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Pack a Natural Travel Kit

Pack a Natural Travel Kit

Echinacea: combat colds and coughs
Water: avoid wilting
Ginger: calm queasiness
Aloe: soothe sizzling skin
Probiotics: fight traveler's diarrhea
Valerian: when you really can't sleep
Sea-bands: hold the hurling

You're leaving for the airport in 10 minutes. Better check that travel bag one last time. Magazines? Check. Walkman? Check. Gum? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Probiotics? Check. . . .

Meet the natural travel kit. Whether you're heading to summer camp, visiting your dad in another state, or flying off on vacation, it's comforting to know that packing a few herbs and other natural items may help keep you healthy in the air, on the road, on the water, or at your new destination.

Here's a list of natural health boosters that deserve a place in any travel bag. You may not need them all (let's hope you won't), but if you do, you'll be happy you brought them along. Bon voyage! back to top

Echinacea: combat colds and coughs
What to pack: tincture bottle of echinacea, made primarily from the root of the plant, available in health-food stores.

If your travel plans involve flying, you may need some help fending off that stale airplane air that dries out your nose and throat and makes you a sitting target for germs inside the cabin. For a natural defense against travelers' colds and coughs, some people swear by echinacea, an herb that may help your body fight off illness—and give you a fair chance of enjoying your vacation.

The general rule of thumb for echinacea is to start taking it at the first symptoms of a cold, such as a scratchy throat or runny nose. But long airplane flights may be an exception. Even if you don't feel sick, some experts recommend taking echinacea a day or two before you plan to fly and continuing through the flight and a day or two after. A typical dose is one dropperful of tincture in a little warm water, four times a day.

A word of caution: Because of the rare possibility of allergy, don't take echinacea while traveling unless you've already taken it at home and know how it affects you. Note also that people with certain health conditions should avoid this herb. Be sure to learn more about echinacea before packing it in your travel kit. back to top

Water: avoid wilting
What to pack: two or three bottles of good-quality water.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but having enough water to sip while you're traveling is one of the best ways to ensure that you'll arrive where you're headed feeling healthy and energetic, not weak and wilted. Dehydration is one of the biggest hazards of summer traveling and one of the easiest ones to avoid. When you're on the go, skip the soda can and reach for the pure stuff—your body and your energy level will thank you.

Another tip: Spraying your face with a misting bottle full of cool water while you're traveling may help keep your skin from drying out—not to mention jolt you awake if you start to doze off. back to top

Ginger: calm queasiness
What to pack: a bag of candied ginger slices, available in health-food stores and some supermarkets.

Does traveling make you green (and not with envy)? Try stashing some ginger slices in your travel bag to help calm your queasy belly. Candied ginger slices are pieces of real, chewy ginger coated with sugar, and they taste both spicy-hot and sweet.

If you're prone to motion sickness, drink some ginger tea or eat a candied ginger slice an hour or so before getting in a car or a boat. Then bring the bag along to nibble on along the way. Another plus: ginger may help keep your breath fresh. back to top

Aloe: soothe sizzling skin
What to pack: a bottle of 100 percent aloe vera gel (available in health-food stores), or an aloe vera cream or lotion containing at least 70 percent aloe.

Of course you've packed sunscreen. That goes without saying. But just in case, it's a good idea to have healing aloe on hand to help you keep your cool if your sunscreen fails you—or if you fail to put it on. Just slather aloe generously on hot, tender skin and let it dry. You can reapply it as often as you want. back to top

Probiotics: fight traveler's diarrhea
What to pack: a probiotic supplement containing Lactobaccilus acidophilus, Lactobaccilus bifidus, or a combination of these and other "good" strains of bacteria. Choose an enteric-coated brand that contains at least one billion bacteria and doesn't require refrigeration (but guarantees that the number of bacteria inside will stay the same throughout the product's shelf life). It's available in health-food stores.

When travel plans include a visit to another country, traveler's diarrhea (otherwise known as "Montezuma's revenge") can be an uninvited companion. You probably know that when you're in some foreign countries, you should never drink the local water unless it's been boiled or eat foods that have been washed in unboiled water. (This is because the water in those countries contains bacteria and other organisms that your system is not used to digesting.) But it's easy to make a mistake—sucking on an ice cube in a tempting cold drink, for example. You'll soon wish you hadn't.

Enter probiotics—substances that are teaming with "good" bacteria and can help keep your digestive system in balance. When visiting countries where traveler's diarrhea is likely, some people take a probiotic supplement with every meal as a kind of insurance policy. Use according to package instructions. Be sure you have a back-up plan, though, such as Imodium caplets, an over-the-counter remedy for diarrhea. "Montezuma's revenge" has been known to track people down no matter how careful they are. back to top

Valerian: when you really can't sleep
What to pack: a tincture bottle of valerian root or valerian-root capsules standardized to contain "0.8 percent valeric (or valerinic) acid," available in health-food stores.

Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed can be weird. When you add to that the possibility of jet lag from flying between time zones, tossing and turning at night can be a real possibility. Although it's not a good idea to get in the habit of swallowing something to help you fall asleep, the special challenges posed by traveling may make for an exception.

Valerian root is an herb that has been used for centuries to promote restful sleep. It's gentler than sleeping pills and when used in proper doses doesn't tend to make you feel groggy in the morning. A typical dose for the tincture form is one dropperful of valerian mixed into a little warm water, taken about an hour before bedtime. For the capsule form, follow package instructions.

A few words of caution: Don't take valerian while traveling unless you've already taken it at home and know how it affects you. Valerian root doesn't have the same effect on everyone, and in rare cases it can actually pep people up rather than put them to sleep. There is also the rare possibility of an allergic reaction, which you would definitely not want to experience for the first time while you're away from home. Be sure to learn more about valerian before packing it in your travel kit. back to top

Sea-bands: hold the hurling
What to pack: a pair of Sea-Bands, special bracelets available in pharmacies, health-food stores, and travel stores

If your travel plans include spending time on a boat (or if you have a real problem with carsickness), here's one way to make sure that the boat is the only thing that will be tossing. Sea-Bands (and other similar products, which go by other names) are a kind of elastic bracelet with a little plastic button on them. The button presses against an acupressure point on the inside of your wrist. Stimulating this point can prevent the nausea that comes from motion sickness. And this can make the difference between counting the minutes until the trip is over and actually enjoying the view. back to top

Last Modified Date: 1/19/2001
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