One of my favorite summer vacations in recent years involved travel by boats, planes, trains, buses and car! It was the summer after my first semester enrolled in an Acupuncture Master’s degree program. Our travel involved taking ferries from Boston to Provincetown, Cape Cod and again in Stockholm and again in and around Seattle and Victoria, B.C. I love boats and I was very excited about all my ferry travel! However, on our first voyage from Boston to P-town the captain announced that we would have rough seas - and anyone who gets motion sick should leave. Most of us shrugged our shoulders and opted to ride it out. We sat in the middle of the boat on the Captain’s suggestion. Before the boat left harbor I started sucking on ginger candy, known for quelling nausea. Remembering that the acupuncture point P6 is famous for stopping nausea, I started pressing P6. As the seas grew rougher, many people experience motion sickness and vomiting. I was on the verge and not feeling well at all; I kept my eyes closed, pressing P6 and deep yoga breathing. I also visualized or tried to sense pressure at St36, a point that harmonizes the stomach, as well Ki1, a point that helps with dizziness. I managed my nausea and managed not to loose my lunch!
After 5 wonderful days on Cape Cod, the weather was wonderful for our return ferry ride to Boston. To my surprise, although the sea was smooth, I still experienced mild motion sickness! With a transatlantic flight to Sweden ahead of me and many more ferry ride, I decided to try giving myself an acupuncture treatment. (Student acupuncturists are permitted to practice on themselves but no one else, not even family members, without direct supervision from a licensed acupuncturist.) My treatment involved: the auricular (ear) point Vertigo to prevent motion sickness, Ren12, P6, St36, Sp4, and Liv3. I was happy when I experienced absolutely no motion sickness during any of the many ferry rides in Sweden. However, about two weeks later during a short ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island on a massive boat/car ferry with calm seas, my motion sickness returned. I repeated my acupuncture motion sickness treatment again in Port Angeles before the ferry to to Victoria and once again I was fine!
Doing a Google Scholar search on acupuncture for motion sickness, one finds multiple studies on the ability of P6 (both acupuncture and acupressure) to stop nausea and vomiting in all sorts of situations: motion sickness, morning sickness, and post-operative. The results vary; some results are overwhelmingly positive while other studies found no positive effect. It was while reading a study done in Austria about the Korean hand acupuncture point K-K9 anti-nausea affect that I found a possible answer about the why the P6 studies showed such a wide range of results for motion sickness (Schlager, 2000). Schlager’s research noted that P6 is most effective with correct timing. To produce a reliable anti-nausea effect, it must be stimulated via acupuncture/acupressure before the nausea inducing event and before any other medication (opioids were shown to reduce P6’s effectiveness). Schlager’s study found K-K9 to be highly effective and more comfortable than P6.
While those conducting research (usually trained only in Western medicine/science) seem to be focusing on the effectiveness of a single point to stop nausea (P6 or K-K9), professional licensed acupuncturist rarely only use one point. We select a combination of points that treat the pattern. P6 does not address the dizziness of motion sickness; treat the dizziness with the ear point ‘Vertigo’ and the leg point St36.
To prevent motion sickness:
Suck on ginger candy or try peppermints.
Try aromatherapy: try a drop of one or a blend of ginger, orange, Roman chamomile, peppermint essential oils (EO’)s. Remember to always dilute EO’s in a base oil or lotion. Rub the oils into your hands, cup your hands around your nose and inhale deeply 12 times. Also (recipe link)
Try getting acupuncture before your travels and/or…
Try this self-Acupressure routine quell motion sickness: remember to stimulate it often before and during your travel!
You can purchase P6 stimulating bands or you can also try make your own acupressure patches: place a small round seed, dried round bean, or bead on the points using a bandaid or tape to affix in place.
Locate P6 by placing your ring finger at the inner wrist crease, laying the middle finger and index finger along side, the point is located beside the index finger at the center of the inner wrist between between the two central tendons. Press gently as too intense pressure can irritate the nerve. (Google Pericardium 6 Acupuncture point and search for images to see illustrations of this point).
Locate K-K9, go to the ring finger of either hand, slide your thumb down just past the first joint and press. (Google Korean Hand Acupuncture K-K9 point and search for images to see illustrations of this point).
Try adding St36. Locate this point by placing one hand just below the outer knee cap (index finger by the knee cap), use your other hand to find St 36 (just below your pinkie finger) just off the outer shin. (Google Stomach 36 Acupuncture point and search for images to see illustrations of this point).
Try adding the ear point for vertigo located behind the Antitragus the Thalamus point for pain is located in the front. To stimulate, pinch the Antitragus, applying more pressure the inner part of the ear lobe. (Google Antitragus Thalamus Auricular point & search for images to illustrate this point).
Al‐Sadi, M., Newman, B., & Julious, S. A. (1997). Acupuncture in the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting. Anaesthesia, 52(7), 658-661.
Bertalanffy, P., Hoerauf, K., Fleischhackl, R., Strasser, H., Wicke, F., Greher, M., ... & Kober, A. (2004). Korean hand acupressure for motion sickness in prehospital trauma care: a prospective, randomized, double-blinded trial in a geriatric population. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 98(1), 220-223.
Hu, S., Stritzel, R., Chandler, A., & Stern, R. M. (1995). P6 acupressure reduces symptoms of vection-induced motion sickness. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 66(7), 631-634.
Schlager, A., Boehler, M., & Pühringer, F. (2000). Korean hand acupressure reduces postoperative vomiting in children after strabismus surgery. British journal of anaesthesia, 85(2), 267-270.