At this time of year, many of us are travelling to celebrate the season with family and friends. Even if we are only travelling short distance, we all subject to the same challenging conditions in the airport and on the plane: surrounded by lots of people who are also under stress in an environment with recycled air and as dry as a desert! The key aspects to keep in mind for helping yourself survive and thrive through this stressful holiday season are to nourish your nervous and immune systems, keep yourself grounded, your digestion happy, and stay hydrated! I used to travel frequently for work, and Let’s talk a bit more about how to approach this using simple strategies and herbal allies:
- Flying at high altitudes over vast distances is an unusual place for the human organism to be! Your nervous system needs extra support to weather the rigors of travel, let alone the added demands over the holidays! In Ayurveda, flying is a very high-Vata environment (cold, dry, way up in the ether, exposed, quite a scary place to be!). In herbal medicine, we have plants that act in various ways and are incredibly helpful for nervous system health, called nervines and adaptogens. It cannot be underemphasized that working with a knowledgeable Herbalist is key to finding the best nervines and adaptogens for your unique person! The nervines and adaptogens I’ve chosen for the formulas below were chosen for broad applicability and usefulness for most bodies… but keep in mind that you are unique and will benefit greatly from discussing custom herbal formulas with a qualified Herbalist). Please note the contra-indications for each and consider a consultation for custom herbs choices (such as if you have more flying anxiety, high blood pressure, are pregnant, prone to blood clots, are taking dose-sensitive medications, etc.). Now to the herbs! I chose Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosis) as the adaptogen in the formula below to help adjust to new timezones (aka to combat Jet Lag!) and rally your immune resources. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Borage (Borago officinalis), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Rose (Rosa spp.), Lavender (Lavandula off.), and Milky Oats (Avena sativa) are the nervines in the formulas below.
- Keep grounded and nourished by eating an easy-to-digest and mineral-rich meal before flying (such as a light bone-broth vegetable soup, soaked steel-cut oats with coconut manna and cinnamon, a light coconut curry with brown basmati rice, etc.), using a warming bitters tincture, and massaging your feet (with warm sesame oil for added benefit). Keep your digestion happy by not over-indulging in heavy or complex meals before flying.
- Keep hydrated by drinking more water than usual, at least 2.5L but preferably more, on the days leading up to and during your travel. This will help keep your digestion moving smoothly and your mucous membranes healthy. You can also consider adding in natural electrolytes and/or healthy oils into your diet leading up to your travel. Avoid alcohol and coffee while you travel. Consider drinking the calming tea suggested below to aid in staying hydrated. Explore Abhyanga (self oil massage) and/or Nasya, or simply ensure that your skin is hydrated before travelling.
- Mucous membrane barrier integrity is vital to help keep you healthy and free of infection while you travel. Your mucous membranes includes your sinuses as well as your digestive tract. To keep your barriers intact, avoid any known food sensitivities leading up to travel, stay hydrated, and consider including some herbal mucous membrane tonics. In the tincture discussed in the video and in the description below, I’ve included Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) to aid in this regard.
- Support your liver to aid in proper elimination and support the many other vital functions your liver provides! Oftentimes during travel digestion slows to a stop because we are sitting still for an extended period of time… including herbs to help encourage the flow of bile and keep the rhythm of digestion, plus carminatives to help relieve the gas that can accompany the changing pressures in the environment can go a long way to helping keep you comfortable and smiling through your travels. I chose Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Dandelion (Taraxacum off.), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Lavender (Lavandula off.).
- Support for circulation, and the vascular/capillary system can also be important to help prevent blood clots in the lower legs (deep vein thrombosis), especially on long-haul flights. I chose Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) as the key herb due to the added headache relief and liver support (isn’t it phenomenol how herbs can do SO many things?!). Keep the blood moving by tapping your feet an wiggling your toes, and walking up and down the aisles on the plane every 2-3 hours. You can also incorporate ‘legs up the wall’ in the airport or when you arrive at your destination to help ease the return of blood from your legs to your torso. (Please note that if you do feel a dull ache in your low legs that does not resolve, please seek medical attention without delay).
In general, keep yourself cosy and happy while you fly. Bring a scarf, a warm extra layer, earphones, a great book you’re excited to read and are saving for the plane, and a great calming playlist or guided meditation recording with you on the plane. Wrap the scarf around your neck to feel less exposed and warm, and over your eyes when you want to sleep. Make your own space when you need to, and listen to your calming playlist or read a book you’re excited to dive into. If you are interested in beginning or maintaining a meditation practice, flying can be a wonderful time to turn toward your internal environment: you can use a guided meditation or try a breath count technique (such as counting backward from 30, each inhale an even number and each exhale an odd number… whenever you lose count, start over). In general, notice how you’re breathing and try to introduce fuller inhales and exhales as much as possible. Use your extra layer or the airplane blanket rolled up behind your lumbar spine to help relieve back pain. To further combat jet lag when you land, stay awake until the bedtime in your new timezone and follow all of your usual sleep hygiene techniques. Using a skillfully selected adaptogen will also greatly help with relieving jet lag. Again, for a more personalized and in-depth consultation to design a protocol for your unique person and situation, please contact me or a trusted local Herbalist for an in-depth consultation (distance consultations with me are available).
For Simon Brazier I created the following formulas to help him thrive during his upcoming holiday travels:
‘Rhythm Tonic’ Tincture: Siberian Ginseng (note: contraindicated in acute infections), Ground Ivy, Licorice (note: contraindicated with hypertension and caution with corticosteroids, hypertension medication and potassium-depleting drugs), Rosemary (note: contraindicated in pregnancy, caution with hypertension), Dandelion Root (note: contraindicated in Asteraceae allergy and bile duct obstruction). **Dose: 7.5mL BID (2x/day) 4 days before and 3 days after travelling.
‘Peaceful Flight’ Tea: Borage, Chamomile (note: contraindicated in Asteraceae allergy), Lavender (note: contraindicated in allergy), Rose petals, and Milky Oats. **Dose: 2+ cups/day. 2 tsps/cup, steep covered 15+min.
Enjoy your travels, and best wishes for a Happy Solstice and Happy Holidays!