Published: December 20, 2023

With the holiday season in full swing, many eagerly anticipate the joy of travel to reunite with loved ones or explore new destinations. However, for some, the journey can be marred by the threat of motion sickness. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a good deal of strategies for relief to those seeking smoother travels during this festive season. 

Motion or travel sickness can manifest due to recurring small movements that generate conflicting signals to the brain. The eyes convey a specific message about the body’s position, while internal mechanisms communicate another, resulting in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and perspiration.

Travel sickness may also be induced by scent stimuli, such as food or petrol odors, as well as heightened anxiety or attempts to concentrate on nearby objects like reading a book or a map. TCM includes multiple ways to swiftly relieve these symptoms and allow people to travel more easily. 

Understanding Motion Sickness

While traveling in a moving vehicle, the balance of qi and essence in your body can be disrupted by unfamiliar movements. This imbalance leads to the reversal of stomach qi flow. Instead of descending as it should, stomach qi moves upward. This disturbance can result in deficiencies in the liver and spleen, leading to sensations of nausea and motion sickness. These deficiencies may manifest in different patterns.

In TCM, motion sickness can be linked to patterns of disharmony, “pattern” meaning a disruption in system balance. Motion sickness can stem from patterns such as phlegm, spleen deficiency with dampness, and phlegm in the lower burner.

Observing signs and symptoms beyond what one would typically expect from motion sickness helps determine if it is connected to a specific pattern. For instance, if motion sickness is attributed to the phlegm pattern, patients may also exhibit chest pain, dizziness, and nausea.

Recognizing Triggers

Triggers that cause motion sickness can be different for everyone.  As a good general practice, it’s best to avoid salty, spicy, or greasy foods. Also, reduce coffee, tea, or alcohol before and during travels to stay healthy.  Following a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help reduce motion sickness.

Recognizing possible triggers that contribute to motion sickness will allow for proper preparation. Making simple changes can help—for example, sitting in the front of a car or bus or facing forward on a train. When flying, it’s a good idea to sit near the wing. While on a boat, sitting at the front might help reduce motion sickness.


Acupressure, similar to acupuncture, focuses on specific points along the body’s meridians. This treatment aims to alleviate energy blockages that may contribute to illness and pain by targeting these points.

The Nei Guan acupoint, also called Pericardium 6 or the Inner Gate in TCM, is a primary acupoint for managing nausea and vomiting.  Its effect on nausea has earned the Nei Guan point the rare distinction of being able to help treat a condition without adding other acupoints. 

The point is found between the two tendons on the inside of the wrist, about three fingers below the wrist crease. In TCM theory, acupressure on the Nei Guan point calms the mind, soothes the nerves, regulates qi, and relieves pain. It also “opens and unbinds the chest.”  This refers to some of the types of physical symptoms that can be experienced with anxiety, such as tightness in the chest and palpitations. Often, anxiety produces nausea as well, in which case “The Inner Gate” can help on both fronts.  

Herbal Formulas

Several herbal formulas may relieve motion sickness symptoms and help restore balance. 

Bao He Wan may aid individuals experiencing symptoms such as distension in the stomach, stomach heaviness, acid reflux, or diarrhea. It aims to alleviate discomfort from a large meal and soothe the digestive tract. This formula has also been used to ease stress-induced nausea and symptoms associated with motion sickness.

Wu Ling San addresses patterns such as phlegm and spleen deficiency with dampness—both linked to motion sickness. This formula may relieve vomiting and nausea caused by qi imbalance due to movement. 

Ginger is commonly used in TCM and Western medicine to treat motion sickness. Studies show ginger relieves nausea and can be taken in many forms to help relieve symptoms. If fresh ginger isn’t available during travel, candied ginger pieces make a suitable substitute.

Other herbs known for reducing nausea include:

  • Peppermint
  • Cloves
  • Turmeric
  • Chamomile

Safe, Comfortable Travels

While motion sickness typically subsides once the motion ceases and does not cause lasting harm, it can make travel challenging for some individuals, if not impossible. Heightened anxiety ahead of a trip may also exacerbate symptoms.

While several anti-nausea medications exist, these options may include undesirable side effects and may not address the underlying cause of the issue. TCM provides numerous safe and natural remedies to relieve and prevent motion sickness symptoms. 

Using herbal formulas, incorporating ginger, and employing acupressure are simple, effective ways to alleviate travel-induced nausea. Should herbal formulas be a good fit, sourcing them from reputable providers is imperative to ensure optimal benefits. KPC, a longstanding institution with a multi-generational history, consistently delivers high-quality herbal formulas to practitioners for diverse health concerns. Find further insights into KPC and our comprehensive herbal formula catalog through our website.


*Please note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to suggest specific treatments for patients or that any supplements mentioned prevent or cure diseases or problems. Before taking any herbs, all patients should discuss their options with a licensed practitioner, including any other medications the patient is currently taking, as there may be contraindications between pharmaceuticals and herbs.

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