When you have stomach pain and you feel like you’re going to throw up, you’ll try anything to make the sensation go away. But conventional cures like Pepto-Bismol or prescription antinausea medications carry side effects like constipation, headache, and muscle spasms. Moreover, these cures don’t always treat the cause, says Jennifer Crain, LAc, an Austin, Texas–based holistic pediatrics specialist and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner.
There are many reasons you might feel sick: food poisoning, food intolerance, hangover, or even motion sickness. From the perspective of TCM, digestive issues—especially nausea—are connected to imbalances in the spleen and stomach, says Guillaume Vincent, LAc, who practices acupuncture in Telluride, Colorado. To treat nausea, you need to bring harmony and health back to these critical organs. How? By taking in warm, easy-to-digest foods, along with balancing herbs and plenty of water.
Here are a few of the most effective herbal nausea remedies, no matter what the cause.
Ginger (called sheng jiang in TCM) stimulates the body to produce fluids that aid digestion, and it has sweet, warm characteristics, which—according to TCM—fortify the spleen and stomach, quelling nausea, explains Vincent. Steep up to 1 1/2 teaspoons dried gingerroot, or a couple slices of fresh ginger, in 8 ounces of hot (not boiling) water for 5 to 10 minutes, and drink 1 to 3 cups a day until symptoms subside.
Also known as atractylodes rhizome, this herb reduces nausea, vomiting, and bloating, while also increasing appetite. Cang zhu has acrid, bitter, and warm properties that reduce digestive stagnation and strengthen the digestive organs to help you feel better fast, explains Chanelle MacNab, LAc, who also practices in Telluride. Get cang zhu at your natural pharmacy or from your TCM practitioner. Make tea (as described for gingerroot) and drink 1 to 3 cups a day until you’re back to normal.
When crushed, these flavorful seeds (called sha ren in TCM) emit oils that help restore balance to the digestive tract and provide gentle relief from nausea, says Crain. To ensure the oil is fresh, Crain recommends buying whole seeds and grinding as needed. Steep 1 teaspoon of crushed seeds in hot water for no more than 5 minutes, and drink up to 3 cups a day.
Known more commonly as dried tangerine or Mandarin orange peel, chen pi offers a simple and tasty way to ease stomach upset. “Chen pi treats disharmony and stagnation in the digestive tract by gently increasing downward contractions of the smooth muscle in the intestines,” explains Crain. This helps keep food moving down and out rather than up and out. Plus, you’ll get a healthy dose of vitamin C. For quick relief, drink a tea of 1 1/2 tablespoons of dried, organic Mandarin orange peel steeped in hot water for 10 minutes. Quick tip: Stock up on ripe organic oranges when they’re in season, and dry the peels in the sun or oven.
This herb treats the kind of nausea that leaves you feeling depleted (think stomach virus), says Vincent. It helps relieve nausea and stimulate appetite. It also restores energy, or qi, which is weak when you’re sick. Steep 1 teaspoon powdered ginseng root in warm water, and drink 1 to 3 cups a day until symptoms subside. Ginseng is not recommended for children.