Tulsi, Adaptogens and Throbbing Head Pain

I know we all have experienced it, that deep throbbing “pain in the head” that just won’t stop and won’t diminish. It drives people to do all sorts of things to just make it stop. Of course most people will think that the beat of that throb is based on the beat of the heart, but it is not.

Throbbing Pain Follows Alpha Waves

I recently stumbled on a research article that proved that the pulse of that horrendous disabling beat was not that of arterial pulsations but rather was the rhythmic oscillations of the person’s alpha waves. Alpha waves, which are a type of pattern of electromagnetic pulses put out in the center of our brain by the thalamus gland, about 8 to 12 beats per minute, typically become dominant when we are in wakeful but deep relaxation. And the researchers found that the rhythm of the power of these waves, about 48 beats per minute, match the rhythm of pulsating head pain much better than the rhythm of the heart does.1

Adaptogenic Herbs Make Positive Changes to Alpha Waves via GABA

We know that adaptogens, via many mechanisms, have a positive influence on alpha waves.2 They help your brain go out of a resonance that is associated with disease and discomfort and into a resonance that is more aligned with relaxation and healing. This is also how adaptogens, even though they may seem like stimulants, can actually calm you and give you deeper and more peaceful sleep.

Tulsi is Anti-Stress as it Increases GABA

Tulsi is one of the adaptogenic herbs whose positive anti-stress and mind/brain supportive activities is carried out and modulated via GABA network of neurotransmitter support and alpha waves.3 The more GABA we have in our brain the less anxiety and stress we feel and this in turn helps to diminish negative terrains in our bodymind that hold space for disease and imbalance. This is one reason why you can go to the health food store and buy GABA right on the shelves. It is proven that Tulsi, via molecules like ursolic acid, decrease stress and anxiety by many mechanisms, including by increasing levels of GABA and decreasing levels of the enzymes that break this important neurotransmitter down.4

GABA Supports Healthy Alpha Waves

GABA is known to have a positive effect on mood while it increases cognitive functions like memory and the ability to focus and decrease of the anxiety that tends to congest our cognitive function. One of the ways that GABA does this is to enhance the positive functionality of, yup, you guessed it, alpha brain waves, as established in a recent test of 63 healthy people!5

GABA Supports Ease and Happiness while Increasing Immunity

Placebo controlled research in human clinical trials have shown that GABA induces relaxation, decreases stress, and increases cognitive function, all the while increasing our levels of positive immunity. And all of these salubrious actions were amplified when the test subject was stressed.5 Knowing that Tulsi, via its strong adaptogenic phytochemistry like ursolic acid, has a strong positive action of levels of GABA, we acquire confirmation that Tulsi also has a positive effect on the levels of alpha waves.

Tulsi Helps to Calm the Throbbing Head

So we come full circle now and see western bioscience confirmation of how Tulsi and other adaptogens can help attenuate that horrible throbbing pain that can debilitate us. And also note that when you use adaptogens long term, then, according to wellness traditions and my direct experience, the frequency and intensity of these bouts with bothersome brain beats is significantly diminished.




  1. Mo J, Maizels M, Ding M, Ahn AH.; Does throbbing pain have a brain signature? Pain. 2013 Jul;154(7):1150-5.
  2. Lee CI, Kim CS, Han JY, Oh EH, Oh KW, Eun JS.; Repeated Administration of Korea Red Ginseng Extract Increases Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep via GABAAergic Systems.; J Ginseng Res. 2012 Oct;36(4):403-10.
  3. Antiepileptic potential of ursolic acid stearoyl glucoside by GABA receptor stimulation; CNS Neurosci Ther. 2012 Sep;18(9):799-800.
  4. Ibarra A, Feuillere N, Roller M, Lesburgere E, Beracochea D.; Effects of chronic administration of Melissa officinalis L. extract on anxiety-like reactivity and on circadian and exploratory activities in mice.; Phytomedicine. 2010 May;17(6):397-403.
  5. Yoto A, Murao S, Motoki M, Yokoyama Y, Horie N, Takeshima K, Masuda K, Kim M, Yokogoshi H.; Oral intake of γ-aminobutyric acid affects mood and activities of central nervous system during stressed condition induced by mental tasks.; Amino Acids. 2012 Sep;43(3):1331-7.
  6. Abdou AM, Higashiguchi S, Horie K, Kim M, Hatta H, Yokogoshi H.; Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans.; Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201-8.

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