Spring Can Be a Headache! TCM’s Approach to Migraines and Headaches
It’s wonderful when spring is here…we can enjoy longer sunny days and an end to those cold, grey and rainy winter days. Unfortunately during springtime, changing weather together with our modern lifestyle (sitting long hours in a bad position and eating unbalanced diets) often result in unpleasant headaches and migraines.
As spring is the season of rebirth, growth, and blooming flowers, so is it for the human body which has to readapt to a new environment and get out of winter passivity. In TCM, the change from winter to spring is seen as a transition from a cold-Yin period (winter) to a hot-Yang period (summer).
Causes of Spring Headaches
During spring time, the liver, which in TCM organizes the flow of Qi, plays an important role. It is responsible for releasing the Qi which has been stored during the winter – when the body is supposed to fight against cold weather and stay more passive. Influenced by Yang, the liver may modify the Qi and blood flows in an upward and warming manner, thus causing a Yin deficiency, resulting in body heat, excessive emotions, high blood pressure, headaches and migraines.
An overburdened liver is responsible for unbalanced flows of Qi and blood moving up to the head. That is why, at this time of year, doctors see lots of patients complaining of headaches and migraines, often coupled with tensions and pain in the neck and the shoulders. The overflow of Qi and the blood deficiency need to be controlled in order to release the body from tensions and pain and restore a free flow of those two vital substances, especially in the head.
Pain killers merely mask the symptoms of headaches, and often become less effective over time. TCM helps get rid of headaches naturally with the use of acupuncture, herbal medicine and appropriate diet.
- Acupuncture consists of placing needles on the meridians (channels of energy in the body) to restore the right flow of Qi and relieve the discomfort and pain. Strategic points interconnected with the flow of Qi and blood in the head and the liver are targeted to release blockages. This enables the human body to function properly by removing the disorder of the liver Qi and achieve balance between Yin and Yang.
- Herbal medicine is prescribed individually according to the diagnosis established by the TCM doctor. One of the main ingredients used to cure headaches and migraine are scorpions because they neutralize the liver Qi. As they are extremely toxic, they must be taken strictly according to a TCM doctor’s prescription. Another Chinese formula that relieves headaches and migraines is Yan Hu Suo (延胡索), made of a combination of Bai Zhi (白芷) - angelica root - and Chuan Xiong (川芎) - ligusticum wallichii. Its bitter action calms down the liver, helps the Qi to flow and soothes the pain.
- healthier lifestyle, with a good diet and exercise, can help to prevent headaches and migraines. Try to favor cooling foods like seasonal green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, peas, broccoli, etc.) or sprouts and avoid warming food items like spicy food, red meat and alcohol which would worsen the Yang excess. In order to calm down the liver, spring is a great time to do a cleanse and supply your body with detoxifying herbs like dandelion.
Enough sleep and sufficient physical activities will help your body adapt to the new season. Spring is time for movement. Spending time outdoors, breathing fresh air (check pollution levels) and nourishing your body with the sunlight and exercise is the best way to avoid Qi stagnation and thus prevent any dysfunction in your body and your soul.
Implementing these few tips can enable you to use this time of year to get a fresh start, feel positive and undertake new projects. Enjoy the bright days, smell the blooming flowers and convert the sun’s energy into a boost in your daily life. Happy spring, minus the headaches!