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Essential Oils for Nausea

Overview

Essential oils are the active compounds found in plants, distilled into potent oils. These oils harness the powerful properties of some botanical herbs and spices. Some of these properties can work to kill bacteria, relax muscles, relieve pain, improve digestion, and cure nausea. Because they carry few side effects and little risk, essential oils are becoming popular home remedies for all sorts of medical conditions.

Essential oils are not meant to be ingested and some can be toxic. Essential oils are meant to be infused into the air in an inhaler or mixed with a carrier oil and applied to the skin.

If you experience frequent nausea due to pregnancy, stomach irritation, vertigo, gastro-intestinal reflux, or other common conditions, essential oils might be a helpful treatment.

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Lavender oil

1. Lavender oil

Lavender essential oil is perhaps best known for its relaxing properties. Using lavender oil topically or in a diffuser can help your mind decompress as you get ready for bed. This same property can also make lavender effective in fighting nausea.

If your nausea is caused by anxiety or physical pain, lavender’s power to relax might be just what you’re looking for. This remedy works best when you put a few drops of lavender in an essential oil diffuser and breathe in slowly as the scent fills the air.

For nausea caused by pregnancy, a virus, or post-operative pain, you might want to try some of the other oils on this list.

Ginger oil

2. Ginger oil

Ginger essential oil has been studied as a remedy for nausea and motion sickness. People swear by it, and the research agrees that it works. Ginger oil can be diffused into the air with an oil diffuser, rubbed onto pressure points at your forehead and wrists, or even rubbed directly on your stomach to improve nausea.

One clinical trial revealed that this remedy is particularly effective for people that experience nausea while recovering from surgical anesthesia. Ginger is also generally considered safe for pregnant women experiencing nausea.

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Peppermint oil

3. Peppermint oil

Peppermint tea is often suggested as a remedy for nausea, but the essential oil can have the same soothing effect. Peppermint oil, some researchers believe, relaxes the gastric muscles and keeps them from cramping up or over-contracting.

One scientific review concluded that inhaling peppermint oil when you feel nauseous will improve your symptoms and have you feeling better quickly. Though more research is needed into peppermint oil’s effects on different kinds of nausea, try peppermint oil in a diffuser the next time you’re feeling sick.

Spearmint oil

4. Spearmint oil

Though not as well-known as a nausea treatment, peppermint’s purer-bred relative spearmint is also effective. Like peppermint and ginger oils, spearmint essential oil can be applied to pressure points, rubbed gently over the stomach and intestinal area, or diffused through the air to bring relief for nausea. The refreshing scent of spearmint, mixed with the menthol component of its oil, can make you feel more alert and able to breathe despite your nausea.

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Cardamom oil

5. Cardamom oil

Cardamom is a spice in the same family as ginger, with its own unique properties and scent. The essential oil of cardamom was used in a blend of other essential oils in a clinical trial for post-operative nausea. The study found cardamom to be a promising anti-nausea agent when mixed with other essential oils.

To use cardamom in a mix, or try it on its own, put a few drops into an essential oil diffuser. The rich, spicy scent of the cardamom may also help you to relax, which could decrease nausea and anxiety due to illness.

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Fennel oil

6. Fennel oil

Fennel is frequently used as a digestive aid and a constipation reliever. Fennel is able to relax the digestive tract, which prevents and aids nausea. Using fennel essential oil could have the same effect. Fennel oil can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to pressure points on your body or diffused. There’s little risk to using fennel oil several times per day.

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Side effects and risks

Side effects and risks

Using essential oils for nausea is a generally low-risk home remedy. But there are some people that shouldn’t use this treatment as a way to get rid of nausea. In very rare cases, over-exposure from the menthol contained in peppermint and spearmint can hurt your skin. A more commonly reported side effect is dermatitis from lavender oil.

Use a gentle carrier oil, like jojoba oil or coconut oil, to mix with more potent oils before applying to your skin. This will help you avoid burning or irritating your skin’s surface when you use essential oils topically. Three to five drops of essential oil in an ounce of carrier oil is the usual recipe.

Never directly inhale the vapor from an oil diffuser or steam dispenser, as it can irritate your mucous membrane. If your nausea persists over 48 hours, or if you begin to show signs of dehydration, stop using essential oils and contact your health provider.

This home remedy is meant to help mild nausea. It won’t cure the source of your nausea if you have a bacterial or viral infection. And if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and looking for help with morning sickness, you should consult with your midwife or doctor before using alternative treatments.

Takeaway and outlook

Takeaway and outlook

It’s important to remember that essential oils are not a miracle cure. They are still being researched, and their limits as remedies aren’t yet fully understood. Keeping that in mind, there’s not much to lose by grabbing your favorite essential oil to treat your next bout of nausea. By taking a deep breath and calming your body, you might be able to ward off the nausea and keep it from becoming worse.

The FDA does not monitor the use or manufacture of essential oils. To ensure a pure, safe product, research company quality before purchasing a specific brand. A certified aromatherapist can make recommendations.

Keep an eye out for emergency symptoms regardless of whether you’re feeling better, and never try to treat dehydration, severe headaches, or severe bleeding that come along with nausea yourself. Remember that your healthcare provider is the best person to ask about the causes and potential cures for any nausea that you experience.

Article resources
  • Badgujar SB, et al. (2014). Foeniculum vulgare mill: A review of its botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, contemporary application, and toxicology. DOI: 10.1155/2014/842674
  • Cavanaugh HMA, et al. (2002). Biological activities of Lavender essential oil [Abstract]. 10.1002/ptr.1103/abstract
  • Hunt R, et al. (2013). Aromatherapy as treatment for postoperative nausea: a randomized trial. DOI: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e31824a0b1c
  • Lau PL, et al. (2012). A brief review of current scientific evidence involving aromatherapy use for nausea and vomiting. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2010.0862
  • Lee YR, et al. (2017). Effectiveness of ginger essential oil on postoperative nausea and vomiting in abdominal surgery patients. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2015.0328
  • Posadzki P, et al. (2012). Adverse effects of aromatherapy: a systematic review of case reports and case series. DOI: 10.3233/JRS-2012-0568
  • Stea S, et ak, (2014). Essential oils for complementary treatment of surgical patients: State of the art. DOI: 10.1155/2014/726341
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