Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Nausea is a common symptom of a variety of ailments from motion sickness to viruses, to reacting poorly to medication. Whatever the cause is, the misery is real. If nausea is severe and accompanied by pain, it’s time to see a doctor. However, if it’s a mild case then home remedies for nausea can help settle your stomach.
In this excerpt from Secret Food Cures Joan and Lydia Wilen give some favorite folk and home remedies for nausea to ease upset stomachs and motion sickness.
• When you have an upset stomach and you’re feeling nauseated, take a carbonated drink—seltzer, club soda, Perrier or some ginger ale. If you don’t have any of those, and you’re not on a sodium-restricted diet, mix one teaspoon of baking soda with eight ounces of cold water and drink slowly. Within a few minutes, you should burp and feel better.
• Drink one cup of yarrow tea (available at health food stores). This herb is known to stop nausea in next to no time. It’s also wonderful for helping tone up the digestive system.
• When the food you ate seems to be lying on your chest—or you have a bad case of stomach overload, and you know you’d feel much better if you threw up—reach for the English mustard. It’s available at food specialty shops.
Dose: Drink one teaspoon in a glass of warm water. If you don’t vomit in 10 minutes, drink another glass of this mustard water.
After another 10 minutes, if it still hasn’t worked, the third time should be the charm.
To help ease a severe bout of vomiting, warm 1 ⁄2 cup of vinegar, saturate a washcloth in it and place the moist cloth on your bare abdomen. Put a hot water bottle on top of the cloth for extra relief.
WARNING: Severe or prolonged vomiting may be a symptom of a serious illness (and can lead to dangerous dehydration). Consult a doctor for prompt medical treatment.
• Drink a cup of chamomile tea to calm your stomach and stop vomiting.
• A few cloves steeped in boiling water for five minutes may do the trick. If the taste of cloves reminds you too much of the dentist, then steep a piece of cinnamon stick or one teaspoon of powdered ginger in boiling water. All of these are fine for stopping nausea and vomiting.
• Crack an ice cube and suck on the little pieces. It’s worth a try when you have nothing else in the house.
• This remedy is the pits—the armpits. Peel a large onion and cut it in half. Place one half under each armpit. As nauseating as it sounds, we’ve been told it stops vomiting and relieves nausea in no time.
• A cup of warm water drunk a half-hour before each meal may prevent nausea.
• If you’re on the road, feeling nauseated, stop at the nearest luncheonette and ask for a teaspoon of pure cola syrup with a water chaser.
• If you’re home and have some cola or even root beer, let the soda go flat by stirring it. Once the fizz is gone, drink two or three ounces to ease the nausea.
WARNING: Seek medical attention if your stomach pain is severe or is accompanied by repeated vomiting.
The story is told about the captain of the ship who announced, “There is no hope. We are all doomed. The ship is sinking, and we’ll all be dead within an hour.” One voice was heard after that dire announcement. It was the seasick passenger who cried, “Thank heavens!”
If you have ever been seasick, you probably anticipated that punchline.
Most people think air, land and sea sickness start in the stomach. Wrong! Guess again. Constant jarring of the semicircular canals in the ears cause inner balance problems that produce those awful motion sickness symptoms.
What to do? Go suck a lemon! Really! That’s one of the time-tested remedies.
Here are a few more that might help you get through that miserable feeling.
• Pull out and pinch the skin in the middle of your inner wrist, about an inch from your palm. Keep pulling and pinching alternate wrists until you feel better.
• A cup of peppermint or chamomile tea may calm the stomach and alleviate nausea.
• Mix 1 ⁄8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a cup of warm water or a cup of soup and force yourself to finish it, even if you think it’ll finish you. It won’t. But it may stop the nausea.
• At the first sign of motion sickness, take a metal comb or wire brush and run the teeth over the backs of your hands, particularly the area from the thumb to the first finger, including the web of skin in between both fingers. You may have relief in five to 10 minutes.
• Briskly massage the fourth and fifth fingers of each hand, with particular emphasis on the vicinity of the pinkie’s knuckle. You may feel relief within 15 minutes.
• During a bout of motion sickness, suck a lemon or drink some fresh-squeezed lemon juice to relieve the queasiness.
• To avoid the misery of motion sickness, a doctor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, recommends taking two or three capsules of powdered ginger a half-hour before the expected motion.
Or stir 1 ⁄2 teaspoon of ginger powder into eight ounces of warm water and drink it about 20 minutes before you travel.
• Here’s a we-don’t-know-why-it-works-but-it-does remedy—tape an umeboshi (that’s a Japanese pickled plum) directly on your navel, right before you board a bus, train, car, plane or ship, and it should prevent motion sickness. Umeboshi plums are available at health food stores and at Asian markets.
Incidentally, the plums are very rich in calcium and iron. Of course, to reap those benefits, one must eat them, rather than tape them to one’s tummy.
• On any form of transportation, sit near a window so you can look out. Focus on things that are far away, not on nearby objects that move past you quickly.
• A Mexican method of preventing motion sickness is to keep a copper penny in the navel. It is supposed to work especially well on crowded bus rides over bumpy roads.
• For at least half a day before leaving on a trip, have only liquid foods that are practically sugar-free and salt-free.
• This remedy came to us from Hawaii, Afghanistan and Switzerland. Take a big brown paper bag and cut off and discard the bag’s bottom. Then slit the bag from top to bottom so that it’s no longer round, but instead a long piece of paper. Wrap the paper around your bare chest and secure it in place. Put your regular clothes on top of it and travel that way. It’s supposed to prevent motion sickness.
• Marjoram tea is believed to help prevent seasickness. Drink a cup of warm tea before hitting the deck.
• Take a teaspoon of gomasio (sesame seeds and sea salt, available at health food stores and Asian markets) and keep chewing it as long as you can before swallowing. It should help get rid of that queasy feeling.