Motion sickness can make flights feel endless, ruin a Caribbean cruise, and turn a road trip sour. But according to research, “sour” might just be the solution.
Medications for motion sickness have come a long way and are pretty successful at treating the nausea, dizziness, and cold sweats that many travelers have endured for ages. The most common medication is dimenhydrinate (e.g. Dramamine), which is a type of antihistamine. Like other antihistamines, dimenhydrinate can cause some degree of drowsiness, and it’s no surprise that frequent travelers seek natural alternatives.
Enter: The scent of lemon.
Research suggests the smell of lemon might soothe the nausea associated with motion sickness. Yep, just smelling this sour fruit could be enough to calm the queasiness.
How Lemon Helps Combat Motion Sickness
For people who are prone to motion sickness, the symptoms result from a disagreement between what your eyes see and what your body (specifically, your inner ear) actually feels. While sitting in a car, your inner ear senses that you’re sitting, and therefore stationary. Your eyes, however, see trees, houses, and telephone poles flying past.
Surprisingly, stimulating your other senses can be an effective trick to combat travel-induced nausea. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health recommends trying to “distract yourself with music or a pleasant scent.”
Technically, you might get relief from any scent that you enjoy, but some scents are more famous for their anti-nausea relief. For example, mint and lavender are good options to soothe motion sickness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And then, of course, there’s good ol’ lemon.
A 2014 study looked at the effect of lemon inhalation therapy on nausea (in this case, pregnancy-induced nausea). Pregnant women with nausea were separated into two groups. The women were instructed to sniff either the lemon essential oil or a placebo when nausea started. Those in the lemon group experienced significantly lower nausea and vomiting intensity than those in the placebo group.
Of course, you can’t really pack your essential oil diffuser on the bus with you (and TSA certainly won’t let you bring it on the plane). Try this instead: Place a few drops of lemon essential oil on a tissue or cotton ball, and set it nearby. If possible, you could also keep actual lemon slices around.
Even with your trusty lemon, you should still practice these other good rules for preventing motion sickness:
Sit near the front of the car or bus, over the wing of the plane, or in the central cabin of the ship.
Be the driver of the car, if possible.
Close your eyes or focus on the horizon. (For some people, closing eyes makes symptoms worse.)
Try sucking on ginger candy.
Drink plenty of water but avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
Eat small meals to avoid upsetting your stomach further.
Ready to try it out? Don’t forget these other travel tips on your next adventure: