Amongst the many beautiful aspects of TCM, treating individual patterns is where it truly shines. For example, four different women might all present with menstrual headaches which manifest uniquely, and therefore require different treatments. Herbs and acupuncture are wonderfully helpful in relieving menstrual headaches, along with the suggestions below.
The essential oils listed are best diluted in a carrier oil such as grapefruit seed or almond oil, and applied along the hairline on the forehead and back of the neck, or used undiluted in a diffuser.
Four Main Patterns of Menstrual Headaches
Headaches Before Menstruation
Qi stagnation & Blood stasis – this woman will experience stabbing pain on the temples, eyes or sides of the head, dark menstrual blood with clots and painful menstruation.
Eating Qi moving foods such as almonds, basil, black beans, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cinnamon, dill, eggplant, garlic, kale, onion, peaches, pomegranate, rosemary, swiss chard, tomato, turmeric and vinegar, and starting the day with warm lemon water will feel good for her. Lightly cooked foods and regular eating times help ensure nutrients are easily absorbed and digested.
This woman will feel better when she is moving her body through brisk walking, dancing and flow yoga, relieving pent up emotions through journaling and singing, creative expression through art or music and completing projects. She can meditate on dissolving resentment and cultivating peace, and asking herself what needs healing in her life so that her Spirit can soar? Roman Chamomile essential oil soothes Qi and relaxes nerves, relieving spasms and eases pain.
Headaches Before or During Menstruation
Liver-Yang rising - this woman will present with a throbbing headache on the temples or behind the eyes, anger, dizziness, irritability and tinnitus.
Soups, stews and foods such as barley, blackberries, blueberries, carrots, eggs, kidney beans, millet, oats, oyster mushrooms, pears, rice, seaweed and tofu are emphasized in this pattern to root and ground her Qi.
Grounding activities such as feet on the earth, deep belly breathing, tai chi or Qi gong will help her feel rooted to the earth. Meditation practice focused on forgiveness, along with Neroli essential oil can calm and stabilize her heart and mind, relax nerves and uplift her Spirit.
Liver-fire blazing – this woman will experience severe, throbbing headaches on the temples or behind the eyes, angry outbursts, bitter taste in the mouth, dark urine, dizziness, dry stools, irritability, red face and eyes, thirst and tinnitus.
Stir-frying and steaming foods along with some raw foods rather than baking, deep frying or roasting is suggested. Helpful foods for this pattern include alfalfa sprouts, apples, asparagus, bamboo shoots, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumber, kelp, lettuce, pears, plums, radish, seaweed, spinach, spirulina, swiss chard, tomato, turnips, water chestnuts, watermelon and zucchini.
Appropriate emotional expression and release through screaming into a pillow, kick boxing, fast-paced physical movement, creative writing and time in nature and green spaces can help relieve pent up aggression. Cultivating loving kindness through a meditation practice can help to calm her mind and bring ease to her Spirit. Lavender essential oil is cooling and relaxing, helping to cool an overheated liver, calm the Spirit and relieve irritability, spasm and pain.
Headaches During or Following Menstruation
Blood & Yin deficiency – this woman will experience dull headaches on the vertex along with blurred vision, dizziness, dry hair and skin, fatigue and sleep difficulties.
She requires blood nourishing foods that are best eaten warm and cooked - beets, black beans, bone broth, chickpeas, coconut, corn, dark leafy greens, dates, dried apricots, eggs, figs, goji berries, grapes, kelp, legumes, molasses, mushrooms, peas, prunes, oats, raisins, rice, spinach, swiss chard, stewed fruit, sweet potato, squash, turnip and yams.
She will feel better with lots of rest, quiet meditative time, gentle walks, yin yoga, naps, soft music, baths, tea and silence. Practicing self-compassion and meditating on her heart’s desires will help bring joy to her Spirit. Clary Sage essential oil helps to strengthen depleted Qi and relaxes and improves Qi circulation, thus relieving headache pain.
Menstrual headaches can be debilitating and may require further treatment than home care. Acupuncture and herbal medicine has much to offer in relieving symptoms and resolving headaches altogether. If you're suffering and interested in trying TCM, please click the 'Book an Appointment' tab to book your appointment.
I look forward to working with you 💜.