at the basis of headache symptoms.


Toxin accumulation in nervous system tissue can aggravate and sensitize those tissues to pain.

Impurities can also block channels of circulation and elimination, which prevents nutrients from nourishing nerve tissues and waste from being eliminated. Adjusting one’s diet to avoid foods prone to being poorly digested or which can compromise the digestive process and improving elimination are important first steps.

A key part of the program to address migraine headaches at The Raj Ayurveda Health Center is Panchakarma, the traditional purification treatments of Ayurveda. Panchakarma is a powerful tool for removing imbalances and the basis of migraine and headaches. The multi-modality approach works by:

1) Loosening impurities from where they have been deeply embedded in the tissues

2) Liquefying the impurities so that they may be more easily eliminated and

3) Opening the channels of circulation, thereby supporting natural cleansing processes.

The goal of Panchakarma is to draw out of tissues the chemical impurities that are unbalancing Vata and clogging circulation.

Oil Massage

Herbalized oil massage is especially helpful in balancing Vata and eliminating impurities. Daily home massage can provide a deeply soothing and balancing effect to the entire nervous system.

Stress Management

Many individuals experience that headaches are often worsened by heightened stress, anxiety and mental fatigue. This is due to hormonal changes and other biochemical responses to stress that can aggravate the nervous system, create pain and depress resistance. A vicious cycle can also be triggered wherein the sleep disturbance that can be created by headaches increases fatigue and thus one’s susceptibility to stress, which can lead to more headaches. The Raj recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) to help remove the stress component of migraine and headache. Research shows that TM creates virtually the opposite physiological response that stress does and helps the body recover more quickly from stressful stimulus. There are published articles on the effectiveness of TM practice for both pain relief and insomnia.

Lifestyle and Daily Routine

One of the most important factors for balancing Vata and keeping the natural cleansing processes strong is to have a lifestyle that does not disturb natural bodily rhythms. When we eat, sleep and exercise in constantly fluctuating and disturbing patterns, the body looses its natural balancing cycles and cannot cleanse or heal itself properly. Therefore regularity in daily routine can be extremely important for reducing headache symptoms.