Health Maintenance Kit
Whether you're off to your cousin's wedding in Des Moines or a vipasana retreat in Mexico, it pays to ensure that your travels are free from health saboteurs such as poor digestion, lack of sleep, and overexertion. Doing this takes a little forethought, a minimum of effort, and a small travel case to tuck into your carry-on bag or place in the back seat of your car.
Nourishing the Body. A sound dietary regimen can be difficult to maintain when traveling. Prepare for skipped meals and altered schedules by packing small bags of dried fruits, seeds, nuts, lightweight energy bars, and firm fruits such as apples and oranges, says Elson Haas, M.D., author of The Staying Healthy Shopper's Guide: Feed Your Family Safely (Celestial Arts, 1999). Miso packets can help quench your appetite and give you a nutritional boost of protein. Buy or carry bottled, pure water—especially when traveling to areas where water potability is in question.
Sun Protection. No matter where your travels take you, pack sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher. In case you do suffer from sunburn or windburn, aloe vera gel helps soothe the pain, as well as heal damaged skin. Use it as an overall moisturizer for your body and face.
R & R. Anxiety, tension, or sheer excitement from your travels may leave you unable to relax or sleep. Nature has a treasure trove of safe herbal relaxants such as passion flower, kava, chamomile, and linden flowers. Haas suggests a nightly travel ritual of tea made with a blend of these herbs.
In addition, you can ease a stiff neck with an inflatable neck pillow; shut out light and other distractions with an eyebag filled with hulled buckwheat and scented with lavender; and use a gel-filled eye mask (hot or cold) to reduce swelling brought on by lack of sleep, flying, or dehydration.
Mini-Medicine Kit. Pack some tiger balm for headaches and muscle tension in the skull and neck.
Apply the salve to tender pressure points, says Sharol Tilgner, N.D., an herbalist based in Creswell, Oregon. An especially active trip may lead to muscle aches, sprains, and strains. That's where homeopathic arnica gel comes in handy to hasten healing, Tilgner adds.
Don't forget immune system protection—vital when traveling, says Haas. He recommends vitamin C to fend off free radical damage brought on by travel stressors. Vitamin E and mineral selenium counteract chemical exposure, and acidophilus tablets can help protect against intestinal predators.
Steady Your Stomach. Do not leave home without the all-around travel herb: ginger. Not only does it quell motion sickness, but it also helps to ease digestive disturbances, says Tilgner. Hops and valerian do double duty as digestive aids and relaxants.
Hops, a bitter, helps stimulate poor digestion and calm the nerves when taken prior to eating. Valerian, taken after meals, dispels gas and soothes the nervous system, according to Tilgner.
A Boost of Energy. Caffeine can add to jangled nerves and disrupt sleep patterns. If your body needs a boost, reach for ginseng and other herbal stimulants such as kola nut or yerba mate, says Haas. He also recommends roasted-root beverages made from chicory or barley, and spirulina, chlorella, and blue-green algae to revitalize the travel-weary.
Kathleen Finn Medola is a health and wellness writer based in Portland, Oregon.