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Will Ginger Help You Avoid Motion Sickness?

If you would like to avoid motion sickness without the drowsiness caused by Dramamine, consider ginger in capsules or chewing gum.

Have you ever been seasick? If you’ve never been on a boat, you might have felt ill in the back seat of a car navigating mountain roads. People can experience nausea or queasiness and dizziness in any form of transportation. Presumably, it is caused by a mismatch between what you see and what you are feeling. Some individuals are so sensitive to this condition that watching a 3-D travel movie can make them sick. Is there a good way to avoid motion sickness?

Can You Avoid Motion Sickness with Ginger Capsules? 

Q. I have gotten car-sick for as long as I can remember. I used to take Dramamine or wear the patch behind my ear, but those medications made me so drowsy I couldn’t enjoy my trip. Now I use ginger for every road trip. Once I started taking ginger capsules, I haven’t had to take Dramamine anymore.

A. Ginger has a long-standing reputation for settling the stomach and warding off motion sickness. Chinese sailors used to eat ginger to prevent seasickness thousands of years ago.

Some controlled studies confirm that ginger can help alleviate nausea (Food Science & Nutrition, Nov. 5, 2018). Iranian scientists have even developed a ginger-containing chewing gum to help people avoid motion sickness (Advanced Biomedical Research, July 29. 2016). If you don’t like ginger capsules, you may be able to find some ginger chewing gum. Alternatively, you might try munching on crystallized ginger, which resembles candy.

How Do Ginger Compounds Work Against Motion Sickness?

Scientists think that compounds in ginger work partly through suppressing the response of nerves in the digestive tract to stimulation from the vagus nerve (Foods, May 30, 2019). In addition, medicinal chemists have determined that it works at least in part through activating TRPV1 ion channels (British Journal of Pharmacology, Sep. 2019). These transient receptor potential (TRP) channels sense heat and cold. Compounds like capsaicin, the hot essence of chile peppers, activate TRPV1 and create a sensation of heat. The ginger compounds shogaol, gingerol, and zingerone also activate TRPV1, which explains why ginger tastes “hot.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Nikkhah Bodagh M et al, "Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials." Food Science & Nutrition, Nov. 5, 2018. DOI: 10.1002/fsn3.807
  • Mao QQ et al, "Bioactive compounds and bioactivities of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe)." Foods, May 30, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/foods8060185
  • Aslani A et al, "Design, formulation, and evaluation of ginger medicated chewing gum." Advanced Biomedical Research, July 29. 2016. DOI: 10.4103/2277-9175.187011
  • Yin Y et al, "Structural mechanisms underlying activation of TRPV1 channels by pungent compounds in gingers." British Journal of Pharmacology, Sep. 2019. DOI: 10.1111/bph.14766
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