Evidence based

CBD and Motion Sickness: Current Research & Understanding

Motion sickness is the bane of travelers. CBD has been shown to improve motion sickness symptoms in recent studies. Here’s how it works and how CBD may be used to support motion sickness symptoms.

Article By
Justin Cooke , posted 2 months ago

Motion sickness is annoying. It can make travel exceptionally difficult and uncomfortable for those affected.

Roughly 7–28% of the population are reported to experience motion sickness while traveling [1,2,3].

Characteristic symptoms of motion sickness include dizziness, excessive saliva production, shallow breathing, fatigue, cold sweats, and nausea or vomiting.

CBD may offer powerful anti-nausea benefits towards symptoms of motion sickness — acting directly on the region of the brain responsible for causing feelings of nausea.

Here, we’ll investigate the causes of motion sickness, the ways CBD can help, and how to get started using it yourself.

Let’s get into it.

  • Table of Contents

Summary: Using CBD for Motion Sickness

CBD is a potent medicinal compound extracted from the cannabis plant. It owes much of its medicinal benefit to its ability to enhance the endocannabinoid system — which is intimately involved with processes including nausea and vomiting [5].

Animal studies demonstrate a direct correlation between the endocannabinoid system and the region in the brain responsible for regulating nausea and vomiting [7, 8].

Drug companies have manufactured compounds that block the endocannabinoid (CB1) receptors in the brain. They recently tested one drug as a potential weight loss medication. Although it did help patients lose some weight, it also made them excessively nauseous [9].

This study provides evidence that the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating the nausea/vomiting center in the brain.

The endocannabinoid system is thought to connect the physical and emotional relationship between the gut and brain, leading researchers to believe that CBD may provide relief from nausea caused by stress and gut infections [5].

CBD optimizes the endocannabinoid system by protecting anandamide levels — one of the primary endocannabinoids involved in regulating the nausea center in the brain.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your CBD Supplementation for Motion Sickness

  1. Choose only high-quality CBD products — contaminants can make nausea worse
  2. Choose full-spectrum extracts over CBD isolates — the other cannabinoids in the formula offer benefits towards motion sickness
  3. Take your dose of CBD before motion sickness starts to maximize benefits

What Causes Motion Sickness

The most common cause of motion sickness is an issue with organs inside our ears that help us maintain our balance.

We have a specialized set of organs in each ear that use gravity to tell us which direction is up and down. When we’re in situations that cause this to change frequently — such as being on a moving boat, car, train, or plane — these organs can start to send chaotic messages to the brain.

These organs send signals to the brain that something is not quite right, making us feel nauseous — sometimes strong enough to make us vomit. 

We’re still not sure why this happens more frequently in certain people more than others — but there are a few well-known risk factors.

Risk Factors for Motion Sickness:

  • Vertigo (a condition affecting the balance organs in the ear)
  • Genetic factors [4]
  • Overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system [6]
  • History of inner ear infection
  • Traumatic injuries to the head and ears

One of the most relevant benefits of CBD — regarding motion sickness — is its ability to inhibit the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This is the side of the nervous system responsible for regulating the stress response.

When we experience stress, the SNS takes charge to prepare us from potential danger by either fighting our way through it or helping us run away. This process is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response.

The SNS causes several distinct changes involved with the fight or flight response:

  • Heart rate increases
  • Airways dilate to allow more airflow
  • Blood sugar levels rise
  • Immune and digestive function shut down to conserve energy
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Brain activity increases

In some people, the SNS activates too early, or with too much intensity for the situation. In other words, it overreacts to the situation at hand.

It appears that when the balance receptors start to send strange feedback to the brain (like the sensations experienced when flying, or on a boat), the brain overreacts by firing the SNS on all cylinders.

Some people experience anxiety, while others will feel motion sickness— some are unfortunate enough to experience both symptoms simultaneously.

Are There Any Treatments for Motion Sickness?

There are preemptive medications that reduce the severity of motion sickness for travel. These medications often cause other undesirable side-effects — some of which are worse than the original symptoms of motion sickness.

Another downside of motion sickness medications is that they need to be taken regularly to achieve the best results.

Common Motion Sickness Medications Include:

  • Meclizine HCL
  • Promethazine HCL
  • Phenergan
  • Antivert
  • Dramamine
  • Scopolamine

Guide to Using CBD for Motion Sickness

CBD is an excellent option for preventing or managing motion sickness because it works on multiple causes of the disorder at the same time.

