Going Somewhere: Herbal Support for the Traveler

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Ah, travel. Broadening your horizons! Or getting some work done. Visiting family, or perhaps you’re an international spy? Whatever your reasons for going somewhere, a little planning and some basic self-care strategies go a long way towards lessening the dreaded travel hangover.

I like to bring a little something to ease my trip, but I also like to travel as light as possible- so some prioritizing is in order. Finding this balance is up to you and your needs. You can bring more support for a longer trip or more for travel to a place that presents significant travel hazards or few good stores. You can be pretty minimalist going to a major city for a few days, and may need to pack a full kit for a month-long hike. That is your decision to make, but let’s break down the very basics of what you could consider:

-Digestion. This is the Achilles heel of many travelers. The excitement of travel, the different foods and schedule, road food, the inconsistent access to restrooms, sitting, dehydration all contribute to possible digestive upset. I strongly suggest regular Bitters before and after each meal. If you are traveling to a place with a bitters tradition, such as incorporating bitter greens at meals or a widely available  aperitif or digestif you are in luck. If not, bring or seek out a bottle of bitters and add it to seltzer, mixed drinks or just straight up. Nibble bitter greens to keep your digestion juicy.

Keep up the good bacteria with a little fermented food here and there, yogurt, pickles, miso, and try to keep stress in check. (see #2) Nothing says “intestinal distress” like a very worried traveler.

I don’t usually suggest avoiding fatty meats or street food or county fairs or local water, I believe in human adaptability but if you have an underlying condition or allergy maybe be more cautious.

Supermarket help: Chew Fennel seeds, dried or fresh Ginger, Dandelion greens.

And a little Motherly advice: if you have to barf, just do it. Learn to barf without drama or fanfare, don’t struggle to avoid it, don’t weep and moan,  just elegantly let your stomach eject its contents into an appropriate receptacle and move on.

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-Stress management. So stress isn’t a condition, it is an input. It isn’t just “bad stress” that you will encounter when traveling–excitement, overstimulation,temperature changes,  time changes, using parts of your brain or body that you didn’t know existed…..it all contributes to a state of tension or overwhelm which can feel fun or wired or brittle or cranky.

I’d suggest experimenting with nervines BEFORE you find yourself about to throttle a sweet innocent taxi driver, maybe before the trip, in the comfort of your own home.

Linden, Rose, Scullcap, Blue Vervain, Passionflower, Chamomile, Milky Oats, Lavender– as tinctures or dry herbs for infusing– one or in combination–are a good place to start. I like to bring either teabags or bulk herbs and a travel mug so I can make a soothing drink on the run.

I carry my favorite nervine blend at all times–I use it preventively going into a stressful situation or afterwards to recover and let go of the day. Or both!

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-Depletion. Lack of sleep or irregular sleep, dehydration, hours of walking….In order to keep this up for days it helps to keep yourself feeling resilient and nourished.

It helps to have one sleep blend–maybe Hops-based, for example, to help  adjust to sleeping in a different time zone or strange place.

You can bring or seek out a few high-protein, deeply nourishing foods-nuts, full-fat yogurt, overpriced hippie-dippy “energy bars”, higher-end beef jerky. I like to have a nourishing tincture such as Ashwaganda/Tulsi/Milky Oats or maybe a powder of Ashwaganda to mix with Almond butter. And a multi-vitamin.

If it’s hot, stay hydrated with water and perhaps add electrolytes. Keep it extra cooling with lemons, mint, rose petals, cumbers-just throw the herbs in the water and let it sit in a hot car for 3 hours. Just kidding. HOT CUCUMBER WATER?!?!? Just drink it.

Speaking of hot cucumbers, carrying a spray bottle of Rosewater  or another favorite hydrosol-Cucumber, Neroli, Jasmine, perhaps?-will chill you out like nothing else. So darn refreshing!

Penn station
Penn station

-Basic personal 1st aid.

For crying out loud, bring a band-aid.

If you have an active uterus, bring at least one feminine pad. Yes, you can buy them in other places but have you ever needed one NOW and tried to find a place that was open/takes your foreign cash/had pads in stock in some godforsaken town on some peninsula somewhere? Bring at least one with you. It’s light, and can be used for various 1st aid needs.

Bring a sharp knife for emergency surgery/cutting apples and a little travel tweezers.

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-Muscular system. If you are not a bit sore at the end of the day, what the heck did you do? Bring a rub-an oil or salve-and massage your tired feet, sore shoulders or barking glutes. Sweet Birch, Turmeric, Meadowsweet, Solomon’s Seal, Alder-whatever infused oil you like, or hit up a pharmacy for a jar of the local butt rub.

If you’re prone to spasmodic pain, bring Black Haw and/or Lobelia tincture for external use.

