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Headache - Ayurveda view

Headache is a main symptom now a days beacuase of many reasons like stress, wrong diet, using of headphones, using og  of mobile phones, long journey, night duties..here we mentioned about headache,symptoms causes, remedies are clearly mentioned in details

Author: Dr.Milind Kumavat



The general Nidanas for Shiroroga has been described in Charaka Samhita, Ashtanga Samgraha, Ashtanga Hridaya, Yoga Ratnakar and Harita Samhia, While the specific Nidanas for Vatika Shirahshula has been mentioned in details in Charaka Samhita and Harita Samhita only. Sushruta has mentioned the Vatika Shirahshula as Animitta Shiroruja. Here, general causes of Shiroroga has been tabulated as below.
Acharya Charaka has mentioned etiology of Shiro Roga in Kiyantah Shirasiya Adhyaya of Sutrasthana.
Suppression of natural urges, sleep during the day time, vigil
during the night, intoxication, speaking aloud, exposure to frost and
easterly wind, sexual indulgence, inhalation of undesirable smell,
exposure to dust, smoke, snowfall and sun, intake of heavy and sour food and rhizomes including tubers etc. in excessive quantity, excessive intake of cold water, injury to the head, vitiation of Ama (a product of improper digestion and metabolism), lamentation, suppression of tears, advent of cloud, mental stress and adopting regimen contrary to these prescribed for the locality and season; the Dosha get aggravated resulting in the vitiation of Rakta Dhatu in the head, leading to the manifestation of Shiro Roga.
Another reading for the term Dushtamat is Ushnamat. If the latter reading is adopted, the interpretation would be that such diseases are caused by heat and Ama. It may further be stated in this connection that in all types of diseases relating to the head, vitiation of Rakta Dhatu is regarded as an invariable cause.
Acharya Vagbhata and Yogaratnakara have included excessive
sudation, Krimi, avoidance of pillow during sleep, aversion to massage and constant looking at objects; as its etiological factors, but not mentioned head injury, sexual indulgence, exposure to dust and snow, heavy and sour food, advent of cloud, mental stress and adopting regimen contrary to locality and season, in the general etiological factors for disease occurring in head. In Harita Samhita Shirahshula is specifically mentioned under the heading of Karmaja Vyadhi.
After assessing the above terminologies it can be concluded that the pain which arises in the head is termed as headache. As Shirahshula occurs due to vitiation of Doshas, anything which can aggravate them can be the arise. If it is among them Vegadharan (withholding the natural urges as that of micturition, defaecation, sneezing etc.) sleeping much in the daytime, awakening in the night, use of alcoholic drinks, loud speaking, affection with wind, snow, excessive indulgence in sexual intercourse, affection with bad smell, dust, fume, hot sun, eating undigestable, uncooked, very cold and non-nutritious food, head injury, sorrow, worry, mental tension etc. Vatadosha gets vitiated which by itself or along with other Doshas causes headache by settling in Shira.

Vegadharana :

Vegas are the involuntary actions of the body as that of excretion
of waste products from the body as that of micturition, defaecation, thirst, hunger, sneezing etc. which are the natural urges which one cannot avoid because it is really needed for normal functioning of the body. Being involuntary in action (the functions of autonomic nervous system)trying to withhold it will upset Vata as Vegapravartan is the function of Vata. Malavegadharana causing Malabandha or constipation is the common cause of headache. Mutravegadharana, beyond the capacity of Mutrashaya (urinary bladder) can also cause vitiation of Vata and so Shirahshula. Shirahshula can be the result of Vegadharana of Vit, Ksudha, Ashru etc.

Atyuccha Bhashana:

Talk much loudly and for a long time cause Kaphakshaya with
vitiation of Vata, affecting dryness of mouth, severe headache,
horseness of sound etc. (affecting vocal cords) because of the vitiation of Vata situated in head, Shula will be felt causing Shirahshula.

Himat :

Shita or coldness is one of the qualities of Vata. Affection with cold wind, walking in cold weather uncovered, eating cold food etc. increases the coldness of the body depressing body temperature
(affecting various systems). It causes several Vatika disorders as
Shirahshula (headache), Ardita (facial palsy) etc. due to the aggravation of Vata, by its Atishita, constriction of the blood vessels causing headache.


Walking under hot sun or working outside under hot sun causes
severe headache because of vitiation of pitta aggravated by the similar quality of it (Ushna). Panther type of Vatapaittika type of headache occurs more with Atapasevana. Increased Pitta, causes distruction and decrease of Kaphadosha and vitiation of pilla Suryavarta type of Shirahshula also occur due to Atapasevana. Affection with very hot sun can cause heat stroke in which headache is the most important symptom coming caroditation. Fainting, nausea, vomiting etc. are other symptoms of it.


