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Western medicine


There 3 types of headaches

Migraines, cluster and tension headaches.


Migraines are typically one sided headaches (but not in all cases), nausea, sensitive light and some aromas. This could be triggered by food such as chocolate, cheese or yeast products.


Cluster headaches commonly occur 2 or 3 times a day for several weeks with remission over several months. One sided, around the eyes or cheeks. Men are more prone to suffer from cluster headaches and can be triggered by alcohol.


Tension headaches are caused by the tightening of the neck or scalp and usually a pressure on both sides.


Traditional Chinese medicine


There are many causes of headaches and many characteristics.


  • Stress, anger, worry, pensiveness, guilt and shame

  • Overwork

  • Irregular diet, not eating enough, overeating, excessive consumption of hot spicy foods or foods hot in nature ( curries, spices, pepper, red meat and alcohol), greasy foods, fried food, peanuts, dairy, ice cream, banana, sweets and white sugar, too much salt and excessive consumption of sour foods ( yogurt, grapefruit, cooking apples, pickles, vinegar, spinach, rhubarb and gooseberries), coffee and chocolate

  • Trauma

  • Wind invasion


    Not the dietary advice is individual, no one food is bad and affects every differently.


    Diagnosis and treatment will depend on many factors


  • Where is the pain? Sides, one side only, temples, back of the head or behind the eyes

  • What does the pain feel like? E.g dull, stabbing, boring

  • If it is not painful, how does feel? E.g. wholly, like cotton wool, fuzzy, head wrapped in a towel, dizzy, heavy or empty

  • What makes it better?

  • What makes it worse?

  • When does it occur?

  • Diet?

  • Emotions?


    All these variations help identify the best form of treatment and advice.


    The difference between a stabbing pain or dull ache behind the eyes for example will change what treatment principle and after care advice to give.


    Liver yang rising


    In Chinese medicine the liver opens in the eyes and liver Qi move upwards and outwards. If liver Qi is in excess it travels up the head. This called liver yang rising.


  • Pain on one or both sides of the head, sharp pain behind the eyes

  • Worse with anger or stress

  • Prone to outbursts of anger

  • Disturbed dreams (can be nightmares)

  • Bloating

  • Wiry pulse


    The principal of treating this type of headache is to descend to Qi downwards.


    I was taught a reiki technique for treatment migraines by Frank Arjava Petter at a reiki retreat and this always involved the process of moving the Qi or Ki downwards by using sweeping movement down the head to the upper area of the chest at the start. Eventually using hand positions moving down the body and finishing at the feet. I now use this technique for liver yang rising for people who are squeamish about acupuncture.





    Apples, pears, oranges, mung beans, seafood, and spinach are cool in nature and reduce excess of yang. Avoid alcohol, coffee, red meat and hot spicy food.


    Liver blood deficiency


    If the liver is deficient then it is called (in relation to headaches) a liver blood deficiency. Blood deficiency is similar to anemia but it is not anemia. The combination of pulse and questions are important for a correct diagnosis.


  • Pain at the top of the head

  • Dull ache behind the eyes

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

  • Dry eyes

  • Floaters in front of the eyes

  • Brittle nails

  • Dry head hair and skin

  • Choppy or fine pulse

  • Salmony coloured sides of the tongue




    Root vegetables, bone broth, liver, spinach, meat and dates. Avoid raw food and refined sugars.

    Chrysanthemum tea is good for this type of headache and it helps with dry eyes and floaters.


    Wind cold invasion


    This is often caused by a combination of wind and cold penetrating into body from the back of the head and neck. The cold and wind causes the muscles to tighten. This pulls the fascia and skin on the scalp and forehead. Sometimes leading to liver yang rising.


  • Tight or stiff

  • Pulling

  • Pain severe at the occipital (base of the skull)

  • Worse with exposure to wind and cold


    Wear a scarf or something to cover the neck to protect it from wind cold invasion. Acupuncture, guasha, cupping and massage are all suitable methods of treating this type of headache.


    Dampness or phlegm


    Dampness and phlegm is the head manifests as


  • Heaviness

  • Head wrapped in a cloth

  • Woolley or like cotton wool in the head




    Avoid raw food, this because the digestive system system is like a cauldron. The stomach and spleen need heat to work to its capacity. Raw food will need more heat to digest the food using up more energy and creating internal dampness. Avoid dairy, peanuts, greasy foods, fried food and bananas because they are all phlegm building foods.


    To help warm up the body eat ginger root and cooked food. Root vegetables, meat, bone broth, and naturally sweat vegetables. Avoid refined sugars.


    Blood stasis


    This is the most painful of all the headaches. When Qi stops flowing smoothly for a period of time blood stops flowing smoothly. The types of pain is


  • Stabbing

  • Splitting

  • Boring




Garlic, cardamom and oily fish move blood in the body. Avoid sour foods such as vinegar and pickled foods because they can slow down the movement of blood.




This video explains headaches in more detail.








































































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