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?

3 thoughts on “Going Somewhere: Herbal Support for the Traveler

  1. just got back from a roadtrip to arizona with my mate and our 5 kids, and the miso, garlic bulb, rescue remedy, arnica ointment, tweezers, healing salve, and blend of homemade calendula/cleavers/milk thistle/echinecea tincture were what i used from in my medicine bag, which also carried skullcap and motherwort (tinctures), achy muscle rub, and tea tree and lavender essential oils, . .. .. while there the salve, tweezers, arnica, and rescue remedy were handy, and we drank *lots* of water with sea salt/lemon/cucumber/lemon verbena/strawberry added to the jar as well as ate plenty of yogurt . . . . . the salve, miso on crackers and in hot water, bites of garlic washed down with salted water, and the blended tincture came in useful on on the way back (picked up something at a hotel in arkansas that stayed *something* instead of becoming . . . 😉 . . .
    now we’re getting adjusted to reentering the lush, humid, polleny biome of virginia after a month away! . . .. for this a pot of hot water with sliced ginger (i go by taste, so i use a fresh 2″ chunk sliced to 4 cups water, sometimes i add fennel seeds too) simmered into a brew with honey and squeezes of lemon juice added to each cup are helping immensely, as well as lemon juice and fresh rose petals in our drinking water . . .

  2. I wanted you know that you’ve inspired me in many ways. I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogging Award. You can view the details on my post of June 6, 2015. Congratulations! Murr

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