Gill Stannard

Monday, March 17, 2008

travelling well - natural remedies for your holidays

Whether you are travelling across the world or within the State – here are some simple naturopathic ways of staying well for the journey.

Before you go

Vitamin C (at least 500 mg twice a day) and a good multivitamin (with at least 50 mg of B6): if you are doing a lot of running around before a big trip or are working deadlines for a couple of weeks before you go on leave, supplementing with these nutrients through the busy times may reduce your risk of catching a bug on the plane or succumbing to an infection as soon as you wind down. Otherwise a once a day dose of both while on the road is good nutritional travel insurance.

If you are having immunisations – do it in plenty of time before the trip so you can adequately recover from any ill effects. Vitamin C before, during and after the vaccinations provides some gentle help for your immune system. Homoeopathic Thuja (6x or 30c) is a favourite in the homoeopathic community to take with an immunisation “to reduce side effects”.

A note on immunisations: While some traveller take ‘calculated risks’ when they consider immunisations for diseases like cholera or typhoid, it is important to know if you have had childhood vaccinations for Tuberculosis or Diphtheria before traveling beyond the first world. Australian health guidelines tend to assume everyone has been fully immunised against these still prevalent diseases.

Are you at greater risk of catching Hepatitis B (transmitted through blood products, like HIV and Hepatitis C for which there are no vaccines) out of Australia? While this virus is rife in some parts of the world (including Asia) you need to engage in unsafe practices, such as getting a tattoo, being shaved by a barber or having unprotected sex, to catch it.

And while we are talking about sex – whether you are hooking up with someone from a local village or a fellow backpacker from your hometown always use a condom.

I am frequently asked if there are any natural alternatives to anti-malarial medication. While there are some interesting herbs currently in research they are potentially toxic and still in development. Regardless of whether you are taking the medication or not, use commonsense and take adequate measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

If you are heading off to a place where travellers gut bugs are rife (“Bali Belly” etc) start taking the herb Golden seal (Hydrastis canedensis) a few days before your trip. Golden seal helps improve the lining of your digestive system and has a proven track record for both preventing and treating infections (including Giardia). Caution: this is a strong herb with some specific contraindications (including pregnancy) and should be prescribed by a herbalist. Another reason to get this herb from a professional is to make sure it is a good quality product (there is a history of substituting the herb for cheaper, ineffective ones) and to make sure it is from an ethical source (the trade of Hydrastis is monitored by CITES, due to risk of endangerment from over harvesting. The product must come from a cultivated source).

The Natural Travel First Aid Kit

Rescue remedy: this is a popular flower essence formula (similar to homoeopathics) for those “beam me up Scotty” moments when panic takes a hold. If you are an apprehensive or nervous traveler or generally prone to stress and worry, a couple of drops of this remedy under your tongue can help calm you down.

Ginger: is natures remedy for motion sickness and general nausea, also bloating and menstrual pain. Cheap tablets of pure ginger powder are readily available and are more effective than other over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Make sure you have eaten before the journey and are well hydrated. Take 2 tablets before setting off or if you have any hint of nausea.

Echinacea: if you are traveling into the bush – or anywhere with venomous snakes or insects a bottle of the liquid extract/tincture of this herb is essential. Apply liberally to a cotton pad and place directly on the bite (only if you have conclusively identified the snake) and follow the standard bite first aid (bandage, immobilise the body part and get help). If applicable, take 10 mls internally, every hour 'til medical help arrives.

Aloe vera: is a soothing and restorative herb for sunburn, if your slip, slop, slap routine is inadequate. Aloe vera gel comes in a handy tube and is great first aid for minor burns.

Lavender essential oil: can act as a standby insect repellent and also soothes unexpected bites. A drop on you pillow or wrist can be inhaled to help you calm down or sleep. If you enjoy the smell it can also be a comforting aroma for times you end up in less than salubrious accommodation and as a bonus is delightful to add to a bath. Quality of oils can vary, always invest in pure essential oils, the best you can afford.

Don’t forget: some sticking plasters for blisters and cuts, they are also handy for repairing mosquito nets (is it me or does every net in a budget place have a hole in it?). If heading off to the bush or a remote area, invest in an approved first aid course and carry fully stocked conventional kit.


While some of us hope that we’ll beat the lag, this downside of modern air travel will get most of us in the end. Onboard – drink lots of water (in economy class airlines rarely give you enough so keep asking for more if the new airport ‘liquids and gels’ rules prevent you from carrying on extra supplies). Aim for at least 1/2 a litre for every hour in the air. Avoid caffeine and alcohol on long flights.

As tempting as it is try to avoid taking sleeping pills as staying comatosed and not moving for such a prolonged period of time will increase your risk of developing a DVT.

A natural option for a more natural sleep are homoeopathic tablets for insomnia and jetlag – often available from airport pharmacies in this country. Homoeopathics are generally safe for most people, including children and pregnant women.

Remember to be careful taking natural remedies into foreign countries. It is better to carry herbs as tablet in their proprietary packing and avoid carrying dried or fresh herbs unless you have special permission. Always declare your natural remedies when asked. Be familiar with the security regulations regarding liquids and gels as these also apply to natural remedies packed in your carry on luggage.

..and don’t forget

Avoid potentially dangerous activities that you wouldn’t do at home.

Be cautious about swimming at unpatrolled beaches and if the locals aren’t swimming there, often it is for a good reason. Never dive into unknown water.

If you are not the world’s best sleeper – carry earplugs.

Have a great trip!

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