The Best Natural Remedies for Travel

I like to be prepared for anything when I travel, whether I'm headed out to my brother Jakes's house for days of holiday feasting and excellent wines, or across the country for a multi-city business trip. The natural remedies I take along help me beat—or prevent—minor problems, fast. Thankfully, my travel-related health problems aren't usually a big deal, although they can put quite a damper on my trips. Here are a few of my more common ailments.

  • I can't sleep well in an unfamiliar bed, because I hate most pillows (OK, I'm a pillow diva) and because business trips stress me out.
  • Germy, dry airplane air gives me sore throats and colds.
  • Eating unwisely on the run and indulging in rich holiday treats at irregular hours challenges my digestion and makes it respond in unattractive ways.
  • Then there's the unexpected: Though I never get carsick, on a recent trip a colleague drove maniacally through the back streets of a desert city on a really hot day (with no air conditioner), and I kicked myself for forgetting to carry my favorite nausea remedy. That's a mistake I won't be repeating anytime soon.

Here's what I bring with me when I travel.

Natural Jet Lag Remedy

A recent Italian study of 133 people found that Pycnogenol, an extract made from the bark of French pine trees, lessened jet lag symptoms. People who'd taken Pycnogenol after flights lasting seven to nine hours had 56% fewer symptoms (insomnia or irregular sleep patterns, irritability, disorientation/grogginess, mental performance issues, headaches, and other common physical symptoms) than people who took a placebo. What's more, jet lag symptoms for people who took Pycnogenol lasted for an average of 18.2 hours, compared to 39.3 hours in the placebo group. Full disclosure: This study is so new I've just finished reading it and I haven't tried it for jet lag. But I will next month when I'm headed to Denver and L.A. on business.

In other studies, Pycnogenol has been proven to reduce leg and ankle swelling during long flights. Experts think that Pycnogenol's ability to improve circulation may be why it works.

To use: Take 50 milligrams of Pycnogenol three times a day for a week, starting two days before takeoff. Find it online and at nutritional and supplements stores like Vitamin Shoppe.

For Sleep Problems

Because I tend to experience insomnia when away from home, I always pack a little bottle of lavender essential oil. It's a proven sleep enhancer; in a study of 31 people, psychologists at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., learned that inhaling lavender helps sedate and promote deep sleep. I shake a few drops on my hotel pillows and the lovely aroma immediately relaxes me——don't worry, it's invisible and won't stain linens.

If lavenders are not enough to help you drift off, bring along a bottle of Deep Sleep, an herbal formula from master herbalist Daniel Gagnon. It contains extracts from proven sleep herbs, including valerian, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, and California poppy—as well as an orange peel to slightly mask its strong, herby taste. You'll wake feeling rested, not dopey. Available in tincture or soft gels (good if you hate the way herbs taste) at health-food stores.

Ginger works well to ease motion-induced nausea, plus it tastes great and is easy to take—and to take with you. I love Ginger Honey Tonic from New Chapter. Add a few spoonfuls of club soda before your long car ride and you should be able to ward off "the queasies." Bring along a bag of Reeds Crystallized Ginger Candy to nibble along the way. They're both available at health-food stores.

For Fighting Infection

Echinacea, a virus and bacterial killer that also eases a sore throat and minor wound pain, is my first-aid kit in a bottle. I generally spritz my throat two or three times during long flights to prevent cold viruses from catching me, and I also use it to zap bug bites or boo-boos to prevent infection. Get echinacea spray online and at nutritional and supplements stores.

For Digestive Problems and To Soothe Stress

Chamomile tea fights the post-dinner distress that occurs when I eat (and drink) too much of everything at Jake's house. (What's a holiday for if you cant eat everything in sight?) Also, a strong brew acts as a gentle all-purpose tranquilizer. Its mild sedative action counters stress-related responses that tense your digestive muscles—and it has compounds that ease stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, gas, and colic. Use a good organic tea such as Traditional Medicinals or Celestial Seasonings, and use two tea bags per 8-ounce cup. Let it steep, and covered, for 10 minutes to maximize the relaxation.

RELATED: Home Remedies for Diarrhea

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