Ginger: A Plausable Treatment for Seasickness

One of the biggest concerns for cruisers is seasickness. Most of the larger cruise ships have an extensive stabilizer system, which under most circumstances, keep the ship from tossing or rolling very much. However, during storms or high seas, even these ships can still toss about quite a bit.

For this reason, many cruisers bring along either Bonine or Dramamine to prevent seasickness. Bonine and/or Advert are brand names for the drug meclizine hydrochloride. “Less Drowsie” Dramamine is also the same ingredients. This medication is an antihistamine and is used to manage nausea, vomiting, and dizziness associated with motion sickness. Its side effects include drowsiness and dry mouth. Patients are also warned not to drink alcohol while taking this drug. Dramamine, dimenhydrinate, is another common seasickness medication. It too can cause marked drowsiness and should not be taken with alcohol. While both of these medications work effectively to prevent seasickness, most people want to avoid the medicinal side effects when enjoying their vacations time.

One of my favorite television shows, Mythbusters, on the Discovery Channel, decided to test non-medicinal seasickness remedies to see which treatments actually worked. This episode, which originally aired on the Discovery Channel in November of 2005. Check your on demand TV listings or look for the episode in  rerun on Discovery Channel.  In this episode, the mythbusters designed a gyroscopic chair in order to make their test subjects, Grant and Adam, motion sick. The test subjects then took various non-medicinal seasickness remedies in order to evaluate their effectiveness.

First was a homeopathic under the tongue spray. after which, both test subjects were vomiting within a few minutes of being in the test chair. Next up, they tested magnetized wrist bands which have been recommended to me by many other cruisers. Both Grant and Adam were motion sick again, and received no relief from the bands. Next, they both repeated the test with ginger pills. To their delight, the ginger pill worked for both test subjects. They did not feel the extreme motion sickness which they had felt previously. Next they tried the small electric shock to the “p6′” acupressure point. Like many of the previous remedies, this method was ineffective on both test subjects. The final test was a placebo. Grant and Adam were given vitamin B12 and told it was a pharmaceutical remedy. The placebo surprisingly had a 50% success rate with Grant noticing no seasickness symptoms, and Adam, however, suffering again from seasickness. As a final control, they gave both men the real pharmaceutical remedy and though they both experienced relief from seasickness, both felt light headed or drowsy.

These results were enough for me to want to ditch my pharmaceuticals and give ginger a try. I discussed the Mythbusters results with several friends who are frequent cruisers and they commented that ginger has been used as a folk remedy to settle a queasy stomach. They reminded me that parents have been giving ginger ale to kids for years when they felt nauseous. One friend said that some cruise lines often have candied ginger sitting out, or have pickled ginger in the sushi bar. I also wanted to know if there were any contraindications for ginger. I found the following information on Wikipedia:

“The medical form of ginger historically was called “Jamaica ginger”; it was classified as a stimulant and carminative, and used frequently for dyspepsia and colic. It was also frequently employed to disguise the taste of medicines. Ginger is on the FDA’s ‘generally recognized as safe’ list, though it does interact with some medications, including warfarin. Ginger is contraindicated in people suffering from gallstones as the herb promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder.[3] Ginger may also decrease joint pain from arthritis, though studies on this have been inconsistent, and may have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease. [4]

The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger root is caused by a mixture of zingerone, shoagoles and gingerols, volatile oils that compose about one to three percent of the weight of fresh ginger. In laboratory animals, the gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic and antibacterial properties [5]”


Ginger has been found effective by multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy,[6] though ginger was not found superior over a placebo for post-operative nausea.”

(Heath care experts recommend that patients check with their health care professional before starting an herbal treatment.)

I hated the drowsiness caused by both Dramamine and Bonine, but before trying ginger on a cruise, I decided to test it out in my own version of a land based laboratory, “Six Flags Over Texas”. I couldn’t find the ginger pills, but instead found the next best thing, available in any grocery store, candied ginger in the spice isle. I put the candied ginger in a plastic bag and nibbled on it all day long at Six Flags. For the first time in years, I was able to enjoy both roller coasters and “spinny” rides all day long with my kids without excessive nausea. This motion was much more intense than what I might experience at sea, so I was convinced that the ginger would work for me on my next cruise.

I tried out this new remedy on my November 2006 cruise to Mexico. While most of our days the seas were pretty calm, we did have a few days at the end of the cruise where the cruise director actually issued motion warnings on the ship’s PA system. He even warned ladies not to wear high heals. Armed with my bottle of ginger pills from a vitamin specialty store, I am glad to report that I felt no ill effects from the rough seas. I’ll never cruise with-,out my ginger pills again. Make sure its OK with you doctor, and it may work for you too.