A motion sickness cure that actually works

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.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

36
Leave a Reply

avatar
23 Comment threads
13 Thread replies
3 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
26 Comment authors
Greg The Frequent MilerFraserNicole SimonMeganVictoria Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Kathy (Will Run For Miles)
Guest

thanks. I’ll have to try the Ginger. I did try one of those bracelets from the Sharper Image on a rocky ferry ride in Greece a number of years ago. It did work for me – especially afterwards – I didn’t have that after “rocking on the boat” feeling.

as an aside, I recently went to Ecuador and was concerned about altitude. I read mixed results on whether Gingko Biloba worked, so I bought some and took them (often with advil).It seemed to help somewhat, or maybe it was a placebo effect. They should do a formal study like the one you reported on.

thanks.

Gene
Guest
Gene

You can also buy ginger root and make your own fresh potion if you know you are gong to definitely be taking it before departing from home. If you are carrying something around to use as the need arises, pills are obviously better.

Jana
Guest
Jana

Thanks for the advice. I’ve dried ginger for years, but finding it was not easy. These pills should be very helpful. I’ve been motion sick badly enough that it put me in bed for a more than a day before I recovered. I once jumped off a boat even though I do not know how to swim because I was so ill I thought I was dying and couldn’t stand the nausea any longer.

Mike
Guest
Mike

If you look at the ingredients for less drowsy Dramamine, it’s just half strength. It’s probably cheaper to buy regular and break the tablets in half.

Max
Guest
Max

Based on the comments here, I might try to test Dramamine as a possible sleep aid for overnight flights. ☺

pointster
Guest
pointster

Ginger can also cause bleeding in large enough quantities. Anyone on a blood thinner, certain antidepressants, St. John’s Wort, or anything else that may cause bleeding will want to talk to their doctor first.

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

Well, warfarin interacts with everything. I’m not sure what you are referring to as an interaction between ginger and antidepressants. I’ve never heard of that…Where exactly are you getting that from?

pointster
Guest
pointster

Some SSRIs can increase the risk of bleeding. Some are contraindicated with anticoagulants, some anti-inflammatories, etc. Even if there is no documented interaction between ginger and SSRIs, both have been documented independently to increase the risk of bleeding.

Nothing is 100% certain, and very often the therapeutic value outweighs the risk. But in this situation, people on those meds would be best served asking their doctor first, you know?

Voyaging Doc
Guest

Agree with the last paragraph. For the average healthy person I doubt any of these supplements will have any adverse impact, but you should certainly consult your doctor before taking large quantities, or you have other medical problems or on other medications. Even vitamins can be dangerous.

Tiffany
Guest

100% agree on the ginger! I get motion sickness just looking at a winding road, and ginger capsules have saved me on more than one road trip. Dramamine also has an all-ginger product they market as “non-drowsy naturals,” which is pretty easy to find.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

I don’t get motion sick often, but I had it badly in Chiang Mai. Our driver was changing lanes and passing cars *while* winding up a mountain road at high speed. I wasn’t expecting it, so hadn’t taken anything. It took all my concentration not to barf. I am going to buy some ginger pills ASAP for my travel bag.

Eric Mitchell
Guest
Eric Mitchell

I’ve suffered from motion sickness all my life, and not the “casual” kind. In my experience of cars, planes, boats, etc….I’ve come to live by the following

Ginger – doesn’t prevent me from getting sick, but it helps a little with the nausea if I get it

“Less Drowsy” Dramamine – should be taken off the shelf as it does NOTHING for me, I mean nothing!

Original Dramamine – works great, I take two pills for a boat, one for a shorter flight…and repeat every 4 hours I’m still moving.

Scopolamine – Is the BEST for me, although it’s not cheap and some insurances don’t like it. Using the patch the only side effect I get is dry mouth. It doesn’t actually make me sleepy at all, and I love that once I put it on, I’m pretty much not going to get sick for a good 3 days worth of travels! Seriously, I love the patch and don’t travel without it anymore.

