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Enjoy the journey - Ginger can prevent and relieve nausea associated with motion sickness

One minute you're feeling just fine and the next, well the next, you're definitely not feeling just fine.
Hang in there because this has a happy ending.

Let's start with a few dictionary definitions. I'm going to use the word "vomiting" (1) only four times because I don't know now about you but even the saying the word "vomiting" (2) will make me want to (refer to Mr. Barf).

"Nausea - definition: a stomach distress with distaste for food and an urge to vomit (3). I'm not even going to use up my last time with a definition of what comes next. We kind of all know what that means. All jokes aside, when this happens to you, it is anything but amusing. But there's a lot you can do to stop it before it ever starts.

There are a number of things that can cause nausea including food poisoning, a bad taste or smell, fear, drug interactions such as chemotherapy, and motion sickness.

For this conversation, we are going to focus on motion sickness.

NASA is one group that has spent a lot of time studying motion sickness. As a pilot or team member in a critical flight or space mission, motion sickness is not just an inconvenience, it can be life threatening. 

James Locke, flight surgeon at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, has been studying the causes of motion sickness. In a recent Scientific American article, he said of his research:

"Despite decades of research, scientists are still not sure exactly why motion sickness occurs—or how. The currently accepted theory is that sensory conflict is to blame.

"Information from both our visual and vestibular systems is processed by the brain to match it all up. Your vestibular system—your inner ear—is tuned to a terrestrial, 1G environment," Locke says. "When you move [yourself] around, changes in your vestibular system match up with what you're seeing. But [riding] in an airplane or car, your inner ear signals that you're moving, but your eye says you're sitting still" because your body is not moving in relation to its immediate environment—such as the seat you're sitting in, the back of the seat in front of you and the floor beneath your feet. 

From reviewing a good cross-section of scientific literature it also seems that motion sickness impacts each of us differently. Perhaps 1/3 of people are unaffected. Unfortunately for those who suffer from migraines, they are also more prone to suffer from motion sickness. For others, it depends on the circumstances and someone not usually impacted can suddenly succumb to nausea and vice versa. In addition, there are ways to reduce nausea and as it turns out ways to reduce the likelihood that nausea progresses to vomiting (4th and I'm done).

Things you can do to delay, reduce and deal with the nausea symptoms.

There are both positive actions we can take and foods, supplements, and drugs that act to reduce the feeling of motion sickness and the unfortunate end result if left unchecked. 

Adaption - in many tests people can be trained to reduce motion sickness. Exposure to small and increasing levels of motion can allow people to reduce and delay nausea. I think that if you are a pilot, a professional fisherman, or astronaut this is probably a good idea, but if you are taking a flight or a vacation cruise or are a passenger in a car or bus, adaption therapy may not work for you.

Sync your senses - Since motion sickness is linked to times when our eyes are not in sync with the inner ear, then try and get them back in sync. Try closing your eyes, go to sleep or get where you can see the horizon.

Drugs - There are prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements that have proven effective for motion-related nausea. These include Dramamine and scopolamine among others. While they have shown positive effects, they come with side effects including drowsiness and dry mouth.

Ginger - (botanical name Zingiber officinale) is harvested from the edible underground roots or rhizomes of the perennial, herbaceous plant. Ginger takes around 10 months to grow in subtropical climate conditions. The ginger roots are a complex blend of many bioactive compounds including gingerols and shogaols, which give ginger its warm taste, and resins and oils that give ginger its distinctive aroma. Both sets of compounds have a part to play in reducing motion sickness.

Ginger has undergone extensive testing (and 5,000 years of cultivation and consumption) including peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (the best standard) for a wide range of conditions that lead to nausea. Some investigations have shown strong impacts on nausea, some have shown it to be at least as effective as the leading drugs, but without the side effects, and some have failed to show effectiveness.  As we now better understand the variation in nausea from person to person and across time, this is not surprising. 

The exact method of nausea relief is not fully understood, but it does appear that ginger affects the tone and motion of the stomach together with a number of key pathways that cause a positive effect by their impact on the brain and nervous system.

The consensus is that ginger is recognized as safe and prevents and relieves nausea and vomiting (oops, an extra one) caused by motion sickness.

Ginger is available fresh, pickled, candied and as cookies, tea blends, preserves, ginger ales and supplements. Each has a different level of ginger and in addition the ratio and absolute levels of gingerols and shogaols. Shogaols tend to be higher in dried ginger, and in studies, shogaols may have a large anti-nausea impact.

There is no established FDA Daily Value for ginger, however, many of the clinical trials use a daily dose of 700-1000 mg of dried ginger powder. With this as a guide, it would equate to the following:

  • Ginger, dried supplement Capsules 700-1000mg - 2 capsules approx. 
  • Ginger, fresh root - 1/4-1/2 ounce
  • Candied ginger - 1/4-1/2 ounce or 1-2 large pieces or 6-8 small pieces
  • Ginger tea - 4 cups

Try to take the ginger 30 minutes to an hour before travel.

Ginger Side Effects - ginger is a potent bioactive spice. Pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, people on blood thinners and other prescription drugs should seek medical advice before use.

Happy travels!

Verdant Kitchen

Disclaimer - This information has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA and is not necessarily based on scientific evidence from any source. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease. If conditions persist, please seek advice from your medical doctor.


Ross Harding
Ross Harding


1 Response

Emma Eley
Emma Eley

May 02, 2018

Ginger has always been a staple in my kitchen, ginger syrup, recipe from my grandmother, ginger preserves, cookies and used in some of my recipes. There are many good edible roots that can be used to benefit the body that many are not aware of that are also good to eat.

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