It's probably surprising to learn that nausea and vomiting in all its varieties from migraines and hangovers to the after effects of anaesthetics all can stem from the same cause: an overloaded liver.
Even in early pregnancy, the liver can become overwhelmed by the sheer number of metabolic and hormonal changes taking place.
The single exception is motion sickness, which stems more from the discrepancy between what the eye sees (rapid whizzing by of objects and scenery horizontally) and what the body feels (an up and down motion due to the form of transportation).
Nausea can also be caused by a deficiency of sodium or magnesium, or an excess of calcium or lithium. Low levels of stomach acid can also bring on nausea, as can chemical sensitivities or drug side effects.
For morning sickness, vitamins C and K taken together (under professional supervision) have been shown to resolve the condition within 72 hours in 91 per cent of cases (Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1952; 64: 416-8).
Acupuncture has also successfully controlled morning sickness (Am J Chin Med, 1979; 7: 356). The principal acupuncture points are Co-12, P-6 and Sp-4, with supplementary points Li-3, S-44 (for fire in Liver and Stomach) or S-40 (with phlegm and dampness obstructing the stomach).
Three herbs have a long track record of proven success in treating nausea and vomiting of any variety: Chamaemelum (Roman chamomile flowers); Chondrus crispus (Irish moss); and Cinnamomum cassia (cassia bark) (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 1976; Part I, 47-9; Part II, 53, 55). Cinnamomum zeylanicum, the bark of a close relation of cassia, has long been known to have a strong antibacterial effect (Science and Culture, 1949; 14: 315).
A tried and tested herbal cocktail for allaying nausea includes:
3.5 g Cinnamomum cassia (cassia bark)
15 g Mentha virides (spearmint)
3.5 g Eugenia caryophyllata (cloves)
3.5 g Rheum palmatum (rhubarb).
Infuse ingredients in half a litre of boiling water for 20 minutes and drink half a glass every half hour (Willard TL, Textbook of Modern Herbology, Calgary, Alberta: C.W. Progressive Publishing, 1988: 169-70). Cloves on their own can also work (Willard, as above, page 140).
Zingiber officinale (ginger root) remains the best known natural cure for nausea and vomiting, even with motion sickness. It works directly on the gastrointestinal tract, effectively slowing the interaction between the stomach and the brain's nausea centre by neutralising gastrointestinal toxins (Lancet, 1982; i: 655-7). Ginger root can also relieve nausea related headaches (Tohoku J Exper Med, 1920; 1: 96).
One experimental double blind study used a mechanical rotating chair for patients known to have an extreme susceptibility to motion sickness. The result was that 940 mg of ginger root outperformed Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), the most popular motion sickness drug in orthodox medicine.
In a more true to life aspect of the same study, patients with motion sickness who took two to four capsules of powdered ginger root prior to travelling, and two capsules every hour or whenever they felt an attack of nausea, reported excellent results. The herb was found to be equally effective whether travelling by car, airplane, train or boat (Lancet, 1982; i: 655-7).
In a study involving naval cadets and seasickness, those who received 1 g of powdered ginger root had a 72 per cent reduction in vomiting and 38 per cent fewer symptoms than those in the control group (Acta Otolaryngol, 1988; 105: 45-9).
One note of caution ginger can have an inhibiting effect on certain aspects of the blood's clotting mechanism. For this reason, you should take care and have your bleeding monitored if you are taking ginger for postoperative nausea.
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath.