Natural Remedies for Motion Sickness

Motion sickness
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Whether you travel by plane, automobile, train, or boat, if you've experienced motion sickness, you know how easy it can make your trip unpleasant. Besides a nauseating feeling, motion sickness can bring on 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 some situations but not others, here are simple strategies that may help to prevent or reduce the symptoms:

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 (CDC) recommends eating smaller, more frequent meals and drinking water.

Although the options can be very limited when you're traveling, avoid salty, spicy, or greasy foods and minimize your intake of caffeinated beverages and alcohol before and during your travel.

Be Aware of Situations That 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 your triggers can help you avoid them. In a car or bus, for instance, sitting towards the front may help. On a train, face forward, avoiding seats that face backward. If you're flying, sit close to the wing of the plane. On a boat, try to sit at the front.

Tilt Your Head Into Turns

Synchronizing your body with the motion may help reduce motion sickness.

 Turns and rotary motion tend to cause more severe motion sickness than travel in a linear motion. Tilting your head into turns may help, according to a study published in Ergonomics in 2016. Researchers found that passengers experienced less motion sickness when they tilted their heads into the direction of a turn (rather than away from turns) and kept their eyes open.

Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing

In a small study published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance in 2015, participants either practiced slow, diaphragmatic breathing (at six breaths per minute) or breathed normally while viewing a virtual reality simulation of a boat at rough seas.

Those who practiced diaphragmatic breathing had greater heart rate variability (an indicator of autonomic nervous system activity) and reported feeling less motion sickness than those who breathed normally.

Avoid Reading (or Computer Work) While in Transit

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.

Avoid Sudden or Rapid Head Movements

Avoid sudden or rapid head movements, especially those that involve twisting or turning. If you can, rest your head on the back of your seat or lie down with your eyes closed.

Look at the Horizon

For travel by boat, car, train, or bus, looking toward the horizon may help prevent motion sickness. In a study published in PLoS One, for instance, looking at the horizon while at sea reduced body sway (people who are prone to motion sickness tend to have more body sway while standing).

If you are on a boat, widening your stance may also reduce body sway.

Press on This Pressure Point

According to traditional Chinese medicine, pressing on an acupressure point called "pericardium 6", "P6", or "Nei-guan" may relieve nausea. The point is located on the inner side of the forearm, about two inches (or three finger widths) above the crease of the wrist in between the two tendons.

There has been very little research on the effectiveness of acupressure for motion sickness but early research, which has focused on postoperative nausea and vomiting, suggests that acupressure may ease nausea.

You can press on the point using the index finger of your opposite hand. Alternatively, acupressure wristbands, 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 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.

Consider Ginger Root

A widely used remedy for nausea, ginger root is often taken in the form of lozenges, tea, capsules, tablets, crystallized root, candies, or ginger ale.

While studies suggest that ginger may possess some anti-nausea effects against nausea-inducing stimuli, the research is still inconclusive as to whether it can prevent motion sickness. Most of the studies are older, however, two small studies (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.

Ginger shouldn't be used within two weeks of surgery or by people taking "blood-thinning" medication or supplements, such as warfarin, because it may interfere with blood clotting and prolong bleeding time. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, don't use ginger without consulting your doctor.

The Bottom Line

If you get motion sickness, remedies may be worth considering, especially if you are not able to take medication. 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. 

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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