If you have ever been in the backseat of a car on a winding road and started to feel nauseated, dizzy, and just plain awful, you have experienced motion sickness. We often feel symptoms of motion sickness when we are on a boat, a train, and even when flying on a plane. Children can sometimes get motion sick when playing on swings at the playground or when on rides at the fair, such as a spinning ride, or one that has you hanging upside down.
Motion sickness can absolutely ruin a trip or a day of playing and it can often take hours to recuperate from the very unpleasant feeling of motion sickness. Let’s take a look at what causes you to feel sick and ways to prevent it as well as herbs and remedies to make you feel better once you begin to feel motion sickness coming on.
Causes of Motion Sickness
Motion sickness is caused by a conflict in your senses. When you are in the backseat of a car going around twists, turns, and bends or bumping down bad roads, your eyes are seeing the road ahead yet the eyes don't feel the movement. However, your muscles and joints and inner ear can feel the movement and the sensory input from those systems does not correlate to the sensory input of the eyes. This sends mixed messages to the brain, it becomes confused, and you begin to feel sick.
Think about being on a plane. You only see what is front of you but you cannot see that the plane is moving, yet the rest of your body feels the altitude changes, turbulence, and turns. The brain just cannot adjust to mixed sensory input.
Sensory Input & the Inner Ear
The complex system of the inner ear is what helps us keep our sense of balance. The system, known as the vestibular system, sends information to the brain in regards to your motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation. The system is made up of the utricle, saccule, and three semicircular canals that work together to notify the brain when balance is off. The first two parts of the vestibular system, the utricle and saccule, detect gravity, which helps us stay upright, or in a vertical position. The semicircular canals detect rotational and horizontal movement. These canals are filled with a fluid called endolymph and pressure exuded by movement of the head sends input to the brain.
If both sides of the head feel the same amount of pressure from the fluid in the ear canals, then the brain knows that the body is in balance. If the pressure is uneven, the brain then feels that the body is off-balance and sends signals that make you sick. It does this in order to make you stop what you are doing that is creating the off-balanced feeling. Once the sensory input from the eyes, the vestibular system, and the muscles and joints are in agreement, then your body will be back in balance.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Motion Sickness
Motion sickness is very unpleasant and can hit you quite suddenly. You may feel dizzy, get nauseated, have a headache, and feel a sense of vertigo. An increase in saliva production begins, and you may feel like you want to vomit. Your skin becomes pale, you break into a cold sweat, and in general, you feel terrible all over.
Techniques to Prevent Motion Sickness
We all need to travel on a regular basis via car, train, or plane, and instead of being afraid of getting motion sick, there are a few tips and strategies that you can use to help prevent the onset of the dreaded upset stomach and dizziness that indicates motion sickness.
You need to be able to focus your eyes on something stable, like the horizon or the front of the windshield of the car.
- When on a boat, try to stay in the middle part of the boat and try and keep your eyes on the horizon.
- While riding in a car, either opt to drive, or sit in the front seat and look straight out the front windshield as opposed to out the side or back windows.
- When riding on a train, avoid seats that face backwards. if you are prone to motion sickness, don’t try and read or use mobile devices while traveling
Other Tips to Avoid Motion Sickness
- Avoid alcohol when embarking on a journey where you may become motion sick. Alcohol upsets sensory input which confuses the brain.
- In addition, eat light foods, but be sure to eat something, as you can become sick quickly on an empty stomach.
- Drink water.
- Breathe fresh air. Roll down the windows in the car and if you can, stop the car and get out and walk around to regain a normal balance.
- Try relaxing techniques to calm your system down.
- Acupressure bands, such as Sea-Bands, can be helpful for reducing nausea. The bands are made of a soft material that has elastic and there is a plastic stud inserted into it. When applied properly, the plastic stud should rest on the 6th point on the Pericardium pathway in Chinese medicine, known as P6. The Pericardium pathway runs through your chest and into the mid-and lower abdomen and when P6 is stimulated, it can help to calm an upset stomach. P6 can be located about two inches above your wrist crease on the palm side. If you do not have acupressure bands, try and apply pressure with your fingers to achieve relief.
Natural Herbs & Remedies to Make You Feel Better
If you tend to get motion sick easily, you can take preventative measures before you travel, and there are herbs and remedies that help you to feel better, as well as minimize the effects of motion.
- Homeopathy treatments may help if taken before hand. You can find blends designed for nausea or take a few drops of Nux vomica and Coculus.
- Ginger has been used as a remedy for years and for some is very helpful in reducing the symptoms of nausea, or even preventing motion sickness. Take ginger capsules before you travel, and keep a thermos of ginger tea with you to sip on while traveling. You can also suck on ginger candies or eat pickled ginger. Whichever way you enjoy ginger, it is one of the best herbs for motion sickness.
- Peppermint is quite helpful in settling an upset stomach. Make peppermint tea and sip it, suck on peppermint candy, or take a few drops of peppermint tincture. Add a couple of drops of peppermint and lavender oil and apply to your temples to help calm your headache. (Just don’t get any in your eyes!)
- Fenugreek may also help to alleviate symptoms and can be taken in capsule form, or add some powdered fenugreek to your ginger tea.
- Chamomile can also help to relax the entire nervous symptom so that your body can help to regain composure from imbalanced sensory input.
- Fennel can help to relax the intestinal walls and help your digestive system calm down. Chew a few fennel seeds or add to your ginger tea.
If all else fails and you are feeling quite sick, and you are going on a long voyage, you may wish to speak to your doctor about getting a Scopolamine patch. These medications are effective for motion sickness, however, they do have side effects such as dry mouth, lethargy, and drowsiness and you should always consult with your doctor before taking these medications.
Using preventative measures is by far the best way to avoid motion sickness. Make sure you position yourself facing forward, stay in the middle of a boat, focus on the horizon or a stable object, have plenty of fresh water, and breathe deeply. Don’t let motion sickness prevent you from enjoying a road trip, a cruise, a plane ride, or fun at the playground—utilize these tips and enjoy your adventure!