At Reliefband®, we’re well-versed in the treatment of nausea, retching, and vomiting related to motion and morning sickness.
We’re proud to bring our wearable technology to market—a device which provides drug-free, fast relief from the nausea, retching, and vomiting indicated above.
Because this is our world, we have an intense interest in not only what’s happening today in the area of relief of nausea and vomiting, but also in the treatment history of these symptoms.
Rachael Russell, a PhD candidate at the University of Manchester in the UK, wrote her thesis on the subject: Nausea and Vomiting: A History of Signs, Symptoms and Sickness in Nineteenth-Century Britain.
Her work is thorough and quite long (it is a thesis, after all), but we recommend it if the topic interests you.
We do want to share just a few of the fascinating bits that explain how nausea was treated back in the day, though we are not advocating for these practices. With apologies to Ms. Russell for not sharing her entire manuscript:
While Darwin tried raisins, others stuck to tea and dry biscuits. A light, bland diet was the favoured [food] option.
Brandy was a seemingly popular [alcohol] option . . . Dry champagne, sometimes iced, was also chosen to combat nausea and vomiting at sea, as it was considered able to revive energy and be retained in the stomach when everything else caused irritation. According to Dr Andrew Wilson . . . the reason for its success was its carbonic acid gas content.
Frederic Carpenter Skey (1798-1872), a surgeon at St Bartholomew’s, recommended to the sea-cadet Henry Knight (b. 1848) that he use quinine – ‘more efficient if given in port or sherry about 2 thirds of a glass.’
According to John King, a surgeon aboard a Nantucket whaler, he kept ‘ether’, a teaspoonful of which he mixed in wine for treating sea-sickness.
There were also numerous patent remedies that passengers could choose from . . . These remedies often contained alcohol, sugar and opium.
Most remedies were to be ingested and were thought to act directly on the abdomen. There were far fewer local applications, such as that patented by Pierre Molinari in 1858. Molinari claimed to prevent sea-sickness by adding to vinegar the following ingredients: rue, thyme, mint, rosemary, absinthe, turmeric, the green husks of walnuts, rocou, poppy heads and potash. Wadding was then soaked in this mixture and placed on the pit of the stomach.
In his 1857 lectures on digestion Thomas King Chambers suggested that ‘[t]he best remedy for healthy persons to take is very frothy bottled porter: if it does not in every case prevent the vomiting, yet the prostration afterwards is certainly avoided, and the ejecta are not so disagreeable.’ Chambers also recommended chloroform to prevent the violent straining during vomiting, though lamented that it would not prevent nausea.
In his text on How to Travel, for example, Thomas Knox advised his readers that: Many persons will tell you that it is an excellent thing to be sea-sick, as you are so much better for it afterwards. If you are a sufferer you will do well to accept their statements as entirely correct, since you are thereby consoled and soothed, and the malady doesn’t care what you think about it, one way or another.
Chemical formulas were rarely noted to have been successful. Creosote, an anti-emetic, was often mentioned. However, it was also criticised as, given in the wrong doses, it could make the sickness worse. James Henry Bennet argued in 1857 that chemical treatments were more commonly unsuccessful because they were expelled from the stomach before having the chance to work. He therefore suggested opium injections into the rectum. This was able to bypass the stomach and act directly on the nerves, encouraging sleep.
And with that, we draw this peek into the past to a close.
We’re grateful that science has brought us to this point! With a Reliefband® on the wrist, we simply push a button to treat our symptoms.
Thanks to Rachael Russell for the historical perspective.