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Have Herbs, Will Travel

Herbs bring peace of mind. They offer us tools from the plant kingdom to restore balance to our bodies and to build vitality. I feel more relaxed when traveling if I have some herbs in my backpack in case I need them. Most people would agree that being sick while traveling is far less fun than being sick at home. Whether you’re going backpacking in the Northwoods or to an all-inclusive resort, it’s always a good idea to be prepared when traveling. This article is by no means comprehensive, nor is it medical advice—just some general ideas of what I like to take traveling with me that may be helpful to others. Always check with your health care practitioner before taking any new herb.

Digestive troubles commonly arise when one is on the road. I always like to take some Herb Pharm Peppermint Spirits tincture with me, even for a short trip, because it is useful for so many issues. According to the Therapeutic Herb Manual by Ed Smith, it is indicated “in stomach upset, gastrointestinal spasms and flatulent colic; to allay nausea and vomiting and ease diarrhea discomfort.” Furthermore, it “produces sweating and promotes recovery from colds and flu (taken in hot water). Taken internally and rubbed into the temples and forehead, it gives relief from nervous headaches, migraines and sick headaches.” I find that taking it in cold water is refreshing and cooling to the body when feeling drained from being out in the hot sun for a long time. Finally, you can forget standing on one foot and taking eleven sips of water, because Smith asserts that it is also an “Excellent, quick-acting remedy for hiccup.” (I can attest to this.)

One should always take every possible measure to avoid ingesting food or water that might make them ill, without a doubt. However, gastrointestinal imbalances often occur when traveling in foreign countries despite our vigilance. Many people like to begin taking probiotics for a couple weeks before traveling to a foreign country, to help reduce the likelihood of diarrhea from ingesting microbes their body is not accustomed to. Then they take the rest of the bottle with them, to continue taking during their trip. Both Co-op locations carry a number of shelf-stable (do not require refrigeration) probiotics, including Nutrition Now PB8 and Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls.

Dragon’s blood is something else you might want to pack, and not just if you’re attending Hogwart’s. I’m referring to the red sap of Croton lechleri trees, which has been used for a variety of purposes by native peoples of South America for centuries, and which is now available from the Herb Pharm brand. According to a recent Herb Pharm publication, Dragon’s blood can be “applied topically as a liquid bandage to aid in wound healing.” The sap can also be taken internally (following the suggested dosage on the bottle) to “address gastrointestinal disorders, particularly ulcers and diarrhea.”

The company harvests this sap sustainably to assure continued propagation.

Plum Flower brand Curing Pills are another useful remedy in case of gastrointestinal imbalance. According to Mark Taylor, L.Ac., NCCAOM, in his book Chinese Patent Medicines, “[Curing Pills]... can be taken after overeating or for bloating from weak digestion and can be used for any general stomach upset, nausea, gas, or indigestion. It is...extremely helpful after meals when food sits in your stomach and won’t digest. It can also be taken to relieve minor food poisoning.” Activated charcoal pills can also be useful for minor food poisoning.

I know, you only get one small ziploc for your carry-on bag, and space is at a premium. Still, definitely consider packing a small tube of homeopathic Arnica gel, which can be very helpful with a stubbed toe, bruises, sprains, or other trauma. Apply it as soon as possible after the injury for maximum benefit, and periodically thereafter if needed. Bring sunscreen, unless you’re traveling to Ben Nevis, Scotland, which apparently only sees 800 hours of sunshine per year. In case you do get a little too much sun (or burn yourself in some other way), pack some Aloe Vera gel. Finally, you’ll be grateful you packed the essential-oil based insect repellent if you’re going someplace buggy. Everyone seems to have their personal favorite, but the Buzz Away Extreme 2-oz. is the perfect size for your carry-on and is one of my top picks.

There are many essential oils that are invaluable for travel. Lavandula angustifolia, often considered to be one of the most versatile essential oils, can be helpful for a wide variety of issues.

The Simplers Aromatherapy Guide describes lavender as “a must for every first aid kit. It can be used for burns, sunburns, stings, muscular aches, cuts, blemishes, bruises, headaches, insect bites, colds, flu, stress and menstrual cramps.” The Guide states that it “may be applied neat (undiluted) to skin.”

One of my favorite essential oils, Roman Chamomile, is one that I am very grateful for if I wake up with a ‘crick’ in my neck. Often, the pain will vanish after applying Roman Chamomile topically to the affected area. The Simplers Aromatherapy Guide states that Roman Chamomile possesses, “relaxant, antispasmodic, and antianxiety properties.” Both of these essential oils can also be useful if you are having trouble falling asleep in strange place while traveling. Put a few drops on a tissue, and place it near you on your pillow to help you relax and promote deep, restful sleep. Another variety of Chamomile, Moroccan Blue, produces an essential oil that is blue in color due to its Chamazulene content. It is this “blue” component that is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties, which make it a soothing choice for rashes or irritated skin. Finally, the ever-popular Tea Tree oil is invaluable as an anti-fungal or to help disinfect minor cuts or abrasions.

If you are prone to motion sickness, or are going to be spending a fair amount of time on a boat, you may want to pack some form of ginger root (capsules, tea bags, candied ginger, or liquid 1-oz. tincture), or some TRIPEASE Homeopathic Motion Sickness Relief tablets. NO-JET-LAG Homeopathic Jet Lag Prevention is a popular remedy for a travel malady that most people view as inevitable with overseas travel. The dosage instructions state: “Chew one tablet on each take-off, one about every two hours, and one after landing. However, intervals of up to four hours between tablets are acceptable if sleeping.” I haven’t personally tried this remedy, but many swear by it. New Chapter Immunity Take Care lozenges are a very handy way of taking Elderberry when you’re flying. Finally, it’s always nice to have a few Traditional Medicinals individually-wrapped tea bags on hand in case you’re not feeling well and craving a hot cup of tea.

I hope this brief compendium of natural remedies for travel is useful to you. I like to set my luggage out a few weeks or a month ahead of time, and every day put a few items in. That way, there is no stressful last-minute rush to pack everything all at once, and I’m more likely to notice something that’s missing before I leave. You’re probably wondering whether your bag will exceed the carry-on weight limit after you’ve packed all the items I’ve suggested. However, should the unexpected happen, the herbs you packed might just save the day.