How to Cure Sea, Car, and other Motion Sickness
Choose from many different remedies
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Cures for seasickness
and other forms of motion sickness have been around for as
long as the underlying cause has also been present.
But not all cures work, and some can have severe
Part 2 of a 2 part series -
part 1 discusses the
different causes of seasickness/motion sickness in general,
and how to minimize them.
Cures for seasickness seem to
be one part urban legend, one part myth, another part quackery,
one part 'mind over matter' and one part 'cure is worse than the
We strip out the nonsense, and
tell you what you need to know and what you need to do.
May all your future trips be
calm and comfortable.
Different Types of Seasickness
There are plenty of
different suggested remedies for being seasick and for motion
sickness in general.
Basically they can be
grouped into the following six categories :
Over the counter medicines
Other alternative medicine
Normal things that seem to
Weird and wacky
Interestingly, almost all
cures described below have been shown to work with some people,
while also not working with others. Even the least
effective mainstream methods have at least halved the incidence
This may be the placebo affect
at work - the curious but undeniable power of
mind over matter, such that when you tell a person that
something will cure them of their ailment, some people are
cured, no matter what it is you give them.
Does this make any of the
'cures' less valid? Absolutely not. Find something
that works for you, and then embrace it and grow comfortable
with it as your solution.
There has been insufficient
valid scientific testing of how well these cures work, and testing which has been done generally uses a revolving chair to mimic the
motion experience - something that is in reality quite different
from being on a boat/ship, or in a car, etc.
I've also found vague
references to one study of about 1400 people at sea, which
apparently determined that incidences of sea-sickness dropped
from about 80% of people taking no medication to 20% when people
were using one of the prescription or non-prescription medicines
Try Before You Go
If you're considering one of
the prescription or non-prescription medicines that sometimes
have associated side-effects, we suggest you should try it
before you go.
That way you have a chance
to see how strong the side-effects may be. You won't know
how effective the anti-motion sickness properties are, but at
least you'll know if you can live with the side-effects or not.
One of the problems with
taking medicine orally (ie swallowing it) is that if you're
sick, you may vomit up most of the medicine. These two
prescription medicines will avoid that issue, because neither
needs to be swallowed.
Both need a
Commonly referred to as 'the
Patch', the Transderm-Scop patch is placed behind your ear, and
worn for up to 72 hours at a time. After 72 hours you
replace it with another one if necessary, and it is suggested
you alternate patches, one on your left side then one on the
The active ingredient in the
patch is absorbed through the skin. It takes up to four
hours for a full dose to be initially absorbed, so for best results, put a
patch on at least four hours before you'll need it.
The active ingredient is scopolamine - the same drug that is used, in much
larger doses, as a 'truth serum', and a derivative of belladonna
poison. Nasty stuff!
The good news is the
Patch is highly effective. But you may experience
side-effects, ranging from minor things like a dry mouth, to
more unpleasant things such as sedation, difficulty urinating,
and blurred vision. The blurred vision seems to affect the
eye on the same side of your face as the patch more than the
other eye - so if you have a weak and a strong eye, put the
patch on the side of your face with your weak eye.
Some people have reported
hallucinations, and of course, worst of all, there's always a danger you
might experience an uncontrollable urge to start telling the
You may also sometimes
experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping using the patch -
symptoms including dizziness, headache, nausea and poor
The Patch is not recommended
for children, the elderly, or for pregnant or breast-feeding
side-effects mentioned above, the Patch is a popular and
commonly used medication, because it does work very effectively,
and is generally rated as better than Dramamine. Reader
Suzanne is one of its converts, and writes
As one of the unlucky who
gets sea sick on boats, I found that wearing a patch behind my ear works perfectly. It was the difference
between night and day.
I never get sick on domestic flights, even
going to Hawaii is a cinch for me. But going overseas I get sick, I
think because the flight is long and the undulation sets it up. The
second time I went I wore a patch and bingo, no sickness.
I found out about them when I went boating in a 60 foot boat all
around SF Bay, even went to the island behind Alcatraz and
stayed in the boat to eat lunch. The person who invited me wore
them for motion sickness and gave me one. When we returned to SF
the water was very choppy but did not faze me at all. I SWEAR by
First time I wore one it made the eye closest to the ear it was
behind a little out of focus. But on the third time, I did not
have any more of that symptom. It does make your mouth somewhat
dry, as well, but that goes away w/in an hour of removing it.
When I went to London the first time, w/ in 2 hours, I was sick
the whole way. Same thing coming back. When I went wearing a
patch, I was just ducky. I ate,, I drank, no problems.
These are worth ANY side effect.
