Take a Vacation from Motion Sickness

by Carole Jackson Bottom Line Health


Standing in the summer sun on a gently rocking boat…riding in a car that’s snaking down a winding country road—these should be pleasurable parts of your vacation. They certainly shouldn’t make you feel sick!

But for many people who experience motion sickness, riding in just about any kind of vehicle—planes and trains, too—can ruin the entire trip, making them queasy, dizzy, anxious and/or cranky.

There are several popular drugs for motion sickness, but they all (of course) have side effects. Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), for example, often causes drowsiness.

Curious about alternative natural treatments that might relieve motion sickness, I contacted two experts in the field, and I am going to share their tips with you today.


The first expert I called was Keith Zeitlin, ND, director of the 5-Elements Naturopathic Health Center in Wallingford, Connecticut. He told me that a couple of spices that might already be in your kitchen are great for preventing motion sickness…

  • Ginger. A few minutes before traveling, do one of the following three things. Chew on a piece of raw gingerroot for three minutes and then spit it out…munch on one piece of candy called a Ginger Chew, which is made by The Ginger People and is available at many supermarkets and online…or take one gingerroot capsule. These capsules are available at health-food stores and online. (It’s important to check with your doctor before taking any supplement, because supplements may cause side effects and/or may interact negatively with drugs you’re taking.) Repeat any of these measures if motion sickness occurs while traveling.
  • Cinnamon. If ginger doesn’t work, a few minutes before you travel, take a few sniffs of cinnamon essential oil (aura cacia) which is available at health-food stores and online. If you get motion sickness while traveling, sniff the cinnamon oil a few times again. But be careful not to sniff the oil too deeply, because it’s quite strong!


The second expert I contacted was Lixing Lao, PhD, professor of family and community medicine at University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Pressing a certain part of the arm called the P6 Point, Dr. Lao said, often can relieve motion sickness. This particular spot is on the inner forearm about 1.5 inches (or two thumb widths) up the arm from the center of the wrist.

How to do it: About three hours before your trip and again a few minutes before you depart, apply pressure to the P6 Point, on one wrist—it doesn’t matter which one. You can do it yourself or have someone else apply the pressure. To do it yourself: With one hand, grasp your other arm and turn it palm up. Put your thumb on the P6 Point and put the rest of your fingers on the outside of your forearm. Apply sustained pressure with your thumb for about three minutes. The pressure should be firm—just below the level of pain. If you start to feel sick while traveling, apply pressure again.

Several companies make devices called motion sickness bands (such as the brand called Sea Bands) that cost about $7 to $15 at drugstores and online. They’re wrist straps that contain buttons, and they’re tight and made with elastic. After you put them on properly (carefully following the instructions and placing the button over the P6 point), the button then continuously presses into the P6 point. They’re convenient, because you don’t have to press with your thumb, and you can wear one on each wrist simultaneously for as long as needed, so you might find that using the wristbands provides more relief than the trying this trick manually.

Sources: Keith Zeitlin, ND, medical director of the 5 Elements Naturopathic Health Center in Wallingford, Connecticut.

Lixiand Lao, PhD, professor, family and community medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, and senior researcher with The Center for Integrative Medicine, Kernan Hospital, both in Baltimore.

What Not to Wear — Is Our Clothing Poisoning Us?

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Some fashionistas won’t buy apparel made of polyester, and that may be shopping advice that the rest of us should follow, too, since scientists have recently found evidence that laundering this type of clothing — and perhaps other plastic textiles, as well — may be damaging the environment in some disturbing ways.

To understand the problem, think of pollution as particles that infiltrate our air, soil and water. (There are gaseous pollutants, too, of course, but let’s focus on particles.) You might not think that plastic is a “micro-pollutant,” but if you were to break down the fabric of polyester (or acrylic or nylon), you would get tiny plastic fibers smaller than grains of sand and thinner than a human hair. When plastic textiles are laundered, these fibers are so small that they exit the washing machine and go through the sewage system, but they aren’t caught by filters. Eventually they can end up accumulating in our oceans and on our seashores, which means that they can also end up in our food chain via the digestive systems of animals that we might eat someday. This is worrisome not only because we don’t want to be eating plastics themselves, but because they also absorb carcinogenic chemicals in the environment. In other words, certain plastics can become tiny, toxin-soaked sponges that may end up in our food supply.


Prompted by previous studies showing that 65% of the plastic debris in our environment consists of “microplastics” (the name given to bits smaller than 1 mm in size), Mark Anthony Browne, PhD, an ecologist now at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California, set out with a team of researchers to learn more about where they come from and how they are being dispersed. Their study was published in September 2011 in Environmental Science & Technology.

The research: Dr. Browne and his colleagues took sediment samples from 18 beaches, including the coastal US and sites in the UK, Australia, Portugal and the Philippines. They found three different categories of microplastics. One kind comes from plastic containers (like soda bottles) and other hard products that get beaten into small particles as a result of abrasion by waves and wind. A second type is granules that are used as abrasive scrubbers in cleaning products. The most interesting part was that they found a third type, too, that is made of fibers that are used in textiles and rope — and the most commonly found textile microplastic fiber was polyester. They also discovered that sediment from shores close to areas with dense populations of humans contained far more microplastic fibers.


The researchers then traced the samples to wastewater from sewage treatment facilities where, they learned, the filters aren’t fine enough to trap these small, fiber-based microplastics. After testing a few theories to discover how they got into the wastewater, the researchers were able to conclude that the fibers were most likely the result of laundry. Through further tests, they found that when a single garment made of polyester is washed in a conventional residential type of machine, more than 1,900 of these fibers can be released.

Though microplastics from other types of fabrics (such as acrylic and polypropylene — a nylonlike material) were found, the only fabric that has been tested so far is polyester. And only new polyester clothing was tested. Future research needs to address whether the age of clothing and/or the number of washes affects how many fibers are released.

Dr. Browne described this finding as “incredible,” adding that he sees this as our strongest evidence yet that washing machines are a likely source of this hazardous type of pollutant. He told me that even the researchers were surprised to learn the extent to which washing one garment, just one time, can be so harmful to the environment and, presumably, to our health. And there are no laws that require companies to prove that plastic fibers are safe for the environment and human health, so the dispersal of microplastics into our environment is becoming more widespread.

Dr. Browne told me that he hopes that this study brings the issue to the attention of those who could provide funding for further research. More questions to be answered include whether all types of microplastic textiles lead to the same type and amount of pollution… whether certain types of washing machines end up creating more of this pollution… and whether natural fibers shed fewer toxic fibers than synthetic materials.

I’ll be following that important line of research, but this is a great opportunity for me to say to my readers what I’m always saying to my family at home — you don’t have to wash everything after wearing it just one time! Doing less laundry can make a difference — starting right now.


Mark A. Browne, PhD, ecologist, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, California.