Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea — defined as an upset stomach accompanied by the urge to vomit — can be a symptom of many conditions, some decidedly more worrisome than others. Vomiting can by a symptom of a serious problem like poisoning, head injury or brain tumor, infection (such as hepatitis), or another disease or condition (such as appendicitis, kidney failure, gallstones, or an ulcer).

Less scary causes include migraine headaches, pregnancy (morning sickness), and certain drugs. Many people become nauseated when they're in a moving vehicle (motion sickness); most of us feel nauseated when we've had too much to drink.

Treatment Options

Most cases of nausea are self-limiting: When you get out of the moving car, metabolize the alcohol in your system, or deliver the baby, the nausea will go away. However, if you think you've got food poisoning (or another type of poisoning), if you're experiencing severe abdominal pain or other pains (like a headache or stiff neck), are vomiting blood, or have been sick to your stomach for more than twenty-four hours, you should see a doctor right away.

Conventional medicine typically treats nausea and vomiting with anti-emetic (antinausea) drugs. Motion sickness is treated prophylactically with antihistamines — OTC drugs like meclizine (Bonine), dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), or prescription drugs like scopolamine (Transderm Scop).

If you're already vomiting, you might take bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol); see above. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness and, less often, headache, diarrhea or constipation, and irregular heartbeat; scopolamine can cause vision problems, dry mouth, and drowsiness. Here are some herbal alternatives:

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

American ginseng is known for its antiemetic properties. In the lab, it's shown the ability to prevent nausea and vomiting before they start.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger can fight almost any type of nausea you can think of, including morning sickness, postoperative nausea, motion sickness, migrainerelated nausea, and nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is a traditional remedy for stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting (it contains camphor, a chemical with known antiemetic properties). The scent of lavender can also quell the queasies.

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