Travel sickness is also called referred to as sea sickness and car sickness and also motion sickness. It can occur when travelling by bus, car, ferry or boat and planes, it’s also possible to experience motion sickness sitting waiting an action movie or on fun fair rides. Sufferers can experience symptoms including dizziness, fatigue, hyperventilation, and nausea occur which in severe cases can lead to vomiting.
As a child I experienced my fair share of travel sickness problems, which back then was often resolved by ‘sucking a barley sugar’ an old confection still made today, sadly the majority of today’s barley sugar sweets are confectionery only, the don’t contain the decoction of barley or barley extract that the barley sugars of old did. Barley was an old remedy for nausea and morning sickness.
So what is it Motion sickness? Our senses take in lots of information from our surroundings and sends that information to the brain to process, as we travel the eyes, ears, muscles and even our skin send signals to the brain as we move. The problem occurs when our brains receive conflicting information, and usually arises when fluid in our inner ears known as the labyrinth sends a signal that the rest of our senses hasn’t picked up.
When everything is working as it should when we travel our eyes, the labyrinth which is situated in the inner ear and contains fluid that sloshes around as we move, our skin and our muscles send sensory information to the brain. That information helps the body to be aware of its position in space and allows the body to be able to determine if it’s moving or stationary and if it is moving, what direction it is moving in. If any of these signals misfire or conflict with information sent by another sense, the whole system becomes out of balance and motion sickness occurs.
If you suffer from motion sickness there are a few simple things you can do to help ease your symptoms before you reach for herbal home remedies.
Taking a good B-Complex vitamin can help, make sure it contains vitamin B6 also known as pyridoxine which can help ease the nausea associated with motion sickness. Start taking it at least 3-4 days before you travel and continue to take it throughout your holiday on a daily basis, if you don’t want to take a supplement you can B6 in the following foods brewer's yeast, wheat bran, wheat germ, liver, kidney, heart, milk, eggs and beef. Eat light meals the day before you travel and avoid having anything to rich, fatty or spicy, if you suffer from vomiting then try and keep your stomach relatively empty, if there isn’t much in, not so much can come out!
If you’re travelling by plane, when you make your reservation, ask them for an aisle seat over a wing. Travelling by boat or ferry, ask for a cabin on the upper deck toward the front of the vessel, and keep your eyes fixed as much as possible on the horizon or land as you travel, try not to stand on the boat or ferry, standing with move your body and shift your balance and cause more conflicting signals which will only amplify the motion sickness. By car, bus or train sit in the same direction that you are travelling so you’re facing forwards at all times, keeping your focus on the horizon, it will also help if you position the air vent of the vehicle to blow cool air directly on your face.
6 Herbs to the Ease Travel Sickness
It's important to note that herbs cannot prevent motion sickness from occurring, what they can do is alleviate the symptoms and make you feel a little better, some of the best herbs to try to help ease the symptoms are the following: -
Chamomile – A cup or chamomile tea or a nice, cold chamomile infusion can help to combat the effects of travel sickness, it can soothe the nerves and calm the stomach, it’s anti-spasmodic, carminative, digestive and nervine properties are all ideal for dealing with nausea, its mildly sedative as well, which is good to help you relax. Choose German Chamomile rather than Roman Chamomile as the German variety is milder and not as bitter.
Catnip – Another herb that makes a soothing and comforting tea or infusion that is useful for dealing with motion sickness, it has anti-anxiety, anti-spasmodic, carminative, nervine, sedative and stomachic properties, it is mild and gentle and a weak infusion sweetened, can be given to children to help with their symptoms, catnip can be combined with chamomile.
Fennel Seeds – The seed can be used to make a pleasant tea or infusion which can calm the stomach. Fennel is also a mild analgesic, so if the nausea causes pain or you get a mild headache, then fennel can help. It is also anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, carminative and stomachic, the seeds can also be chewed to help ease digestion and curb nausea.
Ginger – This spice is synonymous with travel sickness, it’s also often taken by women suffering from morning sickness, ginger has analgesic, anti-emetic (stops nausea), anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and carminative properties. Take ginger either as a tea, mixed with a little lemon which can also help with nausea or make your own crystallised ginger sweets that you can chew as and when needed. If you don’t like spicy flavour of ginger but want to partake of its benefits then powdered ginger in capsule form may help.
Lemon Balm – Like catnip, lemon balm has anti-anxiety properties, it’s also naturally anti-emetic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, and sedative, it can be taken as a tea or tisane, it can also be made in to herbal drops that can be sucked whilst travelling, try combining lemon balm with chamomile to help improve the bitterness of the chamomile, it can also be combined with ginger.
Peppermint – Another herb synonymous with travel sickness and nausea, it has anodyne (relieves mild pain), anti-spasmodic, aromatic, carminative, refrigerant and stomachic properties. Peppermint will calm the gastro-intestinal tract and soothe the stomach if taken as a tea or decoction. Like ginger and liquorice it can also be turned in to a lozenge or sweet that can be sucked during travel. If the flavour of peppermint is too strong for you, or it’s to be given to a child use spearmint instead which is milder and gentler in action.
Try an Aromatic Approach
You don’t have to take all remedies internally, sometimes the scent of a herb can help, try making a refreshing and soothing spritzer spray using single essential oils or combinations of Chamomile, Fennel, Ginger, Lavender, Lemon, Melissa (Lemon Balm) and Peppermint.
Both ginger and peppermint oils are particularly useful oils to have on hand for motion sickness, some people find that when the oils are diluted in a suitable carrier oil and the resulting blend is massaged in to the temples or gently in to the stomach it can help relieve the nausea and dizzy feelings. When massaging the stomach take care to be gentle and use only smooth gentle strokes, working in a clockwise direction. You can also add a few drops of either oil to a tissue or handkerchief and hold it under your nose and breathe in the aromas when smells like fried foods and fumes can trigger motion sickness problems.
Debs Cook is the IT Media Manager for the DHM, she is a self confessed herbaholic who loves to write about the way herbs were once used and about the herbalists that used them. You can find out more about Debs over on her Herbal haven blog.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to source the most up to date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that remedies in our articles are effective, when in doubt, consult your GP or a qualified Medicinal Herbalist. Remember also that herbal remedies can be dangerous under certain circumstances therefore you should always seek medical advice before self-treating with a homemade remedy, especially if you are pregnant, breast feeding or suffer from any known illness which could be adversely affected by self-treatment.