There's always a certain
amount of yuckiness associated with the thought of
suppositories, but if you're seriously unwell and vomiting, this
is probably the only way to administer some heavy-duty medicine
that will put you right.
These are best used only in
the case of severe seasickness and vomiting. They will
almost certainly cause major drowsiness, but that is probably
preferable to how you'd otherwise be feeling.
There are various other
drugs occasionally prescribed for seasickness (including orally
administered scopolamine), but all of these
are, to a greater or a lesser extent, fairly powerful drugs.
Our own preference is to entirely avoid such things if possible,
and you too might prefer to try the milder remedies in the
sections below before turning to heavy-duty products requiring a doctor's prescription.
Over the Counter Medicines
Over the counter medicines
are primarily anti-histamine type products best known in the
Dramamine and its various related products.
These medications reduce the
dizziness and the nausea associated with seasickness, but all
seem to bring about some degree of sleepiness, ranging from mild
drowsiness to severe sleepiness and lethargy.
A key feature of these
medications is that it takes time for them to be absorbed and to
take effect. You should start taking them two
hours before you need them.
Dramamine is available in
both a regular (with dimenhydrinate as its active ingredient)
and a less-drowsy formulation (with meclizine as the active
ingredient). Bonine and Antivert are also meclizine based
and so are similar to the less drowsy Dramamine.
Benadryl is a diphenhydramine
based product, and is similar to Dramamine.
Other products, more common
outside of the US, include Marezine (cyclizine) and Stugeron (cinnarizine). Both seem
to be less sleep inducing than original Dramamine and perhaps
better than Dramamine-2 (the less drowsy meclizine derivative).
Homeopathic medicine is
growing in popularity, and while some people
automatically reject anything that isn't the result of millions
of dollars of research and exclusively produced by the major drug
companies, the ancient arts of homeopathy seems to be based on
underlying valuable benefits.
homeopathic substances can help with seasickness, and the two
main homeopathic products offered to combat seasickness are each
a combined mixture of the various active ingredients.
I have no idea which of
these two products might be better. I can say that the
Trip Ease people also make the
product which seems to
work well, so perhaps my inclination would be to try that first,
but choose whichever seems more suited to your preference.
Made in my home country of
New Zealand by the same people who make NoJetLag, this product
is a mix of six different homeopathic ingredients, described on
A pack of 32 tablets costs
$9.85 and is available through
Pro Travel Gear.
Sea Sik Oral Spray
This product is a mix of
seven different homeopathic ingredients, and is administered by
spraying under your tongue. It is well described and
this web page.
A 30 ml bottle is $14 and
available through the link above.
Other Alternative Medicine
Acupuncture - or more
accurately, acupressure - is another
approach to healing once derided in the west, but which
is now finding growing acceptance.
This field of study believes
that pressure applied to the P6 or nei kuan point will reduce
the sensation of nausea from any/all causes. This point is
located about an inch up the inside of your arm from the crease
between your hand and arm.
Pressure is most commonly
applied to this point via a band of some type, and there are now
three different styles of bands.
Studies have tended to
confirm that bands can definitely help reduce seasickness,
although there has been quite a variation in displayed
effectiveness. This might be due to how accurately people
place the bands on the appropriate pressure point. The
more pressure the better, it seems.
Because acupressure bands
relieve all types of nausea, they are often used by pregnant
women to prevent morning sickness as well.
I asked John McManus,
founder of Magellan's, for his thoughts on bands, being as how
his company sells an enormous number of them. He replied
My thoughts on those
motion-sensitive bands used to be “pretty weird concept”.
When we went to press with our first catalog (October 1989), I
decided not to include a band product. Sounded a little “far out”
for Magellan’s, although I made a note to myself that as soon as
we were up and running, I’d see if I couldn’t find some way to
test it out.
That opportunity came pretty quickly.
My wife’s sister has a daughter with a lovely 28'
boat, but the sister couldn’t set foot on it, even when it was at the
dock. Her breakfast would come up if she even looked at a body
of water. So I gave her a sample pair of Sea Bands and “the rest is
history”. I couldn’t believe how well they worked for her.
Was it just the power of suggestion? Might have been, since I
really can’t point to any true scientific study (blind,
control-group, etc.) that satisfied me 100%. But I got to
thinking that even if it was (or is), if enough people really
felt better, why not make them available (complete with a promise
of a full refund if they didn’t work for them)?
I do know the bands have fewer
side-effects than dry-mouth-inducing patches, Dramamine, or other
“remedies.” And they seem to be on the wrists of
cruise-ship passengers nowadays.
At any rate, we placed them in the 1990
catalog. Since then, they've been steady sellers, with only
about a 3% return rate.
