Keith Kelsen’s Narrative of Scent Scent: “Cures” Car Sickness & More In Vehicle

As anyone who has traveled with a young child knows, motion sickness (Car Sickness) can ruin a trip for everyone involved.  After years of families and friends suffering, there’s research to show that the agony may be over. Various academic studies into the effects of aroma on nausea and alertness may be leading to a cure or at least a solution. Scent has real benefits inside the car.

Recent studies have shown adult nausea in autonomous cars.  In studies done internationally by the University of Michigan have shown a massive increase in adult nausea. 33% of the people experienced an uncomfortable state, while 22% of them vomited!   Motion sickness happens when the body, the inner ear, and the eyes send conflicting signals to the brain. Your inner ear may sense rolling motions that your eyes cannot see. Once a person gets used to the movement and the motion stops, symptoms may come back (although usually only briefly). Sometimes just thinking about movement can cause anxiety and symptoms of motion sickness.

Research has shown that various scents deployed in-car can create driver alertness, focus or even soothe and calm the driver (great in traffic).  Scent can make a huge difference in the driving and riding experience. Drivers demonstrated decreased levels of frustration, anxiety and fatigue when exposed to pleasant scents.

“In general, prolonged driving led to increased anger, fatigue, and physical demand, and decreased vigor. (Scent) administration led to increased ratings of alertness in comparison to the no-odor control condition…Periodic administration over long term driving may prove beneficial in decreasing highway accidents and fatalities.”— Dr. Bryan Raudenbush from his study: The Effects of Odor Administration on Driving Performance, Safety, Alertness, and Fatigue

Raudenbush’s research indicates the scent of Peppermint (and cinnamon) enhances alertness and decreases fatigue. Given these results, it is reasonable to expect that the presentation of peppermint or cinnamon odor while driving may produce a more alert and conscientious driver, and minimize the fatigue associated with prolonged driving.

In the study, participants were monitored during simulated driving. Measures of cognitive performance, wakefulness, and mood, were also assessed. Both cinnamon and peppermint administration led to increased ratings of alertness, decreased temporal demand, and decreased frustration over the course of the driving scenario. In addition, peppermint scent reduced anxiety and fatigue. Periodic administration of these odors over prolonged driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities.

Most other medical studies into this have been focused primarily on recovery from surgery and not deeply into motion sickness. In its own limited internal studies, Inhalió has learned that Peppermint and a combination of other scents mitigates any nausea associated with motion sickness in auto and VR. Anecdotal data and limited research (following) support the claim that Peppermint deployed aromatically can mitigate motion sickness (commonly called “car sickness).  Yet, the research is lagging from a sense of focus and discovery.

Despite its prevalence, Charles M. Oman, the director of the Man Vehicle Lab at M.I.T., said, “There has been relatively little research on nausea, vomiting and motion sickness in the modern era. Most of the research is 30 or 50 years old.”

We do know that Peppermint can mitigate the symptoms of motion sickness and in some cases eliminate it completely.  At its core, Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a plant that is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. Peppermint has an “oil component” that appears to be medicinal.  The main medicinal role of peppermint is curing nausea.  This is due to its muscle relaxing properties in the stomach and intestinal tract. Other possible benefits of peppermint oil include fast headache relief and increased alertness.

One study noted in International Journal of Neuroscience, Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations.  The study by Diego MA, Jones NA, Field T, et al. says; “In this randomized controlled trial 40 adults received three minutes of aromatherapy using lavender or rosemary and were given simple math computations before and after therapy. The lavender group showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness, on EEG (a test recording electric current from nerve cells in the brain), reported feeling more relaxed, showed less depressive mood, and performed the math computations faster and more accurately after aromatherapy. The rosemary group showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power on EEG, suggesting increased alertness. They had lower state anxiety scores, reported feeling more alert and relaxed, and were faster but not more accurate at completing the math computations after the aromatherapy session.”

In another study on Examination of the effectiveness of peppermint aromatherapy on nausea in women post C-section. Lane B, Cannella K, Bowen C, et al. J Holist Nurs. 30(2):90-104, 2012; “The nausea levels of participants in the peppermint aromatherapy group were significantly lower than those in the other two groups 2 and 5 minutes after the initial intervention. Peppermint essential oil may be a useful addition to the treatment for postoperative nausea.”

In a 2006 study in the United Kingdom, they measured the effect of peppermint aroma on cognitive performance. “Researchers compared peppermint aroma in one group to ylang-ylang4 aroma in another, while a third control group received no exposure to aroma. Peppermint was shown to increase alertness and memory, while ylang-ylang appeared to impair both.”

Perhaps as revolutionary as the “self-driving car” is, this innovation will make travel more fun!  Certainly it will create an environment that is more pleasant and more supportive when on the road.  This is something else that can change auto travel forever!


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