Chris
Guest
Chris

I realized ginger’s relevance to motion-sickness years ago on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, where every evening after dinner waiters offered various dessert items but also slices of candied/sugared ginger. I am not all that susceptible to motion sickness but I really like the taste of that candied ginger so ate it every time offered.

Christopher Bush
Guest
Christopher Bush

As the most motion sick susceptible person I know, I thought I’d offer my two cents. I’m a long time scuba diver and have gotten sick not only on boats, but while diving in rock quarries, and even in swimming pools (yes, true). I’ve tried various remedies over the years including several medicines (mostly Dramamine), wristbands, etc.

After getting majorly sick once again (this time in the Florida Keys, laying in a hammock after the boat returned and contemplating death at that point) I was ready to quit one of my life’s favorite hobbies once and for all. It just wasn’t worth it anymore.

But I decided to try one last time and gave the Transderm Scop patches a try. I’m going to sound like a commercial but they really did save me as a diver. I have yet to get sick while wearing these. You put one on the night before and you’re good to go for the next 2-3 days. Although I often remove after diving so I’m not wearing a bandaid behind my ear the rest of they day.

Yes, they look kind of goofy and they’re not the cheapest option, but as I’m sure you would attest that day on the boat, one would pay triple the cost if it makes seasickness go away.

I’ll have to try the ginger pills as well on my next trip. I’ll still stick with the patch but will add this to my arsenal as a backup. So thanks for the article and for sharing! You are not alone.

EdKent
Guest
EdKent

I’ve used Dramamine for years, for boats, planes or being in a vehicle on twisting roads going from an airport to a hotel (if it’s far). I’d rather be a little sleepy than sick. What I’ve found is the trip is exciting enough for me with things of interest I end up not noticing any drowsiness. But, I also can tolerate drowsy inducing medicines better than most. My digestive tract is sensitive to herbs like ginger so I don’t take those pills (ginger ale is okay for me). Everybody is different, so it’s good there are choices.

Dee
Guest
Dee

If you are not a pill person…

When my best friend was going through chemotherapy, we searched for ginger in every form since it worked so well to prevent the nausea that goes with chemo for her.

While she was getting her treatments, I kept her mug of tea with sliced fresh ginger filled frequently. Commercially produced bags of ginger tea didn’t work so well.

Trader Joe’s has “Ginger Chews”. They are pretty intense, but they work. Candied ginger worked pretty well too.

We didn’t know about “Ginger Pills”. Since she found the taste of ginger soothing and was taking enough pills already, they probably would have been a back up if we had known.

BTW – she is cancer-free for 4 years now. Yay!

Wendy
Guest
Wendy

Try preggie pops. They are ginger flavored lolly pops that work well for motion sickness. I keep a box of them in my car for people that get motion sick. I get motion sick if I’m not driving.

alastairdeacon
Guest

Another vote for the Transderm Scop, it has become my go-to for cruises. Put on the night before and it truly makes travel a pleasure. Unfortunately, if the seas are really rough, I’ve double patched. Thinking that ginger pills might be worth a try instead of doing that, as I’ve always been concerned about the safety of doubling up.

May I ask what ginger pill brand you’ve bought? There are many on the market from which to choose.

Thank you.

Leftpnky
Guest
Leftpnky

Zofran works the best. It isn’t drowsy, we use it on all our cancer patients and they are actually able to tolerate the chemo whereas 29 years ago, people would just give up on chemo due to the side effects. Millions of pregnant women also take it every day.

Curious George
Guest
Curious George

Altiod’s used to make a ginger mint that was great for nausea. I usually just have old fashioned ginger cuts (hard candy) or some form of ginger candy that I chew on to combat nausea. Not if airlines started serving Dark and Stormy’s…

P T
Guest
P T

Have to add my experiences with the patch. I used to call it my miracle drug until the withdrawal symptoms became more severe than the motion sickness.

