Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for Headaches
Patients often ask me to diagnose their problem. And in Chinese medicine the diagnosis is much more complicated than in Western medicine. For instance, the diagnosis of headache in Chinese medicine can be sub-divided into many different categories, and each category needs a completely different type of treatment.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine evolved in a culture with an entirely different view of the world and of the human body. It views the human body as a whole and uses terminology that reflects this different worldview. These categories are also discussed in my book, Optimal Health: How To Get It, How To Keep It.
1. Wind Cold: This type of headache is usually encountered in winter, or when you are exposed to a cold draft or air conditioning. Symptoms usually include aversion to cold, shivering, possible fever, cough, sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, and pale urine. Often the neck and shoulders are very tight and the headache is worse in the back of the head. One of the best ways to avoid this type of headache is to use a scarf to protect the back of the neck from the cold. The primary herbal formula for this type of headache is Yin Chiao and the points used are GB 20, 21, 2, and 43.
2. Wind Heat: This second of type of headache feels as if the head is too full and is usually accompanied by a fever, thirst, sore throat, red eyes, dark urine, constipation, rapid pulse and re-tipped tongue. The most common herbal formulas for this type are Gan Mao Ling and Gentianna Formula and the acupuncture points used include GV 20, 4 Gates, and St 45.
3. Internal Dampness: This is most frequent in damp areas when the individual is prone to dampness from a damp spleen condition. Common symptoms include a swollen tongue with teeth marks, bloating, dull headaches with a heavy feeling in the head, a feeling of being in a fog mentally, runny nose, lack of appetite or nausea, craving for sweets and a sticky tongue coating. The most common Chinese herbal formula for this type of headache is Ginseng and Cardamom Formula or Prosperous Farmer Formula. Acupuncture points used might include Sp 4, 6, St 36, CV 12.
4. Blood Stasis: This type of headache will have a stabbing type of pain and be long-term, and chronic. They may come from an injury like a whiplash or a chronic muscle-spasm in the neck and shoulder that was never completely dealt with. Other sources might be from chronic allergies or chronic sinus problems. The pain will be stabbing, or boring, as if a nail were being driven into the head and there may also be painful menses with dark-clotted blood or pain in the lower left portion of the abdomen. The tongue might have a purple spot or have a purple tinge throughout. Formulas for this type of headache include Corydalis, Oophiopagon and Assarum and Meridian Passage. Acupuncture points used include GB 21, 2, 43, St 30, 28, and Yin Tang.
This is just a small sampling of diagnostic categories for headaches and their treatments. There are many more types of headaches according to Chinese medicine and also many other Chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture points that I might use in treatment of the headache depending on the severity and longevity.
The recommended herbs mentioned above are NOT just painkillers. Rather, they will work to change and get rid of the underlying condition that is causing the headache. In addition to these formulas, I also recommend using herbal and natural pain relievers as much as possible. These have no side effects, cause no toxicity to your liver or kidneys, and are preferable to the use of drugs. The companies whose products I sell are constantly updating their formulas based on the latest research. These pain formulas will help with the pain and / or inflammation. Some herbs are also designed to help you to get to sleep.
In addition to Chinese herbs and acupuncture, I will usually recommend a homeopathic remedy and a dietary change of one type or another. Often headaches are caused by an allergy to certain foods, or by low blood sugar, or blood sugar swings. Diet can play an important role in regulating and treating headaches.
Finally, exercise is critical in the treatment of headaches. It’s important to keep the energy, or Chi, flowing smoothly, keep the thyroid functioning well, and the adrenal glands working optimally.