Most travelers have now mastered clearing airport security without having their toiletry kits and socks turned inside out, and are happy to hit the road again. Help your voyaging customers assemble a traveler's rescue kit of natural remedies for a range of common complaints, from jet lag and intestinal distress to sunburn and muscle aches. Packing a few easy-to-find products can spell relief and a more enjoyable journey.
Lose The Lag
After a long flight, most people feel disoriented and extremely fatigued. A natural jet-lag remedy may actually allow international travelers to enjoy their first day in a new land. One such product, No-Jet-Lag, is a homeopathic preparation manufactured in New Zealand and available in the United States through Global Source of Los Gatos, Calif.
"Jet lag is a complex condition caused by a number of different issues. It's not only crossing time zones, but also preflight conditions and stress," says Peter O'Malley, managing director for Global Source. O'Malley says the stress of packing for a trip, the rush to the airport and the flight itself—with its questionable food, dry air and hours of sitting—all contribute to jet lag.
No-Jet-Lag contains a blend of 30C homeopathic preparations, including Arnica montana, Bellis perennis, Matricaria recutita, Cephaelis ipecacuanha and Lycopodium clavatum.
Another option to treat time-zone changes is melatonin. "This is the classic supplement for jet lag," says Kari Radoff, a clinical herbalist. She recommends taking one capsule at the desired bedtime (in the destination's time zone) for a few days before travel and until sleep patterns normalize.
Radoff, who works at Denver's Apothecary Tinctura, a retail shop, also suggests using the sedative herbs California poppy and valerian to ensure sound and restful sleep. "I recommend taking one to four droppersful about 15 minutes before you want to go to sleep, and then again as you are going to bed," she says.
Skin ailments are almost inevitable when traveling to certain locales. Climate changes, sunburn, insect bites and even encounters with local flora can turn any paradise into a nightmare.
Radoff says her top picks for skin irritations are lavender, peppermint and tea tree essential oils. (She often opts for essential oils because the small bottles are easy to carry.) "Peppermint happens to be really good for relieving the itching and irritation of a bug bite. So it is something that can be used on any type of itchy, rashy sort of thing. Just apply one drop straight on."
Lavender is good for healing burns, Radoff says, and can do double duty as a relaxation and sleep remedy. For an irritated rash or fungal infection, she taps tea tree oil's strength.
Honora Wolfe, sales manager for Blue Poppy Herbs of Boulder, Colo., which bases its products on traditional Chinese herbs, suggests travelers carry the company's Stop-Itch tincture. "It's effective short-term relief for any itching, as long as the skin is not suppurating," says Wolfe. "It could be a bug bite, a rash from a plant, or even an allergic reaction to hotel soap or detergent in the sheets."
Blue Poppy Herbs also makes a vegetable oil-based antifungal ointment containing indigo and phellodendron, which Wolfe says is useful for a wide variety of skin rashes and fungal infections. The ointment controls itching and also helps draw out toxins and reduce inflammation.
Insect repellant is a must for travelers. Having some on hand—and remembering to use it—can ward off skin irritation before it happens. Most natural insect repellents use citronella oil to keep bugs away.
In 1999, Zero Bite, based in Port Roberts, Wash., launched an insect repellant that works in a unique way. "The concept behind [developing] Zero Bite was to try to answer why, in every group, there's at least one person who tends not to be bitten," says Richard Higgins, the company's marketing director. "There are certain skin oils and skin lipids on those lucky people. Our product development team identified what their skin chemistry was, and then found natural plant-based analogs that would bolster the skin's natural repellency." Higgins says Zero Bite's effectiveness is comparable to DEET-based repellants.
Travelers should also consider carrying something to relieve the aches and pains of long hours of walking, whether in the rain forest or on unforgiving city pavement. "I might bring something like a Tiger Balm; it has different essential oils that are warming to help disperse pain and inflammation," Radoff says. She also recommends arnica liniments; some blends feature St. John's wort, turmeric and birch essential oils.
Headaches can be tamed with a spot of peppermint essential oil. "It is good for vasodilation and has a cooling quality to it," Radoff says. A drop on each temple and on the back of the neck can bring relief, she says.
Taming Tummy Trouble
Montezuma's revenge and its many variations are probably the most feared travel-related condition. Products such as probiotics, digestive enzymes and herbs that support intestinal health are crucial for protecting the gut.
Primal Defense, produced by Garden of Life in West Palm Beach, Fla., contains homeostatic soil organisms, or HSOs, which don't require refrigeration, unlike many probiotic supplements.
Jordan Rubin, N.D., the company's founder, says, "Most people don't realize that when you travel outside of the country, you encounter different microorganisms. The crops, animals and humans all have different microorganisms, and even the supposedly benign ones can be a problem if you're not accustomed to them." HSOs, Rubin says, effectively eliminate pathogenic bacteria, yeast and other fungi and parasites.
Rubin recommends digestive enzymes, too, especially when eating out. "Protease can break down microorganisms if you eat bad foods." Garden of Life offers Omegazyme to protect travelers from food-borne illnesses, such as those caused by poor sanitation.
Los Angeles-based Jarrow Formulas offers Jarro-Dophilus EPS, a probiotic product that is stable at room temperature. Dallas Clouatre, Ph.D., a consultant to Jarrow, says the formula delivers a synergistic blend of eight probiotic bacteria species to strengthen the intestinal immune system. Clouatre recommends using the product for at least a week prior to traveling and also during the trip "to prevent traveler's diarrhea by crowding out unwanted organisms by inhibiting their growth in the gut." This strategy, he says, "is far more effective than waiting until symptoms have appeared."
Beyond chamomile and ginger teas, which are good herbal options for soothing upset stomachs, Radoff recommends an eclectic remedy called neutralizing cordial. Apothecary Tinctura makes its own, featuring turkey rhubarb, peppermint, simple syrup and potassium bicarbonate, but several manufacturers offer variations. "It is just a really nice remedy for diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps, gas," she says. "It is a good all-around stomach remedy—almost like an herbal Pepto Bismol."
Just One More Thing...
There's another essential oil Radoff doesn't leave home without—ravensara. "It is really great for preventing respiratory infections," she says. "Put a drop on a little piece of tissue, stick it up your nose, hold the other nostril shut and inhale. It opens up the whole sinus cavity." She says using this antimicrobial herb, which has a eucalyptuslike scent, helps keep immunity strong, especially during long flights full of recycled air.
Destination and the traveler's health and preferences will dictate the contents of a remedy kit, as will the type of activities planned, accommodations and budget. But with a little effort to customize their supplies, travelers can avoid most maladies.
Mitchell Clute is a poet, musician and freelance writer based in Paonia, Colo. Additional reporting by Dena Nishek.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 9/p. 94, 96