So file these comments under “unscientific” but for what it’s
worth, we can point to a lot of people who feel better with
these bands in place.
Regular acupressure bands
The original acupressure
band was the Seaband, which is still available in some places.
These days the leading 'regular' band seems to be the BioBand,
which is more comfortable and adjustable.
They are $12.85 each
(and don't forget John's 100% satisfaction guarantee,
in case you're one of the 3% who find the band doesn't work well
Magnetic acupressure bands
The Magna Band or other
bands that have a magnet in them sound very much like a gadget
rather than bona fide added value medical device
The magnet probably won't do any harm, but I'm
aware of no studies that show the magnet adds to the
relief of the band.
They are available, two for
Electric acupressure bands
ReliefBand also sounds gimmicky, although they offer a bit
more pseudo-science to back up their claim of effectiveness.
The band is worn in the same
place as a regular band, but a battery delivers a pulsed mild
electric shock to your arm (you adjust the level until your
fingers mildly tingle) which supposedly helps to calm your
Batteries last about 150
hours and are replaceable. The unit is priced at $89 and
available from Magellan's.
Overall, as John noted
above, bands of one form or another seem to work very well for
the vast majority of travelers, and have the benefit
(particularly with the regular Bioband) of not introducing any
drugs or chemicals or anything into your body. The last
comment on bands goes to reader Veronica :
After a lifetime of sea
sickness I discovered a cure by accident.
In 2002 after attending my Aunt's 100th birthday, we took the
ferry from Portsmouth to St. Malo. Having forgotten sea sick
pills we stopped at the small convenience store just before we
boarded to buy some pills for the trip. The young woman there
said they were out of stock for such pills but she recommended
I thought - well this is going to be a waste of
money, however, once on the vessel, my partner who was a nurse
before she was an attorney read the directions in detail. She
placed the bands carefully on our wrists as per directions, that
is: two fingers above the wrist bone - kind of a weird spot. We
then went to dinner and had a spanking French meal and retired
to our cabin. So far, so good.
When my partner hopped into the
shower, she said, Let me give you my bands to hold while I
shower. Fast shower because she said, hurry give me back the
bands I am starting to feel queasy. I did the same - hurried
shower and back to the bands on the wrist. No discomfort
whatever and I am a person who was formerly and consistently miserably sea sick.
I found a cure.
Another product, not really
a homeopathic remedy, is
MotionEaze. This is a liquid that you dab behind your
ears, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of the Patch. But
the liquid is not scopolamine. Instead they say it is a
proprietary blend of herbal oils including Birch, Chamomile,
Frankincense, Lavender, Myrrh, Peppermint and Ylang-Ylang.
We're unaware of any studies
to support their claims of effectiveness, and our own opinion of
the product (which we've never tried) nosedived when we read
page suggesting that, if you're feeling sea-sick, you should
avoid looking at the horizon and perhaps read a book instead!
This advice contradicts that offered by almost everyone else,
and also clearly contradicts our own experience of
what makes us feel ill and what makes us feel better.
A bottle costs $16 and has
enough liquid for 40 applications.
If you've used MotionEaze,
let us know how it worked for you.
Update, April 05 :
Nick writes in from Hawaii :
I carried a bottle of
Motioneaze around with me for about a year in various
situations on boats with people who weren’t used to being on
boats. I never needed to use it on myself but did let
several other people try it, and most of them reported that
it did indeed work, though only temporarily (30 minutes or
so) before it required another application.
I think the big advantage of
it is that it can be applied right in the middle of a
full-blown episode of seasickness and have an instantaneous
relieving effect (or at least it has relieved the people who
I’ve given it to). It also smells good!
Interestingly enough I
emailed a celebrity spokesperson for MotionEaze (who shall
remain nameless) before I purchased the bottle to ask him if
it really worked. He said it did indeed work, but that for
long outings he and his crew took Bonine and then used the
MotionEaze as an instant backup if the Bonine started to
fail them. Bonine is working best for me at the moment too.
I would buy MotionEaze again
though, if for no other reason than being able to offer some
hope of relief to people in the miserable throes of motion
Update, May 07 :
Kathleen in WA writes :
I've tried Dramamine, the
bands, ginger but none of them work for me anymore. A
friend told me about MotionEaze saying it really worked for
her, so I tried it. It worked great, and the effects
lasted through a 4 hour drive.
Normal Things that seem to Help
There are many ordinary
foods which may help.
