Motion sickness is a condition where one’s brain confuses visual and sensory stimuli, resulting in feelings of nausea and imbalance. Feelings of nausea may be caused by acceleration and deceleration while traveling by car, train, sea, air, or by other means.
When suffering from motion sickness, one’s inner ear (vestibular system) senses motion, but the eyes inform the brain that things are stationary. The resulting discordance causes one’s brain to conclude that one of the senses is hallucinating and that this hallucination is a result of ingesting poison. In response, the brain responds by inducing vomiting, to clear the supposed toxin.
Common initial symptoms associated with motion sickness are nausea, headache, and general uneasiness. Symptoms may progress in severity and include vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, excessive yawning, inability to concentrate, excessive sweating and salivation, pallor (when one turns white), and severe distress.
Conventional treatments include over-the-counter or prescription medication, and natural remedies include dietary and herbal treatments. Common over-the-counter products used to treat and prevent symptoms associated with motion sickness include antihistamines like dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), and meclizine (Antivert and Bonine, for example).
While there are various ways to alleviate symptoms like nausea and dizziness, natural treatments may have fewer side effects and can work preventatively. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, and ginger supplements are gentle and effective ways of treating motion sickness.
As a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture supports the idea that our bodies, out of balance due to years of stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices, can be brought back to equilibrium through the practice of needling points on energy channels (located throughout the body) called meridians. Acupressure, or shiatsu, works with the same system of meridians and points but does not use needles. A shiatsu practitioner uses his or her fingers to hold down acupressure points on the body, therefore rebalancing one’s chi, or life force, to promote health.
Sufferers of motion sickness can self-apply acupressure to key areas of the body. Use the point below to combat any symptoms of motion sickness.
- P6 – Nei Guan – Inner Pass (Pericardium Meridian)
Location: On the palmar side of the forearm, about two finger-breadths above (away from the hand) the wrist crease.
Purpose: Treats stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Helps with clarity of thought and suppressing pain.
To implement a self-treatment at home, hold down the Nei Guan acupressure point and massage gently for several minutes. Alternate so that both arms have been treated.
Aromatherapy uses the medicinal properties of essential oils drawn from plants and herbs to combat a variety of conditions ranging from skin disorders and infections to stress and immune deficiencies. Each essential oil emits a biofrequency that is sensed by the body. Imbalances in the body and symptoms associated with motion sickness can be “tuned” as the body responds to the oils with respect to its own biofrequency. Because of this specificity, each individual responds differently to an essential oil. Therapy is best when customized by testing essential oils and gauging the body’s response, however, some key essential oils universally assist in relieving motion sickness, one of which is peppermint oil.
At the onset of nausea or motion sickness, open a bottle of peppermint essential oil and inhale the odor. Breathe deeply until symptoms have subsided.
Diet & Nutrition
Ginger is often recommended for preventing seasickness 2, and is found to be better than dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or placebo at combatting symptoms of motion sickness (Mowrey and Clayson 1982).3 With the benefit of not causing drowsiness like other motion sickness medications, ginger helps to alleviate symptoms of nausea.
To use ginger to avoid motion sickness while traveling, take the following steps.
To combat motion sickness while at home, you can also make ginger drinks at home.
- Make fresh ginger juice or a fresh infusion of ginger tea. Ginger tea can be made by putting one teaspoon of ground culinary ginger into a cup of boiling water, letting it steep for 5-10 minutes, and drinking as often as needed.
The wonderful thing about these therapies is that they are preventative and can be used while traveling anywhere. As always, before implementing any natural treatments, please consult a physician for safety information.
Written by Nicole Kagan
Reviewed & edited by Dr. Jeffrey C. Lederman, DO, MPH and Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP
- Schmid R, Schick T, Steffen R, Tschopp A, Wilk T. Comparison of seven commonly used agents for prophylaxis of seasickness. J Travel Med. 1994;1(4):203–6. [PubMed]
- Mowrey D. B, Clayson D. E. Motion sickness, ginger, and psychophysics. Lancet. 1982;1(8273):655–7. [PubMed]