Essential oils for treating nausea and vomiting

Author: Nicodemus Amboye
Category: Biological Sciences
Published on: 2021-05-10 14:22:50   Updated On: August-27-2021 07:58:07

Previous research has shown that essential oils can be used to treat nausea and vomiting. These essential oils include peppermint, spearmint, ginger, lavender, cardamom, citrus peel oils, and carminatives (that is, aniseed, caraway, fennel and clove).

Nausea refers to the unsettled feeling that you may experience in your stomach. It may or may not lead to an urge to vomit. Vomiting also known as emesis, refers to the forceful expulsion of stomach contents, typically via the mouth or nose.

Nausea and vomiting may be caused by either of the following: stomach irritation, abdominal surgery, injuries to the head, extreme headaches, anxiety, alcohol, diabetes, pain, pregnancy, among other causes.

This calls for ways to help alleviate the problem by scientifically proven methods.

Vomiting has been conventionally treated using antiemetic agents including antihistamines, cannabinoids, dopamine antagonists, serotonin antagonists, benzodiazepines, anticholinergics, and corticosteroids. These drugs work by inhibiting the stimulation of the vomiting center of the brain.

However, long term use of conventional drugs to treat nausea and vomiting has its own side effects including: blurred vision, poor digestion of food, constipation, irritation of the gut, insomnia, dizziness, among others.

This calls for alternative methods of treatment to tackle nausea and vomiting especially for patients recuperating after a surgery session or radiotherapy/chemotherapy treatment. This is where essential oils come in (Buckle, 2007)

Essential oils used for treating nausea and vomiting can be introduced directly into the patient’s body through inhalation. This is accomplished using aromasticks, aromapatches, aroma nasal clips, or aromapackets

Using peppermint essential oil for treating nausea and vomiting

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil has been used from ancient times to treat nausea. It has the ability to alleviate convulsions that occur in the colon (Leicester & Hunt, 1982). According to Valnet (1990), peppermint has the ability to suppress vomiting. Grigoleit and Grigoleit (2005) found that peppermint has the ability to sooth gastrointestinal disorders.  

Lynn and Jeffrey (2004) did a study on the effect of a mixture of peppermint essential oil and isopropyl alcohol. Some patients who had undergone surgery were made to inhale the peppermint-isopropyl mixture from scented gauze pads. The results showed a remarkable decrease in nausea for patients who had received treatment.  

Stringer and Donald (2011) conducted a study on the effect of peppermint and lemon essential oils on surgical patients at Christie Hospital in Manchester, United Kingdom. Patients who took part in the study were given aromasticks laced with peppermint and lemon essential oils. They were then directed to use the sticks as the need arose. The findings showed that the aromasticks had been effective in alleviating nausea among 47% of the respondents.

Amadi et al. (2020) did a study to compare the effect of inhalation of aromatherapy with 10% and 30% peppermint essential oils on abdominal surgery patients. The results indicated that the two treatments were equally effective in reducing nausea in the subjects.  

Maghami et al. (2020) studied the effect of peppermint essential oil on nausea and vomiting on patients who had undergone cardiac surgery. The results showed that inhalation of peppermint essential oil reduced nausea and vomiting on patients who had gone through open-heart surgery.

Using spearmint essential oil for treating nausea and vomiting

According to Lawrence (2001), spearmint (Mentha spicata) essential oil has the ability to alleviate nausea for a much longer duration compared to peppermint. This is because spearmint essential oil works on diverse areas of the brain.

Spearmint essential oil can be more effective in reducing nausea when mixed with other essential oils and inhaled by patients who have undergone surgery or chemotherapy treatment (Hunt et al. (2012).

Tayarani-Najaram, et al. (2013) carried out a study on antiemetic activity of Mentha spicata in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The study established that spearmint essential oil has the ability to reduce nausea in patients who have undergone chemotherapy treatment.

Using ginger essential oil for treating nausea and vomiting

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) essential oil can be effective in treating nausea especially for expectant mothers. According to a study conducted by Vutyavanich et al. (1997), ginger essential oil significantly reduced baseline nausea and vomiting in pregnant mothers who participated in the study. The study also established that ginger essential oil had no negative effects on the pregnant mothers who took part in the study.

Chaiyakunapruk et al (2006) studied the efficacy of ginger essential oil for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. The results demonstrated that ginger essential oil was effective in preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting in patients recuperating from an operation.

Hunt et al (2012) used ginger essential oil to treat patients who had undergone surgery and were experiencing postoperative nausea. The findings indicated that subjects who had received treatment experienced less nausea.

Mazzer (2013) established similar findings in his study on effect of ginger essential oil on patients who have undergone orthopedic surgery. The ginger oil was offered on aromasticks for patients to inhale within 24 hours after undergoing surgery. The patients reported a remarkable reduction in nausea and vomiting.

Giacosa et al. (2015) sought to establish whether ginger extract can treat pregnancy-induced or chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The findings revealed that ginger essential oil has a potential of minimizing nausea and vomiting in pregnant mothers. Further, the results indicated that ginger extract can be used to reduce nausea and vomiting in patients who were recuperating from chemotherapy treatment.

Lee and Shin (2016) studied the effectiveness of ginger essential oil on postoperative nausea and vomiting in patients who had undergone abdominal surgery. The findings indicated that inhalation of ginger essential oil by respondents significantly reduced postoperative nausea and vomiting.

Chang and Peng (2019) examined the effect of oral administration of ginger on patients who had undergone chemotherapy treatment. The results showed that ginger was effective in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among subjects that participated in the study.

Using cardamom essential oil for treating nausea and vomiting  

Cardamom essential oil (Elettaria cardamomum) contains a chemical compound known as borneol that has antagonistic effect on acetylcholine. This effect decreases the urge to vomit thus bringing relief to the patient (Cabo et al., 1986). 

