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Nausea is a feeling of queasiness in the stomach that can range from mild to severe. Nausea may or may not be accompanied by vomiting. I hate nausea, and to be honest I would do just about anything to avoid vomiting. Nausea is a part of life however and there are a whole host of underlying causes ranging from side effects of medications, chemotherapy, viruses, overeating, food poisoning, stress, pregnancy and alcohol. (For a more complete list, see Web MD).
How do I prevent nausea?
Obviously recognizing the triggers of nausea is helpful in treating it. For example, viruses and food poisoning may need to run its course but if you are suffering from morning sickness, eating some saltines before rising may help to prevent nausea. Likewise, if you are suffering the side effects of medication, experimenting with the timing of meals and medication doses may help. Being mindful of triggers and tuning in to your body can help identify the cause of nausea.
How can aromatherapy help?
Knowing the cause of nausea is also useful when choosing essential oils. Stress related nausea would benefit from oils that relieve both stress and nausea such as lavender. Peppermint oil is wonderful for many types of digestive upset so blends for nausea caused by overeating should include peppermint. Motion sickness can be addressed with grapefruit or peppermint oil. If nausea is due to medications, peppermint may also be your go to oil as research has found it to be effective in reducing nausea during chemotherapy and post-operatively.
What are the best essential oils for nausea?
In researching this article, I went to multiple sources both in print and on the web to compile a list of the most frequently cited oils for nausea and motion sickness. The top oil is, you may have guessed by now, peppermint oil. Lavender, Ginger, Basil and Black Pepper round out the most commonly cited oils. The chart below divides them into their perfumery notes for your blending convenience.
|Top Note||Middle Note|
You can dilute your essential oils in a carrier oil (e.g. olive, jojoba, avocado, etc.) and apply it to your stomach as needed every 1-2 hours. Dilutions should be 1-2% which means use 6-12 drops of essential oils per 1 oz. of carrier oil. Do not apply a stronger concentration as some essential oils can cause skin sensitivity in some individuals (e.g. peppermint, ginger). Discontinue use if you notice any skin reactions.
You can also inhale essential oils to help with nausea. You could use a diffuser if you have one to fill your room with essential oil vapors. You can also make or purchase a nasal inhaler that contains an anti-nausea blend. Or, you could just apply a few drops of essential oils to a cotton ball or tissue and sniff that as needed. Many of the research studies quoted below effectively used inhalation as a method of administering essential oils for nausea so this method has science to back it up!
The method you choose may depend on whether you can tolerate the smells of the essential oils. If inhaling oils makes your nausea worse you may need to try a different oil, or try the topical method where scent will be less concentrated and further from your nose! If you can’t tolerate the smells, remember that just breathing can be helpful in controlling nausea and vomiting. In order to gag you need to stop breathing momentarily first—so focus on breathing.
Want to know more?
Here is what the research says:
A study compared two groups of chemotherapy patients. One group of 15 persons inhaled peppermint oil, the other group of 15 did not. Nausea and anorexia was significantly lower with the peppermint oil group than the control group (Source)
Another study of nausea during a 20 hour stretch of chemotherapy found that patients using peppermint oils had a significantly lower incidence of vomiting and reduced intensity of nausea. (Source)
A study of women hospitalized for C-sections randomly assigned participants to inhale peppermint, receive traditional anti-nausea medications, or inhale a placebo. After both 2 and 5 minute intervals, the peppermint group had significantly lower reported nausea than either of the two other groups (Source)
A study of postoperative nausea found that inhaling ginger or a blend of ginger, spearmint, peppermint and cardamom were effective in reducing postoperative nausea when compared to a control of inhaling isopropyl alcohol. (Source)
A review of the literature examined 5 articles involving a total of 328 patients. They found that peppermint and ginger essential oils were effective at reducing nausea and vomiting (both incidence and severity) and patients required fewer anti-emetic medications. (Source)
What some of the experts say:
Valerie Worwood in The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy recommends inhaling ginger essential oil from a bowl of steaming water for nausea. She recommends Lavender, Peppermint and Ginger for vomiting.
Shirley Price in Aromatheray for Common Ailments suggests that different oils may be appropriate depending on the underlying cause of the nausea. Her suggestions for a general nausea regimen include Lavender, Peppermint and Ginger.
Joana Hoare in The Complete Aromatherapy Tutor recommends petitgrain, lemon and ginger to settle morning sickness as they can be calming to the stomach and alleviate nausea.
Aromatherapy can be helpful in combating nausea. Each individual will react differently to essential oils so I encourage you to experiment with the oils mentioned above. If one does not work for you, try something else. Remember that nausea can result from different causes so what worked for your stomach virus may not work for stress related nausea. If you have experienced using essential oils for nausea, please share what oils you use and how you like to use them (inhaled or topical application). If you found this article useful, please consider sharing it with the world using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!