Perhaps the most common
normal thing that many people claim works well for them is
ginger root (Zingiber officinale). Whether you eat pure ginger root, crystallized ginger,
ginger tablets, ginger tea, or ginger cookies, ginger seems to
help calm people's stomachs and reduce their susceptibility to
You only need to take a very
little, but because ginger is natural, you're welcome to take as
much more as you wish. About 1 gram (1/28th of an ounce) of powdered
ginger has been shown effective against motion sickness in
double-blind studies. In Germany, up to 4 grams per day is
Best of all, there are no
side-effects from taking ginger.
Ginger is an aromatic bitter
(see below) and is generally credited with improving the
digestive process. A 1982 study found that ginger was
better than Dramamine for preventing seasickness.
Subsequent studies have tended to confirm that ginger provides
effective relief from motion sickness.
Like medications, you should
take ginger prior to experiencing the sickness causing event.
Soda crackers are
recommended by some people - the soda crackers both soak up any
excess liquid in your stomach and also it is suggested that the
alkaline soda in the crackers neutralizes any excess stomach
This suggestion is probably nonsense - the small
amount of alkali in the cracker is dwarfed by the amount of acid
in your stomach, but perhaps eating pieces of ginger on soda
crackers is a great way to adopt two strategies at the same
time, while also enjoying some food.
Some people suggest that
Coca-Cola is helpful, although it contains caffeine, which some
people suggest is harmful, and of course it is also a liquid,
and you don't want too much liquid sloshing around in your
Being as how Coca-Cola was
originally developed as a patent medicine, it is perhaps not
impossible that it has some palliative effect.
You need to walk a fine line
between staying hydrated and having too much liquid in your
Another liquid that
supposedly has near miraculous powers is bitters. An
article in Cruising World some years back reputedly surveyed
various types of bitters and found the best is Italian Fernet Branca, followed closely by Angostura.
Take a tablespoon or two,
mixed in half a glass of water, and expect to get nearly
immediate beneficial results.
Other foodstuffs that are
credited with alleviating sea-sickness include mint, citrus,
apricot juice, carrot juice, unroasted pumpkin or squash seeds,
parsley, and peppermint tea.
Weird and Wacky
Aromatherapy has been
suggested as a way to counter the affects of seasickness.
For sure, bad aromas can hasten the onset of nausea and
vomiting, but whether you can create a 'good aroma' and surround
yourself sufficiently in it may be difficult to achieve.
Oils of mandarin,
peppermint, spearmint and lavender are recommended, both added
to boiling water and, after diluting with massage oil, rubbed
into hands and feet. Effects are said to last for 24 to 48
I've read one report by a
person who found this very effective, but the report was lacking
in specifics about the proportions of each oil, so if you're a
proponent of aromatherapies, and can conveniently create the
environment for administering such relief, you'll need to do
some more research.
Royal Made Ping an Dan
Royal Made Ping an Dan (PAD)
sounds very unusual, and perhaps it is. It is a Chinese
remedy that dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) when it was made for
members of the Royal Household.
Chinese clinical studies have shown it to be as effective,
or perhaps more effective than Dramamine. That is the good
news. The not so good news is that I've not found anywhere
that sells it.
If you know of a source, or have any more
details about what it is made from, please
let me know.
Artificial Horizon Glasses
Another weird and wacky
approach is to wear glasses with always level horizons on them.
The theory, as per the
inventor's website, is that this way
you can always see a steady horizon, even if the boat is moving.
Sounds unlikely to us, but who knows;
although no medical research is offered to support their claims.
And at €99 ($130) you'd have
to be pretty sure of them working before buying a pair.
Let us know if you
Summary and Recommendation
So, how best to avoid motion
sickness? The answers are spread through both this and the
first part of this article.
Try to minimize the
situation that could cause motion sickness in the first place,
and make use of one - or more than one - of the remedies suggested
in this second part, and in a timely manner before you start to
Although some people like
the patch, and even though it is probably the most certain
medical remedy, we just find the idea of slowly dosing ourselves
with 'truth serum' completely unappealing. Who knows what
we might not inadvertently say over dinner.
Dramamine makes us
Eating ginger biscuits is a
painless and pleasant strategy.
We'd probably back this up
with a band and or a homeopathic remedy.
There's no reason
not to adopt a multi-layered defense. So we'll be the
person resolutely standing out on deck staring ahead through the
artificial horizon glasses, while eating ginger biscuits and saltine
crackers, drinking coca-cola and Angostura bitters, wearing bands
on both wrists, and taking Trip Ease pills every hour.
At least we won't be in the
rest-room making a call on the great white porcelain telephone.
Lastly, if all else fails,
cling to the thought that, eventually, you'll get your 'sea
legs' and will get better all by yourself.
Read more in Part 1
Part 1 we discuss the
different causes of seasickness/motion sickness in general,
and how to use this knowledge to minimize their affects.
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18 Mar 2005, last update
19 Dec 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.