Occipital headaches according to Chinese Medicine

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Occipital headaches can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like occipital headaches here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here occipital headaches is often associated with sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose in the pattern “Greater Yang Attack of Cold”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause occipital headaches.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of occipital headaches we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat occipital headaches.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause occipital headaches

In Chinese Medicine occipital headaches is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Ma Huang Tang, a formula used for Greater Yang Attack of Cold

Greater Yang Attack of Cold

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

In addition to occipital headaches, other symptoms associated with Greater Yang Attack of Cold include sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose.

Greater Yang Attack of Cold is often treated with Ma Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases exterior cold".

Read more about Greater Yang Attack of Cold here

Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi) is the king ingredient for Gui Zhi Tang, a formula used for Greater Yang Attack of Wind

Greater Yang Attack of Wind

Pulse type(s): Slow (Chi), Floating (Fu)

In addition to occipital headaches, other symptoms associated with Greater Yang Attack of Wind include sneezing, stiff neck and aversion to wind.

Greater Yang Attack of Wind is often treated with Gui Zhi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Cinnamon Twigs - Gui Zhi - as a key herb). Gui Zhi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases pathogens from the muscle layer".

Read more about Greater Yang Attack of Wind here

Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua) is the king ingredient for Yin Qiao San, a formula used for Wind-Heat

Wind-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Floating (Fu)

In addition to occipital headaches, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat include sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose.

Wind-Heat is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Wind-Heat here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to occipital headaches, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include headaches, dizziness and tinnitus.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency here

Japanese Catnip (Jing Jie) is the king ingredient for Jing Fang Bai Du San, a formula used for Wind-Cold

Wind-Cold

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

In addition to occipital headaches, other symptoms associated with Wind-Cold include sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose.

Wind-Cold is often treated with Jing Fang Bai Du San, a herbal formula made of 13 herbs (including Japanese Catnip - Jing Jie - as a key herb). Jing Fang Bai Du San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Wind-Cold here

Five herbal formulas that might help with occipital headaches

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with occipital headaches?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Greater Yang Attack of Cold' of which occipital headaches is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Greater Yang Attack Of Cold include sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose.

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here

Gui Zhi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Releases pathogens from the muscle layer. Regulates the Nutritive and Protective Qi.

Why might Gui Zhi Tang help with occipital headaches?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Greater Yang Attack of Wind' of which occipital headaches is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Greater Yang Attack Of Wind include sneezing, stiff neck and aversion to wind.

Read more about Gui Zhi Tang here

Sang Ju Yin

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind. Stops coughing by invigorating Lung Qi. Clears Heat.

Why might Sang Ju Yin help with occipital headaches?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Heat' of which occipital headaches is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Heat include sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose.

Read more about Sang Ju Yin here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with occipital headaches?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which occipital headaches is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Liver Yin Deficiency include headaches, dizziness and tinnitus.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Jing Fang Bai Du San

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Dispels Wind and Dampness. Augments Qi.

Why might Jing Fang Bai Du San help with occipital headaches?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Cold' of which occipital headaches is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Cold include sneezing, aversion to cold and runny nose.

Read more about Jing Fang Bai Du San here

Acupuncture points used for occipital headaches

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat occipital headaches

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with occipital headaches?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat occipital headaches as a symptom, like Ma Huang Tang or Gui Zhi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Wild Mint (Bo He) help with occipital headaches?

Because Wild Mint is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat occipital headaches as a symptom, like Sang Ju Yin or Yin Qiao San for instance.

Wild Mint is a Cool herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Wind-Heat. Clears Wind-Heat from the head, eyes and throat. Allows the release of toxins from the skin. Moves Stagnant Liver Qi

Read more about Wild Mint here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with occipital headaches?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat occipital headaches as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Wan or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with occipital headaches?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat occipital headaches as a symptom, like Qi Ju Di Huang Wan or Liu Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Japanese Catnip (Jing Jie) help with occipital headaches?

Because Japanese Catnip is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat occipital headaches as a symptom, like Jing Fang Bai Du San or Yin Qiao San for instance.

Japanese Catnip is a Neutral herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold or Heat depending on the other herbs used. Releases the Exterior for measles. Stops bleeding. Abates swellings.

Read more about Japanese Catnip here

Other symptoms often associated with occipital headaches

Sneezing Aversion to cold Runny nose Stiff neck Headaches Chills Itchy throat Sore throat Fever Coughing