It’s nice to have a little bumpy ball such as Rubz or a Beastie to work out knots and release trigger points, and you can do this anywhere. It seems to me like people waste a lot of time in airports playing iPhone games and watching CNN…bust out a little foot rub for some preventive care or get some lymphatic-moving walking in before you take off! I also bring a thera-band and do some resistance exercise, and maybe people think I’m nuts but my posterior chain feels great.

And finally, SHOES!!!!!!!! Zero-drop flats with a tiny bit of support are the ultimate self-care. Consider avoiding all high heels, heavy shoes, slippery shoes, clogs, pointy shoes….fashion can suck it, friends.You know what’s really hot? Someone who feels cheerful enough at the end of the day for a juicy conversation, someone who isn’t constantly seeking a bench to sit on, someone who can run from a pack of wild dogs. Someone who chooses a decent pair of shoes.

-Your personal weak points. So this was a basic overview for everyone, now consider if you have any special needs and bring something to cover them. What are you prone to?  For example, it is much easier to tackle a UTI or a sinus infection at the first sign of a problem than to try to fix it once it gets bad. And always bring what you need to support your chronic health condition, if applicable-herbal or non. Check in with an herbal buddy if desired.

-The hangover. And once you get home, give your liver a little extra love..or at least a break.

Eat some fiber, sweat it out with a nice long walk, take the time for a good stretch session and a psoas release, get a good night’s sleep and a hot bath. You did it, world traveler!

P.S. Got any favorite strategies for better, well-er travel? Leave it in the comments!

train-hopping?
train-hopping?

Opportunity knocks.

People who work the front desks of medical offices are like gatekeepers. They are ambassadors. They are the first voice or face a person encounters when they are seeking care. And the energy of that first interaction can be important.

Sometimes the person who is seeking that appointment  hasn’t always done the best job of self-care. Perhaps they were unwilling or unable to keep up on their medical care. Perhaps they are a little outside of normal, or have in some way not “measured up” to the American standard in terms of class, gender, sexuality, appearance, ability, religious or other self- expression.

This is an opportunity.

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As a gatekeeper, you have the opportunity, almost a sacred duty, to help bring this person into the fold of access. To welcome this person who may have obvious or hidden baggage around seeking some type of care into a safe space.

This person has reached out, has made an attempt to do the right thing, to access this care.

And this first interaction can truly make it or break it.

If a person who is trying to make an appointment, trying to ask a question or is in need of care feels judgement, feels pushed away or unwanted, feels uncomfortable, this can potentially reinforce the worldview that they don’t belong.

Or…this interaction could be a turning point.

If they walk into a gym, ready to make the leap of beginning fitness. If they walk into a farmer’s market, ready to add more vegetables. If they walk into an herbalist’s office, a massage studio, yoga class, health food store, running-shoe store, feminist sex shop….making this shift could change their freakin life.

They have taken a step.

What may be just another day to you could be a moment someone else has built up the courage to do for, like, ever.

Many people carry a lifetime of baggage, of judgement, of abuse, of discomfort, of self-loathing around like a big heavy stupid backpack,  and it’s just enough to hold them back.

Maybe they already know they aren’t from around here. Maybe they drink too much, don’t take enough walks, rely excessively on quick fixes.. Maybe they already know the pain of rejection. Maybe they already know what that damn raised eyebrow means.

There may be a reason that someone has avoided seeking needed care. There may be a history that you can’t see. Neither the mainstream nor the alternative healthcare systems have always been kind to everyone.   It is noone’s fault, it just “is”.

And, to those on the front lines of healthcare, I honor you, Physical care, mental care, fitness, alternative and mainstream– I don’t heap with you blame or anger for being human. Many of you are doing GREAT. And…Perhaps you have your own baggage. Perhaps you are just having a tough day. I thank you for the work you do.

But if you are able to keep this in mind, if you are able to welcome all the freaks into your space, actively welcome, to remember that it may feel foreign to some, dangerous even, to be accessing your services, perhaps you can see yourself as THE ANSWER. Or at least AN answer. This outreach position has the potential to literally shift someone’s feelings about the entire system. This interaction can be THE pivotal moment for a marginalized person. Or this moment can just reinforce the beliefs a person already holds.

“This is not for me.” “I am an outsider.”

They might bring vulnerability, shame, misunderstanding. You can be a bridge.

And around 90% of people are not seeking the lecture that you could deliver–even if, technically, you are “right”.

Maybe there will always be a douchebag who feels the need to yell at less-fit persons who finally worked up the courage to start running. Maybe there will always be a person who rolls their eyes when you say you have never had a primary care doctor. Maybe there will always be an herbalist who insists your colon isn’t clean enough. Maybe some people need to feel superior to those dorks who drag themselves out of bed, try their best, don’t fit in but do it anyway.

Maybe.

But don’t let that douchebag be you.

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