People used to drink a very specific kind of urine to treat motion sickness

2021-04-28

Humans have been trying to understand and combat motion sickness for millennia. In 2017, a trio of neurobiologists from Munich looked at classic texts like the The Odyssey and Siku Quanshu and found different descriptions of nausea and dizziness relating to ship, cart, and even camel travel. Entire battles were lost because warriors got too sick on the open seas. But no matter what, each culture connected the ailment to different body parts: The Greeks and Romans blamed their stomachs, while the Chinese blamed their livers and their brains. These are all technically correct, though the true root of motion sickness is in your cerebrum. When fixed on a target like an enemy fort or a TikTok sea shanty, your eyes think that you’re at rest while your vestibular system, located in your inner ear, tells your body that it’s moving. This mismatch grows even stronger if you hit choppy waves or stop-and-go traffic.

Because ancient people didn’t understand the cause of motion sickness, they used some pretty out-there remedies to try and cure it. Some would rub wormwood, wine vinegar, olive oil, and mint on their noses, or drink raindrops off the end of bamboo shoots. Others used poisonous plants like hellebore to clear out the stomach, and even drank pee from young children.

Today we know that the best way to fight the churn is to just get used to the turbulence, whether it be in hyper-realistic video games or on a birding boat trip. Modern medicine has also given us histamine-fighting solutions like dramamine and scopoline, but you can also try vetted prophylactics like soup crackers and apple slices. Just don’t chug a can of ginger ale—your stomach will have a tough time breaking down the sugars, and you’ll probably end up blowing chunks anyway.

Popsci.com, 28 April 2021
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