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acupuncture and herbs for headaches
headaches benefit from acupuncture and herbs
Index to This Headache
  • Location of Headache
  • Herb Formula
  • Tongue Appearance
  • Similar Syndromes
  • Explanation of Mechanism
  • Other Symptoms
  • Applicable Diseases
  • Cautions and Warnings
  • Usage and Prognosis
  • How to Obtain this Formula

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  • radiating from neck
  • forehead
  • sinuses
  • behind the eyes
  • temples
  • one sided
  • top of the head

  • radiating from neck
  • Empty feeling (see fatigue)
  • Sharp pain fixed in location
  • With stiff shoulders (acute)
  • With stiff shoulders (chronic)
  • Throbbing
  • Heavy sensation
  • Dull pain (see fatigue)

  • stress
  • menopause
  • cold or damp weather
  • fatigue
  • PMS
  • dull and throbbing
  • during period
  • after period
  • dry windy weather
  • allergies
  • common cold
  • flu
  • standing upright
  • laying down

  • morning
  • the afternoon
  • the evening
  • sleep period
  • pre-dawn hours

  • cold hands and feet
  • hypothyroidism
  • frequent urination
  • prefers warm drinks
  • prefers cold drinks
  • often thirsty
  • night sweats
  • hot flashes
  • menopause
  • dry mouth or throat
  • better when laying down
  • when hungry
  • after period
  • high blood pressure

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • lack of appetite
  • phlegm after eating
  • arthritis
  • physical trauma
  • purple beneath eyes
  • sharp pain fixed location
  • chills more than fever
  • fever more than chills
  • facial tics
  • testicular pain
  • Headaches due to Liver Wind (Migraine)

    Location of headache: Likely at the temples or behind the eyes. This headache may be described as a migraine as well.

    May also be associated with tight shoulders as the GB channel passes through the trapezius muscle.

    the shao yang headache

    Herb Formula: Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin (Gastroidia and Uncaria Decoction)

    Tongue Appearance: Liver Wind doesn't have a very dramatic tongue appearance associated with it, unless the tongue is deviated to one side or the other. If this is the case. please read "cautions and warnings" below. Liver wind could also produce a trembling tongue which is a tongue that moves and shakes when you stick it out. I hesitate to include this information because in many cases, the trembling tongue only indicates that one is not used to sticking out their tongue.


    Internal heat is what commonly causes Liver Wind, and so we'll more often look for signs of heat on the tongue to support the diagnosis of Liver Wind. The first indication of heat is a tongue that is more red than usual. If necessary, compare the tongue color to other adults who are in good health to find out what is normal pink and what is pathological red. Don't compare the tongue to children, their tongues tend to be redder than adults as they run hot as a normal condition.

    red tongue body

    Other indications of heat that can lead to Liver Wind include a yellow tongue coating.

    thick yellow tongue coating

    Finally, red dots on the tongue can also indicate internal heat. You may find these spots specifically on one or both sides of the tongue as is indicated in the bottom image to the right. The lateral edges of the tongue are associated with the (TCM concept of the) Liver. When the Liver gets hot or angry as the case may be, it can generate wind which is what this headache is all about. Think of this as a bonfire that generates a strong updraft in your body.

    red dots in liver area

    Also see:
    Aggravated by menstruation: Qi Stagnation
    Dull pain: Qi and Blood Deficiency
    With dry windy weather: Yin Deficiency

    Explanation: This formula is commonly associated with stress, rage or anger. Emotions tend to effect the Liver organ as defined by traditional Chinese medicine. That's not exactly the same liver as we think of in biomedicine, the TCM Liver is more associated with the peripheral nervous system, hormones, and even the blood pressure. At any rate, once the TCM Liver gets angry it begins to get hot and give off heat and wind. This wind rises up into the head, often times following the trajectory of the Gall Bladder channel. Wind is a funny name for neurological issues, but not when you look at how it effects the body when it gets really significant. Headache is only the first symptom. When wind becomes more pronounced it can give rise to convulsions or even a coma when it gets completely out of control. If your headaches are associated with high blood pressure, you're probably looking at one of the better formulas for you. There are others too, but at least this article can get you thinking in herbal terms. Because hypertension is a deadly disease, it is important that you work with an herbalist licensed in TCM herbal medicines so that you can get the right formula. You don't want this internal wind or your blood pressure to go unaddressed, or addressed incorrectly.

    Other symptoms: vertigo, paralysis or convulsions, trembling movement of the tongue, insomnia, coma, deviation of the mouth and eyes, or deviation of the tongue (when you stick it out, it doesn't stick out straight ahead, but to one side or the other), hemiplegia.

    Applicable diseases: Hypertension (high blood pressure), puerperal eclampsia, hemiplegia, trigeminal neuralgia.

    Cautions and warnings: none. The formula is safe for all, but not addressing your high blood pressure isn't and so it is strongly encouraged that you keep monitoring your blood pressure no matter what formula you take to make sure it is doing what it needs to do. Also, should you find that your tongue deviates to the side when you stick it out, a neurological exam may be in order to rule out a tumor impinging on one of the nerves in charge of the tongue muscles. This doesn't mean that TCM can't help you, but if there is a tumor growing there, it would be wise to find out if there is time to address this herbally or if the tumor needs to be addressed with the more dangerous, but quicker Western therapies.

    Usage and prognosis: This formula addresses what is called an "excess" condition and should respond rather quickly to herbal therapies. That could range from feeling better after one day or one week of taking this formula. How long it takes to completely remove the problem would be based on the length of time it takes to initiate the healing trend. If after one week you feel 25% better. Expect three more weeks to complete the process. After that point, a lower dosage to be used as a preventive medicine may be required. A portion of the problem that this formula treats is due to life style choices and you may need to make some healthier choices in regards to diet, exercise, and emotional/mental perspective to see a more fundamental healing of this condition of Liver Wind.

    How to obtain your formula: You can purchase the formula mentioned in this article by simply clicking on its name. Another option is to obtain this formula modified for your unique situation.

    Other locations to purchase this formula include your friendly neighborhood Chinese herb pharmacy. You'll likely need to live near a Chinatown to obtain your herbs there. They'll probably come in raw form (twigs, branches, etc.) and you'll have to take them home and cook them into a nasty tasting brew. This may provide the strongest medical efficacy, but it is also the most hassle.

    In some cases, the formulas that are described in these articles are available in premade capsule, tablet, or pill form. The name of the formula may be spelled or described slightly different, and I can't really anticipate how they'll end up looking on the package, but they too are out there, most frequently at those Chinese herb pharmacies, but often at health food stores or stores that target consumers of natural or organic products.

    Finally, acupuncture and TCM schools tend to carry a rather extensive stock of these kinds of herbal medicines. Most of them have a clinic for people to come in and get treatments. Here's a list of the schools, perhaps there is one near you... TCM schools. Here are some herb suppliers too, they may be able to provide you some help in locating your formula: Herb Suppliers.

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