A mixture of cardamom, ginger and tarragon essential oils have been found to be effective against nausea. de Pradier (2006) did a study in which the mixture was applied on the necks of patients who had undergone a surgical operation. The result was a significant reduction in nausea among the patients.

Using mixtures of essential oil for treating nausea and vomiting 

Studies have shown that using a mixture of selected essential oils to treat nausea and vomiting is more effective compared to when the oils are used singly. According to Reagan et al (2009), a mixture of ginger, peppermint, lavender, and spearmint is more effective in treating nausea and vomiting. The researchers administered the mixture to patients who had received anesthesia in a Carolina hospital. The findings showed that the mixture reduced nausea in 39% of patients.

In another study, Hunt et al. (2012) administered a mixture of ginger, cardamom, peppermint, and spearmint to 303 postoperative nausea patients. After the treatment, the subjects reported a remarkable reduction in nausea. In addition, it was noted that the number of antiemetic drugs requested by patients who had received the treatment had significantly declined.


Cited sources

Ahmadi, Y., Rezaei, J., Rezaei, M. and Khatony, A. (2020). Comparison of the effect of inhalation aromatherapy with 10% and 30% peppermint essential oils on the severity of nausea in abdominal surgery patients. Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine.

Buckle, J. (2007). Should nursing take aromatherapy more seriously? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 16, 116-200.

Cabo, J., Crespo, M., Jimenez, J. and Navarro, C. (1986). The spasmolytic activity of various aromatic plants from the province of Granada. The activity of the major components of their essential oils. Plantes Medicinales et Phytotherapy, 20(5), 213-218.  

Chaiyakunapruk, N., Kitikannakorn, N., Nathisuwan, S., Leeprakobboon, K. and Leelasettagool C. (2005).  The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 194(1), 95-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2005.06.046. PMID: 16389016.

Chang, W.P. and Peng, Y.X.(2019). Does the Oral Administration of Ginger Reduce Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting?: A Meta-analysis of 10 Randomized Controlled Trials. Cancer Nursing, 42(6),14-23. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000648. PMID: 30299420.

de Pradier (2006). A trial of a mixture of three essential oils in the treatment of postoperative nausea and vomiting. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 16(1), 15-20.

Giacosa, A., Morazzoni, P., Bombardelli, E., Riva, A., Bianchi, P. G. and Rondanelli, M. (2015). Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract? European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 19(7), 1291-1296. PMID: 25912592.

Grigoleit, H.G. and Grigoleit, P. (2005). Gastrointestinal clinical pharmacology of peppermint oil. Phytomedicine, 12, 607-611.

Hunt, R., Dienemann, J., Norton,  H.J., Hartley, W., Hudgens, A., Stern, T., and Divine, G. (2012). Aromatherapy as treatment for postoperative nausea: a randomized trial. Anesthesia and Analgesia. 2013 Sep;117(3):597-604. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e31824a0b1c. Epub 2012 Mar 5. PMID: 22392970.

Lawrence, B. (2001). Personal communication, September, 2001.

Lee, Y.R. and Shin, H.S.(2016). Effectiveness of ginger essential oil on postoperative nausea and vomiting in abdominal surgery patients. Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 23(3), 196-200. doi: 10.1089/acm.2015.0328. Epub 2016 Nov 14. PMID: 27841938.

Leicester, R. and Hunt, R. (1982). Peppermint oil to reduce colonic spasm during endoscopy. Lancet., 2(8305), 989-990.

Lynn, A.A. and Jeffrey, B.G. (2004). Aromatherapy with peppermint, isopropyl alcohol, or placebo is equally effective in relieving postoperative nausea. Journal of Perianesthesia Nursing, 19(1), 29-35.

Maghami M, Afazel MR, Azizi-Fini I, Maghami M. (2020). The effect of aromatherapy with peppermint essential oil on nausea and vomiting after cardiac surgery: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2020 Aug;40:101199. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101199. Epub 2020 May 18. PMID: 32891278.

Mazzer, M. (2013). Holistic Nursing Department, Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, NJ. Personal communication.

Reagan, S., Kind, L. and Clements, F. (2009). Quase Ease Aromatherapy for Treatment of PONV. American Association of Critical Care Nurses.  

Stringer, J. and Donald, G. (2011). Aromasticks in cancer care: an innovation not to be sniffed at. Complementary Therapy Clinical Practice, 17, 116-121.

Tayarani-Najaran Z, Talasaz-Firoozi E, Nasiri R, Jalali N, Hassanzadeh M. Antiemetic activity of volatile oil from Mentha spicata and Mentha × piperita in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Ecancermedicalscience. 2013;7:290. doi: 10.3332/ecancer.2013.290. Epub 2013 Jan 31. PMID: 23390455; PMCID: PMC3562057.

Valnet, J. (1990). The Practice of Aromatherapy. Saffron Walden, UK: CW Daniels.

About the Author

Nicodemus is an MBA (strategic management) graduate of Egerton University (Kenya). He also holds a BSc degree in botany, zoology and chemistry, from the University of Nairobi (Kenya). He is proficient in the following computer programming technologies - HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Bootstrap, PHP, MySQLi and Python. He is an experienced researcher and writer in the fields of business management, information technology, biological sciences, and social sciences. He enjoys developing computer programs and web applications that address diverse user needs.

*Available for article writing and web design/development projects*
(contact: +254 723 753820, email: [email protected])


ResearchTechie is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for us to earn revenues by linking to and affiliated sites. Pages on this site may include affiliate links to Amazon and its affiliate sites on which the owner of this website will make a referral commission.