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Traditional Chinese Herbal Formulas for Headaches
For many, the pain of headaches can be a debilitating experience that impacts every aspect of their lives. Prescription drugs may remove the pain but cause other side effects of even greater concern. Over the counter pain relievers can address some headaches, but not all, and most importantly, most of these remedies address the headache alone and rarely the underlying cause of the problem. Traditional Chinese medicine herbs have been used to treat aches and pains, as well as their underlying causes for thousands of years and are poised to provide you with relief from your headaches.
There are two general causes for headaches according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). One is a stagnation of Qi (pronounced "chee", sometimes spelled "chi") energy in one of the meridians that passes through the head. In these cases, something has gotten into the channels and the goal of the therapy is to remove the obsticle which will directly impact the pain. An example of this kind of headache would be the pain that arises from nasal congestion. There's something there that is clogging up the Qi flow, and the result is a headache. We call this a headache due to "excessive causes". The other cause for headaches isn't so much an obsticle to the flow of Qi, but a deficiency of something that is required for the proper functioning of the brain. This is like the headache you can get when you're very hungry. There isn't enough Qi in the body to nourish the brain and you get dizzy, foggy, or weak along with a headache. Obviously, the way to treat this headache is to simply eat some food, but in many cases the deficiency doesn't respond simply to a good meal. These causes for headaches are also addressed with TCM herbal treatments.
In TCM we don't have too many cure-alls and whenever we treat anything, we must understand its cause to effectively treat the symptoms. This is of course a real problem on the internet as individuals or companies attempt to make a fast buck on herbal cure-alls, these products really don't work that well for most people. Headaches are no different. The headache you get after a period of stress is going to be addressed with calming herbs while the headache that arrives with rainy weather will not respond to calming herbs but rather herbs that push dampness out of the meridians that pass through the head.
Treating headaches with herbal medicines can be very effective. The herbs aren't always as quick and strong as over the counter pain relievers but for those with headaches who can't take pharmaceuticals, herbs are wonderful when the correct formula is chosen. More importantly, they address an entire constellation of other symptoms that arise from the same underlying cause. We have a saying in acupuncture: One needle cures 100 diseases. What that means is that when you address the underlying cause, you'll effect all of the symptoms. This applies to herbal medicines as well.
Disclaimer: The information on this page is an attempt to demonstrate what is possible, not to diagnosis or treat your problem. For this, we encourage you to work directly with a licensed practitioner of TCM herbalism. The formulas listed in these series of articles are among perhaps 30 that treat headache and should be taken only under the guidance of someone with the proper training to dispense said medicinal herbs. Being "herbal" doesn't make it right or safe for you. If there are no licensed TCM herbalists near you, please return to the BeyondWellBeing.com home page for information on how you can work with the author of these articles to obtain some herbal medicines for your headaches. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, although I do see a few visitors from "fda.gov" on the visitor logs for this website, so perhaps they have been evaluated by the FDA. It just wasn't official is all. : )
-Al Stone Licensed Acupuncturist/TCM Herbalist