3 Natural Remedies for Motion Sickness

To settle your stomach, consider these tips

Woman on a train looking at her phone.
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Whether you travel by plane, automobile, train, or boat, if you've experienced motion sickness, you know how easily it can make a trip unpleasant. Besides a nauseating feeling, motion sickness can result in dizziness, clammy hands, uneasiness, or vomiting.

While there's no single explanation for why only some people get motion sickness or why they can get it in certain situations but not others, there are simple strategies that may help to prevent or reduce the symptoms.

Some of these are well known but often forgotten tips, while others are natural remedies that might be worth considering if you can't take medication. Just keep in mind that the scientific support is limited and that it's always a good idea to talk with your doctor to weigh the pros and cons before trying any remedy. 

1) The Basics

  • Eat small meals and stay hydrated. Although it can be tempting to fill up before you travel to avoid eating packaged food on board, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating smaller, more frequent meals and drinking water. Although the options can be very limited when you're traveling, try avoiding salty, spicy, or greasy foods and minimizing your intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol before or during your travel.
  • Be aware of situations that tend to trigger symptoms. Do you get nauseous when you're riding in the second or third row of an SUV? Are you OK on a train, but tend to feel sick on buses? Knowing these triggers can help you avoid them. In a car or bus, for instance, sitting towards the front may help. On a train, avoid seats that faces backward. If you're flying, sit close to the wing of the plane. 

  • Reduce sensory input. Lie back and close your eyes. If you're traveling at night, turn off reading lights.

  • Avoid reading. It may be tempting to catch up on work or sink into a good book, but reading or using a device like a computer or a tablet should be avoided, especially on a bumpy ride. The balance center in your inner ear senses movement, but the words on the screen or page are still—these mixed messages can result in nausea. 

  • Keep your head still. Rest it against the back of your seat. Avoid sudden or rapid head movements, especially those that involve twisting or turning. 

2) Ginger

A popular remedy for motion sickness, ginger root is often used in the form of lozenges, tea, capsules, tablets, crystallized root, candies, or ginger ale.

While studies suggest that ginger does possess some anti-nausea effects against nausea-inducing stimuli, the research is still inconclusive about whether it can prevent motion sickness. 

The available research includes a study involving 1,489 people on a ship who took either ginger or medicine. Ginger was found to be as effective as the medication for motion sickness.

A Swedish study involving 79 naval cadets found that one gram of ginger reduced vomiting and cold sweats, however, there wasn't a significant reduction in nausea or vertigo.

Two small studies, including one funded by NASA, found that ginger wasn't more effective than a placebo at reducing simulated motion sickness. Larger, well-designed studies are needed before we can conclude that ginger is effective for motion sickness.

Ginger shouldn't be used within two weeks of surgery or by people taking "blood-thinning" medication or supplements, such as warfarin (Coumadin), because it may interfere with blood clotting and prolong bleeding time. In addition, some sources say there isn't enough information about the safety of ginger in pregnant women (in theory, ginger could inhibit an enzyme called thromboxane synthetase and possibly influence sex steroid differentiation in the fetal brain). 

Related: Ginger for Nausea Relief

3) Acupressure

According to traditional Chinese medicine, pressing on an acupuncture point called "pericardium 6" or "Nei-guan" may relieve nausea and motion sickness. The point is located on the inner side of the forearm, about two inches (or three finger breadths) above the crease of the wrist between the two tendons.

Related: Natural Remedies for Jet Lag

A person can press on the point using the index finger of the opposite hand. Alternatively, acupressure wrist bands, often marketed as "sea bands", are said to stimulate the point. The bands are worn on the forearm and typically have a plastic button or bead that places pressure on the p6 point. The person wearing the band can also press on the bead for additional stimulation. Acupressure bands typically cost less than $10 for a pair and can be found online or in some health food stores.

Related: The Benefits of Acupressure

Sources

Alkaissi A, Ledin T, Odkvist LM, Kalman S. P6 acupressure increases tolerance to nauseogenic motion stimulation in women at high risk for PONV. Can J Anaesth. 52.7 (2005): 703-709.

Ernst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Br J Anaesth. 84.3 (2000): 367-371.

Grontved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, Hentzer E. Ginger root against seasickness. A controlled trial on the open sea. Acta Otolaryngol. 105.1-2 (1988): 45-49.

Hu S, Stritzel R, Chandler A, Stern RM. P6 acupressure reduces symptoms of vection-induced motion sickness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 66.7 (1995): 631-634.

Schmid R, Schick T, Steffen R, Tschopp A, Wilk T. Comparison of Seven Commonly Used Agents for Prophylaxis of Seasickness. J Travel Med. 1.4 (1994): 203-206.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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