For starters, it inhibits an enzyme known as fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) — which is responsible for breaking down our endocannabinoids. By blocking this enzyme, we can increase anandamide levels in the brain.

Anandamide activates the endocannabinoid receptors in the nausea center of the brain to alleviate symptoms of motion sickness.

CBD has the added benefit of keeping the SNS from going haywire. This has a compounded advantage of relieving nausea and anxiety — which are closely related and often strike at the same time.

How Much CBD Should I Take?

The first step to treating motion sickness with CBD is to determine the starting dosage. This varies from one person to the next, so it’s important to do some trial and error before locking down a particular daily dose.

Most research involving CBD for motion sickness uses the supplement at high doses. Whether or not we need high doses for the compound to work is still up for debate.

Many people find relief at doses in the medium strength (see chart below), though you may need to try different doses until you find what works for you.

We recommend starting at the smallest dose according to your weight, and increase gradually until you find the relief you need. The medium strength dose seems to work well for reducing motion sickness in many people.

For best results, take the CBD before the motion sickness starts — this can be difficult to predict, but if you frequently experience symptoms on a boat or plane, try taking the CBD dose an hour or so before your scheduled trip.

Recommended Strength For Motion Sickness: Medium Strength

Daily Doses of CBD by Weight and Strength (in mg)

Weight (lbs)Low StrengthMedium StrengthHigh Strength

100 lbs

10 mg

30 mg

60 mg

125 lbs

13 mg

38 mg

75 mg

150 lbs

15 mg

45 mg

90 mg

175 lbs

17 mg

52 mg

105 mg

200 lbs

20 mg

60 mg

120 mg

225 lbs

22 mg

67 mg

135 mg

250 lbs

25 mg

75 mg

150 mg

Combining CBD with Other Anti-Nausea Supplements

CBD stops motion sickness by regulating regions in the brain responsible for controlling it.

There are other supplements you can use to help stop motion sickness as well; compounding these supplements may yield a greater level of effects.

Other Herbs With Anti-Nausea Benefits:

  • Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Final Verdict: Using CBD for Motion Sickness

CBD is an excellent option for treating, and preventing motion sickness. Although it works best when taken before motion sickness sets in, it’s still useful for alleviating symptoms after they start.

We recommend finding a high-quality CBD oil with at least a mid-level potency (500 mg CBD per 30 mL bottle or higher) and take a medium-strength dose.

For maximum benefits, you can mix your CBD with other anti-emetic or anti-nausea supplements such as ginger or chokecherry.


References

  1. Turner, M. (1999). Motion sickness in public road transport: passenger behaviour and susceptibility. Ergonomics42(3), 444-461.
  2. Turner, M., Griffin, M. J., & Holland, I. (2000). Airsickness and aircraft motion during short-haul flights. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 71(12), 1181-1189.
  3. Lawther, A., & Griffin, M. J. (1988). A survey of the occurrence of motion sickness amongst passengers at sea. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 59(5), 399-406.
  4. Reavley, C. M., Golding, J. F., Cherkas, L. F., Spector, T. D., & MacGregor, A. J. (2006). Genetic influences on motion sickness susceptibility in adult women: a classical twin study. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 77(11), 1148-1152.
  5. Choukèr, A., Kaufmann, I., Kreth, S., Hauer, D., Feuerecker, M., Thieme, D., … & Schelling, G. (2010). Motion sickness, stress and the endocannabinoid system. PloS one, 5(5), e10752.
  6. Otto, B., Riepl, R. L., Klosterhalfen, S., & Enck, P. (2006). Endocrine correlates of acute nausea and vomiting. Autonomic Neuroscience, 129(1-2), 17-21.
  7. Parker, L. A., Limebeer, C. L., Rock, E. M., Litt, D. L., Kwiatkowska, M., & Piomelli, D. (2009). The FAAH inhibitor URB-597 interferes with cisplatin-and nicotine-induced vomiting in the Suncus murinus (house musk shrew). Physiology & behavior, 97(1), 121-124.
  8. Van Sickle, M. D., Oland, L. D., Ho, W., Hillard, C. J., Mackie, K., Davison, J. S., & Sharkey, K. A. (2001). Cannabinoids inhibit emesis through CB1 receptors in the brainstem of the ferret. Gastroenterology, 121(4), 767-774.
  9. Després, J. P., Golay, A., & Sjöström, L. (2005). Effects of rimonabant on metabolic risk factors in overweight patients with dyslipidemia. New England Journal of Medicine, 353(20), 2121-2134.

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