Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stop the Car! (or plane, or boat, or ...)

When I was a kid my family made a monthly pilgrimage to Laredo, Texas. My dad was a devoted son and he returned to his hometown, my mother and me in tow, to help his parents with the upkeep of their ranch. It's interesting that I don't remember ever being carsick until I was in the 4th grade, although I'd made this same trip since birth. My parents tell an amusing story of admiring my weeks-old self, laying between them on the front seat (no child car seats back then!), when a crop duster passed overhead and I soon became covered with fine red spots. A quick detour to the emergency room in McAllen and we were back on the road to Laredo.

Motion sickness plagued me for years and I grew to dread these monthly trips until a family friend suggested lemons. She'd tried this with her own daughters and swore by it. Now complaints of nausea were met with a warm and motherly, "¡Chúpate un limón!", "Suck on a lemon!". Never one to plan too far ahead, my mother would borrow my dad's pocket knife and use her crossword puzzle as a cutting board. And hey, it worked, and I eventually outgrew the symptoms. Limes worked too.

When your ears feel movement that your eyes don't see, the brain takes evasive action. Threatened by a potential poisoning (why else would you hallucinate this way?), it takes steps to get you to vomit the alleged poison and behold: nausea! This is why reading will often worsen the condition: your eyes are fixed on the page, but your ears know you're moving!

Aside from lemons and limes, Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the go-to herb for nausea and motion sickness. A 1982 study published in the journal Lancet, compared the effectiveness of a 940 mg dose of powdered ginger with that of dimenhydrinate, the active ingredient used in Dramamine® (D.B. Mourey and D.E. Clayson 655-7). Motion-sensitive volunteers were blindfolded and placed in spinning mechanical chairs. Those on Dramamine lasted an average of 3.5 minutes before saying uncle; those on ginger lasted an average of 5.5 minutes: 64% longer! More recent studies, one on naval cadets and and one conducted with NASA astronauts, continue to prove the effectiveness of ginger in preventing and mitigating motion sickness -- and without the drowsiness that over-the-counter products can produce.

It's a nasty feeling, but here's how to deal with it:
  • 1000 mg powdered ginger, one hour before travel, followed by 500 mg every couple of hours after that.
  • A couple of pieces crystallized ginger candy, follow-up pieces as needed.
  • ¡Chúpate un Limón! Suck on lemon or lime slices until nausea subsides.
References
D.B. Mourey and D.E. Clayson. "Motion sickness, ginger, and psychophysics." Lancet (1982 Mar 20): 655-656.

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