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Chinese Medicine for Headaches

Chinese herbal medicinals can alleviate headache symptoms

just as effectively as over-the-counter drugs and precription
pharmaceuticals, but without the long-term side effects of
common analgesics such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Naproxen
Sodium, and Aspirin. Fast-acting herbs treat occasional
headaches, while slower-acting herbs treat chronic headaches
and prevent them from re-occurring. However, finding the right
herbal formula for your headaches is a tedious process that
requires the help of a skilled herbalist. This is because there are
many different etiologies for headaches, each causing different
types of headaches, and the proper herbal combinations to
treat these specific conditions differ according to your particular
symptoms and underlying pattern diagnosis.
The location of the headache, for example, makes a difference
when herbal medicinals are being precribed, and is useful in
determining the proper diagnosis. Pain at the top of the head or
behind the eyes is associated with the Liver Meridian in Chinese
Medicine; dull pain in these areas that is alleviated by lying
down is usually due to a Chinese Medical Pattern referred to as
Liver Blood Deficiency, while a sharp pain in these areas is due
to a condition called Liver Yang Rising. Both of these require
different herbal treatments. Temporal headaches are associated
with the Gallbladder Meridian, and often exhibit a sharp or
throbbing sensation. These are due to Liver Yang, Fire, or Wind
Rising. Dull frontal headaches can be a sign of a Stomach
Deficiency Pattern, while sharp frontal headaches indicate a
Stomach Heat Pattern. Herbal medicinals would need to
supplement the stomach and clear heat, respectively, in order
to effectively cure the headache. If frontal headaches occur
with a sensation of cloudy thinking or heaviness in the head, it
is usually caused by Dampness or Phlegm. In this case, an
herbal medicinal can only be effective in treating the headache
if herbs are used which specifically clear Dampness and Phlegm
out of the head. Yet another cause of frontal headaches is a
pathogenic Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat, usually brought on by
seasonal or environmental factors. Acute onset of an occiptal
headache (pain in the back of the head or neck) is also a sign
of a pathogenic factor (such as a cold or flu). Herbal treatment
involves expelling the pathogenic factor. Chronic occipital
headaches tend to be caused by a deficiency in the energetics
of the Kidney, which causes pain on the Bladder Meridian.
Chronic headaches affecting the whole head are due to
malnourishment of the brain from a Kidney Essence Deficiency.
In order to treat these headaches, your herbalist must create a
formula that includes herbs that specifically bring nourishment
to your brain.
Let's take a look at some of the etiologies for headaches
according to Chinese Medical Diagnosis. Click on each one for
further information about symptoms and forms of treatment.
1. wind-cold headaches
2. wind-heat headaches
3. wind-dampness headaches
4. liver-yang rising headaches

5. liver-fire headaches
6. liver-wind headaches
7. liver-qi stagnation headaches
8. stagnation of cold in the liver channel headaches
9. dampness headaches
10. turbid phlegm-wind headaches
11. food stagnation headaches
12. stomach heat headaches
13. qi deficiency headaches
14. blood deficiency headaches
15. kidney deficiency headaches
Let's take a look at some of the etiologies for headaches in
Western Biomedicine. Click on each one for further information.
1. intracranial inflammatory meningitis
2. non-inflammatory vascular migraine
3. cerebal (sub-arachnoid) hemorrhage
4. cerebral tumor
5. essential hypertension/hypertensive headache
6. secondary hypertension/hypertensive headache
7. sinusitis (sinus infection)
8. otitis (ear infection)
9. glaucoma
10. cervical spondylosis
11. trigeminal neuralgia
According to Chinese Medicine, cold wind can lead to a
headache by "invading" the body's meridian pathways at the
back of the nexk and occiput of the head. This slows down the
circulation of blood in these areas, leading to muscle local
muscular contraction, and a resulting stiffness in the back of
the neck. This is referred to as a Wind-Cold Headache, which is
the kind of headache we commonly experience during the
beginning stages of the common cold. It is usually accompanied
by generalized body aches, stiff and achy shoulders, shivering,
slight fever, coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose.
Within Chinese Herbal Medicine, this type of headache is
treating with a combination of herbs that help naturally raise
the body's core temperature to aid in expelling the pathogen
while also providing pain relief.
One common herbal combination that is used is a formula
called Ligusticum-Green Tea Regulating Powder, which consists
of the herbs chuan xiong (Szechuan lovage root), qiang huo
(notoptergum), bai zhi (angelicae dahuricae), jing jie
(schizonepetae), xi xin (asarum), fang feng (ledebouriellae), bo
he (mint), gan cao (licorice), and qing cha (green tea). If the
headache occurs in other areas besides the back of the head,
the formula can be modified with chai hu (bupleurum), huang
qin (scutellariae) and qing hao (artemisia) for temporal
headaches, and sheng ma (cimicifuga) and ge gen (pueraria)
for frontal headaches.
For a more in-depth look at how this formula works, let's look
more closely at the actions of each herb within the formula.