Sleeping much in daytime causes increase in Kapha and Meda. As less energy is needed or utilized during sleep pitta is used very little
and Kapha gets increased in amount increasing Medodhatu (excess of fat of Meda). The increased Kapha Dosha and Medodhatu itself can cause Shirahshula of Kaphaja type or cause Aavarana to Vata causing headaches of Raktatimardaja type of headache.

Awakening in the night:

6-8 hours sleep is needed for an average human being for the total rest of physical and mental functions. The brain also relaxes causing more production of Kapha and less energy is produced during the period of sleep. Awakening for a long time in the night alleviates Vata or vitiates it, the vitiated Vata deranges the functions of other Doshas as Pitta also resulting into loss of memory or inability to concentrate in anything, loss of appetite, general body weakness, severe headache etc. As nidra (sleep) is considered to be one among the three pillars which support the body as a building.

Affection with bad or pungent smell, dust etc.:

Atiyoga of any sense organ can cause vitiation of Doshas. Affection with bad (which one does not like) or pungent odour for long time, reading or watching movie for very long time, affection with dust,
eating uncooked food etc. can cause headache due to vitiation of
Doshas, mostly Vata.


Eating undigestable food, non-nutritious food, the food one which
does not like etc. can cause headache and at times as a prodromal
symptom of other disorders as Ajirna (indigestion), Chhardi (Vomiting) etc. Food materials has got very important place in causing headache. As it is said that the food materials containing caffeine as coffee causes rebound headache as it first gives relief from headache by vasoconstriction but later one will cause rebound vasodilatation and headache. Chocolates, cheese, ice cream, food materials containing varieties as that of Chinese restaurant food materials etc. can cause Shirahshula. (British Medical Journal 30th July 1977).
Food materials as cured meat can cause headache as nitrites are
added to salt while preparing to give uniform red colour but this nitrite causes severe headache as after eating western food materials as hot dog, bacon, ham or salami and so it is otherwise said to be hot dog headache in modern medicine. This type of headache will be severe and unilaterally felt in Ardhavabhedaka.
Another type of headache is the Chinese restaurant syndrome as
that because of the presence of monosodium glutamate added while
cooking the Chinese meal. This headache will be felt as symptom
complex of pressure and tightness in the face, burning over the trunk, neck and shoulders and a pressing pain in the chest which may follow 20-25 minutes after eating a Chinese meal.


Holding ice or ice-cream in the mouth or swallowing it as a bolus
may cause local pain in the palate or throat due to vitiation of Vata. It may also refer pain to the forehead or temple via the Tridharanadi. (Trigeminal nerve) and to the ear through the vagus nerve; this condition is mentioned as ice-cream headache in modern science. Eating other food material just after taking out from a fridge or freezer without warming it can also cause headache of this type.

Madat (Usage of Madhya):

Usage of Madya or alcohol can also cause headache mostly in those persons who have a tendency or who is having the Shirahshula
(headache) of Ardhavabhedaka (Migraine) type. Any type of Madhya
contain ethyl alcohol as an active ingredient which is a vasodilator. This vasodilatation (Dhamanee vikasam) causes headache of throbbing type or hangover headache. The average rate at which a normal sized adult metabolizes alcohol is about 10 m per hour (Ritchie 1970). It is first oxidized to acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde is then converted to or used in the synthesis of Cholesterol and fatty acids. Consuming alcohol in very large amount may affect further oxidation of acetaldehyde causing increased amount of the same in blood, giving rise to the symptoms of throbbing headache, hot flush of face, nausea, vomiting, giddiness etc. followed by hypotension and pallor.

Use of Madakaradrugs:

Use of Madakaradrugs as Ahiphena, Bhanga etc. in highest amount can cause dryness of mouth, sensation of warmthy mild frontal headache (Shirahshula) due to vasodilatation. Otherwise it alleviates
pain by depressing the mental functions.


There are three kinds of headache associated with Maithunakarma (Sexual activity). The first is a dull headache commonly bilateral and will be felt on the back of the head (occipital area) and occurs as sexual excitement mounts. It is probably related to excessive contraction of head and neck muscles since it can be prevented or
relieved by deliberate relaxation of those muscle groups (Paulson and Kalwans 1974). The second type of headache, more severe and
expulsive in onset, appears immediately before or at the moment of
orgasm, presumably caused by the increase in blood pressure at that
time. The third type arise during coitus (Maithunakarma) is felt worst
while standing up and some postulate that arachnoid membrane may torn off during the physical stress causing headache. Sexual intercourse has been known to precipitate subarachnoid haemorrhage (Adam 1939).


