One day a co-worker, who was also a friend and a registered nurse, told me that a friend of hers was experiencing a lot of nausea. She casually asked me what I'd recommend for relief. I immediately suggested ginger.
Six months later, she mentioned in passing that the ginger had worked. Only later did I realize that she wasn't asking for help for a friend. She herself had been on chemotherapy to treat cancer, and based on my recommendation, she had used ginger to relieve the nausea it often causes. Ginger's ability to treat nausea is that impressive.
This incident took place several years before I saw the published studies showing that ginger is helpful in relieving chemotherapy-induced nausea. (Chemotherapy patients should not take ginger if their blood-clotting ability is impaired, however.)
Nausea, as I'm sure you know, is that horrible abdominal sensation that makes you feel as if you're going to vomit. And vomiting means losing your lunch, plus a good deal of stomach acid as well, which is why it causes a burning sensation in the chest and throat.
Nausea and vomiting can be caused by many things: infections of the digestive tract (gastroenteritis), inner ear disorders, overindulgence in alcohol or foods, intestinal parasites, morning sickness in pregnancy, motion sickness, emotional stress and toxic overloads on the liver.
Green Pharmacy for Nausea
Frequently, one good upchuck is all it takes to relieve nausea. You just vomit and get it over with. But in other cases, nausea persists even after the stomach has emptied, and you try to vomit without result, a condition known as dry heaves. That's when the herbal remedies in this chapter might help.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale). One study showed that ginger appears to be as effective as the prescription drug metoclopramide (Reglan, Clopra) in reducing the nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. This is one use for ginger that you should discuss with your doctor. If he says that your blood-clotting ability is impaired, you should not take this herb while undergoing chemotherapy.
Of course, ginger helps with nausea from less extreme causes as well. I discuss its anti-nausea benefits at some length in the chapters on morning sickness and motion sickness, but suffice it to say that for nausea and vomiting, ginger is many good herbalists' herb of choice.
Powdered ginger makes a pleasant-tasting tea, but when you're experiencing nausea, nothing seems to do the trick quite as well as ginger ale. Just check the label to make sure that it is made with real ginger; many ginger ales are artificially flavored.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum, various species). My wife takes cinnamon tea when she feels nauseated. It helps, and I'm not surprised. Cinnamon contains chemicals called catechins, which help relieve nausea.
Catechins also occur in agrimony, barley, bilberries, chinaberries, dog rose, English oak, hops, hawthorn, motherwort, northern red oak, olives, pears, pecans, sage, strawberries, tea and white willow.
Originally grown in southern Asia, cinnamon was used as a treatment for fever and diarrhea long before it became known as a kitchen spice.
Peppermint (Mentha pipe-rita). Peppermint tea is a powerful antispasmodic, meaning that it stops muscle spasms in the digestive tract, including those involved in vomiting. (But I wouldn't drink much of it if you're pregnant, since some herbalists have noted that large amounts of peppermint tea may lead to miscarriage.)
Assorted essential oils. Aromatherapy can also help relieve nausea and vomiting. Essential oils of peppermint and rosewood have been suggested for treating nausea. Oils of black pepper, camomile, camphor, fennel, lavender, peppermint and rose are recommended for relieving vomiting.
Place a drop or two of the essential oil or oils that you're trying in a tablespoon of vegetable oil and massage the mixture into your chest so the aroma can be inhaled easily. Remember, though, that essential oils are for external use only.
Carminative herbs. Carminative means "stomach-soothing." Carminatives are used mostly to treat indigestion and infant colic, but many respected herbalists also recommend them for nausea.
The carminative herbs I like best include camomile, dill, fennel, lemon balm and any of the mints. I'd suggest trying a tea made with a few teaspoons of one or more of these.