Chuan xiong enhances blood circulation in the area of the head,

while also exerting analgesic properties, qiang huo relieves pain
in the upper limbs and back and raises the body temperature to
fight infections, and bai zhi has anti-microbial, analgesic, and
decongestant properties. Jing jie promotes sweating and also
has a unique ability to stop itching and vent rashes if the
headache is accompanied by skin eruptions such as measles. Xi
xin is a fever reducer, analgesic, decongestant, and natural
antibiotic. Fang feng has an antimicrobial effect against some
influenza viruses, while also being a fever reducer and pain
reliever, and has shown to also be an effective antidote to
arsenic poinsoning. Bo he (mint) soothes a sore thoat, vents
rashes, alleviates irritability, inhibits viral and bacterial
replication, and helps cool the body temperature. Gan cao
(licorice) alleviates pain and muscle spasms, cools the body,
lubricates the respiratory system, treats coughing, enhances
digestion, improves energy, and aids the body in detoxification.
A Wind-Cold Headache can often progress to a Wind-Heat
Headache since the body is inherently warm. However, if you
contract a "cold" during the summer, or if you live in a warm
and windy climate, you may experience a Wind-Heat headache
during the beginning stages of the "cold." This type of
headache produces a feeling of distention inside the head, and
the pain can be very intense. It's the kind of pain that makes
you feel like your head needs to be cracked open to relieve the
pressure. Other symptoms which may accompany this
headache include shivering, fever, thirst, ruuny nose with
yellow discharge, sore throat, swollen tonsils, bloodshot eyes,
and darker urine than usual. A Chinese herbalist skillfully
trained in pulse and tongue diagnosis will recognize that your
tongue is darker red on the sides and tip, and your pulse feels
faster and more superficial than normal. The herbal remedy
should include herbs that help fight the infection, lower your
fever, and relieve pain in the appropriate areas.
A common herbal formula that is effective against Wind-Heat
Headache is Shan Yang Shang Feng Ling (Goat Horn Influenza
formula). This formula consists of shan yang jiao (goat horn),
tian hua fen (trichosanthis root), lian qiao (forsythia fruit), zhu
ru (bamboo shavings), Jing Jie (schizonepeta), ge gen (kudzu),
gan cao (licorice), jin yin hua (lonicerae), niu bang zi, and bo
he (field mint). Let's take a look at the actions of each
individual ingredient to learn more about how this formula
works so well for Wind-Heat Headache:
Shan yang jiao is a natural fever-reducer that can even treat
convulsions and delirium due to high fever. Be sure to consult a
licensed practitioner of Oriental Medicine for the proper dosage
for such conditions. Tian hua fen helps your body to generate
fluids to relieve thirst and irritability. Lian qiao is a strong antimicrobial against a wide spectrum of infections including
shigella and staphylococcus. Also an anti-microbial, zhu ru is an
expectorant when thick, yellow sputum is trapped in the lungs
and sinuses. Jing jie, ge gen, and niu bang zi treat rashes and

fever, and ge gen also alleviates thirst and stops diarrhea. Gan
cao aids the body in detoxification and strengthens enery
levels, while jin yin hua and niu bang zi are effective against
salmonella and streptococcos. Bo he soothes the throat and
improves mood.