Dhumapana (smoking cigarette, bidi etc.) done in continuous
succession for a long time causes constriction of blood vessels first
followed by rebound vasodilatation because of the presence of nicotine in it. Dhuma containing mostly carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide causes headache due to anoxia. A rebound vasodilatation may occur after (tobacco smoking) cigarette smoking which contain nicotine the vasoconstrictor and so rebound headache may occur even if it gives temporary relief from headache first. The fumes of cardmium, temporary relief from headache first. The fumes of cardmium, phosphine, bromine, hydrogen, cyanide, aldehides, naphthalene, turpentine, polyester resins, amylnitrate, stearine etc. causes severe headache and the workers of the factories of such plants will get affected by such fumes who will become prey to such chronic type of headache.
According to the modern medicine headache is not an independent disease but only a mere symptom present in the various types of diseases. Headache is specially predominatly present in the intracranial disorders. Charaka has described headache as an independent disease; hence various etiological factors are obtained in Ayurveda Sahityam can be classified as follows:
Type Charakadi Texts

      1. Aharaja Hetu

         Guru-Amla-Haritashaka, Shitambu Sevana,
          Cooked or uncooked food stomach full diet,Chocolate eating 
          individual types of meats and mushroom, large interval
           between meals.

       2. Viharaja Hetu

Sleeping during the day, and awaking at night, talking in very high tone, excessive sleep, excessive coitus, Tusharambukrida, Adhapratatekshana, Atiasanam, excessive speech. Ekagra-drishtidarshana, getting wet in the rainy season, Aatapsevanam, prolonged T.V., Video viewing.

       3. Psychological Factors:
Distress, Mental irritation, Anger, fright,Thinking, Mental stress, unattainment of willing things, depression.

        4. Environmental Causes:

Inhalation of the fresh morning air, Inhalation of smoke, dust in excess, Inhalation of strong smell, Himsevanam, Unsuitable smell inhalation, pollution, Industrial sound pollution, Climatic changes, atmospheric pressure or deficiency.


Intracranial disorders, accumulation of Aam Dosha, Dental and Nasal diseases, pyrexia, viral infection, tumours, Adenomas, Abscesses, constipation.

          6.Additional Causes

Alcoholism, tea, coffee, Bidi, Cigarette smoking, Tobacco chewing, Ahiphena, Ganja, Smack addiction, drug addiction,

           7. Agantuja Hetu (External Causes)

Trauma to the head, lumbar puncture.

           8. Causes due to holding to urges

Holding of the urge of stool excretion, urine excretion, urge of sneezing, avoidance of sleep.

           9. Shodhanopacharaj Hetu

    Abhayanga, excessive Raktamokshanam.

  10. Medicinal Causes

      Excessive consumption of hot and spicy foods,

11. consumption of toxic drugs

Amines, Hystamine, Cadarine. Toxic Causes Lead poisoning, Carbon monoxide and benzene vapours.

The etiological factors of Vataja Shiroroga are mentioned only in
Charaka Samhita and Harita Samhita which is given below :
 उच्चैर्भाष्यातिभाष्याभ्यां तिक्ष्णपानात प्रजागरात् |
शितमारुतसन्स्पर्शाद् व्यवायोद्वेगनिग्रहात् |
उपवासादभिघाताद विरेकाद् वमनादति |
बाष्पशोकभयत्रासाद्भार मार्गातिकर्षनात |
 (Cha. Su. 17/16-17)

अतिभारातियोगेन अतितिक्ष्णोष्णभावत:|
  विनाभ्यगेन ………………………….( Ha. Sam. 43)
These factors can divided into following three categories.

Aahar Hetu (Dietary factors)

1. Tikshna pana (Strong alcohol consumption)
2. Ati Vireka (Excessive purgation)
3. Ati Vamana (Excessive vomiting)

 Vihar Hetu (Recreational factors)

       1.    Ucchairbhashya (High tone speech)
       2.    Atibhashana (Excessive talking)
       3.    Prajagara(Night waking)
       4.    Shitamarutasparsha(Contact of cold wind)
       5.    Ati Vyavaya (Excessive coitus)

    6.  Vega Nigraha (Holding of natural urges of motion and urination)
        7.    Upavasa (Fasting)
        8.    Abhighata (Trauma/Injury)
         9.    Vyayama (Excessive exercise)
10.      Bashpa (Excessive lacrimation)
11.      Ati Margakarshana (Excessive walking)
12.      Ati Bharavahana (Heavy weight lifting)

Manas Hetu (Psychological factors)  

1.     Shoka (grief)
2.     Bhaya (Fear)
3.     Trasa (Mental stress)
All above mentioned causes are mainly responsible for
Dhatukshaya – particularly for Rasa Dhatu resulting in Vata Prakopa. In Charak Samhita Su. 28 it is clearly mentioned that, रसवाहिनि दुष्यन्ति चिन्त्यानां चाति चिन्तनात्. means Chinta, Shoka etc. are causative factor for Rasavaha Srotodushti ultimately resulting in Vata Prakopa and hence responsible for Vatika Shirahshula.