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Natural Remedies to Stop Nausea: Ancient Chinese Techniques and Modern Approaches

Natural remedies for nausea with Gua sha

You know that unpleasant feeling. The saliva in your mouth increases, you can feel sweat building up on your forehead, you've suddenly gone deathly pale, your heart is pounding and something feels very wrong in your stomach area. Some people get these symptoms once in a while after eating a disagreeable dish or drinking/eating more than their fair share, some people can't travel without these symptoms, some women get them when pregnant, some people have it as a side effect of medical treatment, and others as part of an ongoing condition like migraines or allergies. In the end, no matter the cause, the feeling is the same and is utterly miserable.

Understanding the Causes of Nausea: A Scientific Perspective

The physiological causes of nausea and vomiting are not that well understood in scientific circles, partly due to the lack of volunteers in research programs! No really, this is true. Nausea can't be studied in animals as it is not something that can be measured independently. But there are too few people who want to put themselves through the process in order to study them. Despite this, there are some working theories. It is believed, for example, that there is a neurological connection with something called, and I am not making this up, the 'integrative vomiting center'. This is thought to be in the medulla in your brain and when activated by nervous impulses from either your stomach or intestines or your higher brain, it organises the whole nausea/vomiting process through messages to the somatic and autonomic systems to tense your respiratory and abdominal muscles and kick start those nasty symptoms.

My Personal Battle with Nausea: A Firsthand Experience

In what feels like another life, I was once a member of the crew on a Japanese flying-fish fishing boat in the East China sea. My integrative vomiting center was working on overdrive as I really suffered from sea-sickness in the first few weeks of riding the swells up and down and side to side. But I was very quickly able to have it under control because I knew a few tricks that the ancient Chinese passed down to us and which saved both my sore stomach muscles and my ability to pull the nets in (and the wrath of Shigehise-san, the captain).

But before we look at what I did to stop nausea, let's look at how the ancient Chinese understood nausea and then maybe the following treatments might make more sense.

The Concept of 'Qi' in Traditional Oriental Medicine

Traditional Oriental medicine often talks about something called 'qi'. Now, it really does not matter whether you think this is all mumbo-jumbo quacky pseudo-medicine or whether you are heavily into energy or crystals or whatever. The fact is that ancient peoples developed a sophisticated medical theory about health and illness without the scientific knowledge that we have today, and much of it still stands unchanged and is often actually verified the more we discover about how the body works. Most of the time all we need to do is change the terms. So for all intents and purposes, qi is what we now might call oxygenated blood.

Anyway back to the ancients. They hypothesized that your stomach is responsible for the downwards movement of this qi which of course helps the digestive process. And when your stomach gets exhausted or blocked with all the junk food you have been consuming or medication you have been taking, instead of downwards qi, there is upwards qi. Which means nausea.

Natural Remedies for Nausea: From Acupressure to Diet

So what do they suggest we do to stop nausea? Here are some of the things that often work:

Harnessing the Power of Acupressure to Alleviate Nausea

1. Pericardium 6 or Inner Gate. If this had another name, it would be called the nausea slayer. It's that good. You can see the acupoint on the Acupoints page at Pericardium 6. You can also buy all kinds of bands which will put pressure on that point on your forearm.

Pericardium 6 acupressure point, a natural remedy for nausea

2. Ren 24 (also known as Chengjiang or Container of Fluids) is in the middle of your chin, below your mouth. Put your thumb under your chin and your forefinger on the bone of your chin and press.

Ren 24 acupressure point, also known as Chengjiang or Container of Fluids, used to alleviate nausea

3. Massage the Digestive Organs zone on the palm of your hand. You can find this area on the illustration in 5 self-treatment strategies.

Digestive Organs zone on the palm for self-treatment of nausea

Gua sha: An Ancient Technique for Modern Nausea Relief

1. Scrape down your breast bone. You can do this over your clothes (one layer is best) and if you don't have a tool at hand, make a fist. Then lightly life your middle finger and use the middle section of your middle finger as the tool. Don't scrape on the stomach, only on the bone.

Gua sha treatment on sternum, a natural method to stop nausea

2. Scrape down the muscles in middle of your back either side of your spine. This is considered the digestive area and treatment from the back can be very effective for problems more associated with the front of the body.

Gua sha treatment on mid back, a traditional technique for nausea relief

The Role of Stretching in Nausea Prevention

Do a whole body stretch. With your arms at your sides and legs slightly apart, lift your arms to the side slowly until they meet above your head. Link the fingers of both hands, turn your palms upwards and stretch up. Lift your heels and look upwards as you stretch while breathing in. Now as you breathe out, let your arms slowly drop back to your sides.

Dietary Adjustments for Nausea Control: What to Eat and Avoid

  • Avoid greasy, fried foods and raw foods

  • A bland diet (sorry) is recommended for nausea. This means eating lots of soups and stews, and lightly cooked foods without strong flavours

  • Drinks should be sipped frequently and not drunk at once

  • Eat many small meal during the day rather than a few big meals

  • Pumpkin or squash seeds, millet, celery, and also ginger and spiced teas can all help with the downward qi.

The Power of Ginger in Treating Nausea

(A note on ginger: I was recently told by a patient with nausea that her doctor didn't believe in ginger in the treatment of nausea. Yes, those exact words. He didn't believe in ginger. As if ginger was some quasi-religion so that only those who believe in the omnipotence of ginger, get rid of nausea. I don't know if this doctor knows how to do a google search, but if he were to do one, he may yet be a convert after viewing the umpteen research reports in ginger's favour.)

If you have any more ways of stopping nausea, tell me in the comments below.

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