A motion sickness cure that actually works

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motion sickness cure rough seasA couple of days ago I told the horrific story of my latest boating adventure (please see: Learning Scuba and feeding fish).  I had spent the better part of a day puking off the side of a boat.  I was miserable.

I could have prevented it easily.  I knew how.

I’ve always been prone to motion sickness.  I used to hate flying because of it.  The smallest turbulence would make me queasy.  I rarely threw up, but my body demonstrated its unhappiness in other ways.  In addition to nausea, I would sweat and shake.  After landing, the nausea would quickly dissipate, but the shakiness would continue for quite a while.  Yep, I hated flying, and I hated boats even more.

Then, I became a fan of the show Myth Busters.  And, one day, thankfully, I watched episode 43: Sea-sickness – Kill or Cure?.

motion sickness cure Myth Busters Adam

The Mythbusters team set up an evil contraption: a revolving chair that was designed to induce motion sickness.  They tested the chair on each member of the Mythbusters team and found that Adam (above) and Grant (below) were the most susceptible.

motion sickness cure Myth Busters Grant

Those two guys, then, had the worst job in the world.  One by one, they tested non-medical motion sickness cures to see which ones helped.  Here were their results (quoted from “Annotated Mythbusters”):

  • Homeopathic tongue tingler. “They used a unnamed spray that you squirt under the tongue as often as needed. Grant was sick within 10 minutes and vomited some small chunks. Adam was sick within 4 minutes.”
  • Wrist straps: “They wore little gray wristbands that are ‘Barry Manilow’s choice.’ Adam was sick within 90 seconds. Grant got sick as well. They’ve gotten pretty quick with bringing a bucket to Grant.”
  • Ginger pills: “It worked! Adam and Grant were both fine.”
  • Small shocks on the P6 Acupuncture point (on the wrist): “Both Adam and Grant got sick.”
  • Placebo: “They told Grant and Adam they were getting an over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedy, but they actually gave them vitamins. Adam’s reponse: ‘I hate this [bleeping] chair’ after three and a half minutes. Grant: ‘This is among the most effective, if not the most effective.’”
  • Dramamine: “Worked on Adam and Grant, but it made them both a little loopy.”

Here’s my summary: Ginger pills worked great for both Adam and Grant.  Dramamine also worked for both of them, but it made both of them sleepy.

Ginger capsules for flights

After watching the Mythbusters show I immediately went in search of ginger pills.  While I didn’t manage to find anything called “ginger pills,” I did find bottles of ginger root capsules at area health food stores.  They tend to be found on the vitamin shelf.  Today, they can be bought online too (note: I’ll earn a small commission if you purchase from Amazon through this link or by clicking on the image of the capsule bottles).

The general advice I’ve found is to swallow a capsule an hour before it’s needed.

motion sickness cure Ginger root capsules

I began taking a ginger capsule before every flight.  And, since they have virtually no side effects, I would often take a second capsule during a long flight – just in case.

Initially, the ginger capsules only partially worked.  During heavy turbulence I would still get sweaty and shaky, but I no longer felt queasy.  That alone was a huge improvement!  Even better, over many years of flying, my motion sickness symptoms seem to have drained away.  In fact, somehow I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need to take ginger at all when I fly.  Even the worst turbulence no longer seems to have any major effect on me.

Ginger capsules for boats

Since learning about ginger capsules, I’ve had far fewer experiences riding boats in rough water than flying through turbulence.  However, in those times where I have been on a boat, I’ve always been fine after taking ginger.

In my recent scuba diving adventure, I didn’t know that I would be in a boat until I showed up at the dive shop.  An email from the instructor had said that we would be doing shore dives.  So, I showed up without ginger.  Somewhere along the line, plans had changed without my knowledge.  I boarded the boat without ginger capsules but with the hope that my motion sickness days were behind me.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t so.  I can’t remember ever before puking as much as I did that day.

I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I had taken ginger on that latest boat trip.  Would I have been fine all day?  Would I still have gotten sick, but not as severely?  All I know is that, going forward, if there’s even a chance of being on a boat in the open water, I’m bringing my ginger capsules!

Side effects

WebMD lists the following possible side effects of ginger:

  • Gas
  • Heartburn
  • Upset stomach
  • Mouth irritation

In my case, the only side effect I’ve noticed is the occasional slightly painful ginger flavored burp.  The solution to this problem was simple: avoid carbonated beverages.

Medicinal Options

There are many, many varied drug options for treating motion sickness.  Most of them, including Dramamine Less Drowsy, can lead to drowsiness.  Or not.  It seems to vary by person how effective each drug is and how intense the side effects are.  Here are some of the popular options:

Personally, I’ve found Dramamine to be very effective, but it also makes me extremely sleepy.  Dramamine Less Drowsy caused me less drowsiness (as advertised!), but also seemed less effective.  I’ve never tried the patch (Transderm Scop) but I understand that it too can cause drowsiness in some people.

Everyone is different

Not everyone reports success with ginger.  For many, it seems to be a miracle cure (actually, it’s more of a miracle symptom alleviator, but that doesn’t sound as good).  For others, it’s useless.  My recommendation is to try different options until you find one that works for you.  Start with ginger, though.  While your burps may sting a bit, I promise it won’t make you drowsy.

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