Motion sickness is a common ailment associated with travel in cars, trains, planes, and boats. Its basis is largely unknown but is believed to be caused by a combination of inner ear disturbances and over-stimulation of the optic nerve due to either real or apparent movement. Even the increased popularity of computer games has brought about an accompanying increase in motion sickness symptoms, as many games utilize visual effects that simulate motion and, in susceptible persons, initiate illness. The contraceptive pill has also been implicated in the prevalence of motion sickness among women. Over time, psychological factors also come into play for the sufferer of this unpleasant condition.
Common symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, pallor, clammy skin, sweating, and severe dizziness. It is surprisingly common, occurring in up to 72 % of the population. However, why some individuals experience motion sickness and others don’t is largely unknown. It is absent in children under two, reaches a climax in 4-to-10-year-olds, and is rare in the elderly.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been regarded for centuries to be an effective cure for the misery of travel sickness, and recent medical research has confirmed what ancient folklore has known for generations. In a recent article in the British medical journal The Lancet, trials concluded that ginger is equal in effect to that of the commonly used drug Dramamine, and produces little or no side effects. Further studies in Denmark concur that ginger is of comparable benefit to OTC drugs, with the further advantage that the drowsiness so commonly associated with the latter is avoided.
Ginger may be taken as a freshly-brewed infusion, or eaten in candied form. However the most convenient source of ginger, especially for those who do not like the taste, is in capsule form. Ginger is best taken an hour or more before traveling.
Ginger may also be useful in relieving post-operative nausea caused from anesthetic medication. Several recent research studies (e.g. Obstetrics & Gynecology 2005;105:849-856) have examined ginger’s efficacy in treating morning sickness in pregnant women. It was found to be more effective than a placebo in relieving nausea and vomiting, with no significant side effects or adverse pregnancy outcomes. Larger scale studies are needed to confirm these encouraging preliminary results.