I get motion sick from bus rides, plane rides, and train rides. Don’t even mention boats and snorkeling in strong current. Most of our trips entail at least three of these. So on our last trip, which was three and a half weeks, I used the patch the entire time. Worked like a charm except for the dry mouth. But one day after removing the last one I had every symptom listed in the pamphlet and they lasted until……

I had to fly less than a week after returning and threw up when we got to the airport (Zofran didn’t work) and saw my husband get on the plane without me. AA was kind enough to let me just sit at the airport until another patch kicked in and I was able to fly after five hours. Then I had to go through the whole routine after that trip.

Took two weeks to get “cleansed”. Now I don’t know what I am going to do. Ginger is nice, but does not alleviate all the problem for me. I guess I’ll go back to Stugeron which I have bought in Europe and Nepal (the patch still works better) it worked better than any other pill.

Nicole Simon
Guest

Check the type of ginger you are using and maybe go for a pharmacy. My ginger bottles you get in the asia market have a much lower grade and dose than what I get as medical grade. These are more expensive, but are a much higher (and safer) dosis.

Renee
Guest
Renee

I started using ginger capsules when my kids were young and all got car sick. It worked every time. I don’t get motion sickness but can verify that it works. Nothing worse than having small kids getting sick all over the car.

Kathy (Will Run For Miles)
Guest

so much great information here

Victoria
Guest
Victoria

Slightly late to the party, but I can attest to the amazing power of ginger capsules! I used to throw up on planes all. the. time. It got so bad that I was basically scared to get on a plane and go anywhere. I joked that I would never leave my city again. But then I had to…so I had to find solutions. I tried everything. Ginger really works!

Megan
Guest

Have you tried Motioneaze? It’s a mixture of essential oils that is dabbed behind the ear. It can alleviate symptoms even after they appear and doesn’t cause any drowsiness or dry mouth. Definitely worth a shot!

Nicole Simon
Guest

check with your pharmacy / which ones you are buying. There are different levels of “oh it is just a capsule for the esoteric people” to medical grade capsules. Your difference in reaction might be to the fact that you bought lower grade ginger capsules – us motionsick people need the good stuff. Here in Germany I found that 10 capsules in the pharmacy will cost 7 Euro – but I get reliable results (plus single packed pills and not a bulky bottle)

Over here we also have something called travel medicin – I dont know what is in in, but it does not help me HOWEVER the combination of 2 ginger and one travel knocks me out so reliably after 30 min that I take one ginger about 30 min before boarding, and then when the food comes.

How I came to them:
I am in the camp of “show me a roller coaster on TV and I get sick”. My family called me crazy when I told them a decade ago “oh I booked a flight. to SFO. Which is13h flying. Plus two more later the year” when I barely can survive a traindrive (never against the driving direction). With all that, ginger does not help much to make it okay, but it makes it bareable.

A friend started me on ginger when I flew Hamburg to London and sat crying in London because it was so bad (honestly considered going back by train). I picked up ginger capsules in the chinese district and have used them ever since. Those must have been good stuff, because I found since them that these type of bottles are much cheaper, but less reliable, hence my pharmacy trips. On my longer travels SFO.LHR-Ham i am so dosed up that usually I sit down on the last leg and dont even notice the take off in LHR. 😉

Bonus tip: For me I cannot turn my head unless it is in the direction of the flight. Even talking to other people is highly distressing, so is any type of TV or complicated podcast. I found this in other places too: I believe that motion sickness – as the word says – is about imbalance. The brain is compensating for what the balance center cannot do. This requires “process cylcles” – and if you try to busy your brain (conversation, intense podcast) you will get sicker. For this I have noise generator apps on my mobile. I prefer brown noise and pink noise over white.
hope this helps!

Fraser
Guest
Fraser

I do a fair bit of salmon fishing on smaller boats, 4 ft waves would feels like you’re being shaken up in a snow globe and sea sick. Since travelling to Australia i’ve been hooked on Bundaberg Ginger Beer (its non alcoholic btw), and luckily its becoming more popular state side, it has natural ginger in it (and carbonated sugar water), every time I drink one before the boat and another on the boat I haven’t been sea sick. When looking for ginger beer, the ingredients must say “natural ginger” or “ginger extract” , some ginger beer and ginger ale is “ginger flavoring” chemicals, which I don’t think will do anything.