I travel with two competing schools of thought running through my head. First, bring everything you may need, it’s such a pain in the butt to track things down when you are traveling. Second, the world is abundant and I know how to find what I need wherever I am.
So what do I do? Well, those thoughts are not mutually exclusive and I have found a hybrid approach works for me. So I have a short list of trusted herbal remedies that accompany me on trips. These herbs are reliable and compose my herbal first aid kit. If I use them, I am guaranteed they will work in the ways I expect. And they also address more than one potential issue I am prone toward having when traveling. This is helpful when minimizing space in the suitcase is a consideration.
Sherri’s Herbal First Aid Kit
Echinacea Root Tincture
I don’t want to forget this one, although I have! Honestly, it alone is an herbal first aid kit. I like to take a few squirts a day in the days preceding a trip to boost my immune system, especially if traveling on a plane. Traveling on a plane, particularly if ending up many time zones away, is stressful to the body. And then it doesn’t hurt to keep up 1-2 droppers full per day during your trip. And up the dose, if you get sick.
If you do get a cold, which I have managed to do even in hot climates, then let me sing the praises of fresh lemons. They are sold virtually everywhere (even Alaska in the winter) and you don’t even have to pack them in your suitcase. Having the juice from 3-5 lemons a day, spread out through the day, is helpful in getting over a cold quickly. Lemons saved my butt in Portugal!
St. John’s Wort Oil – also Called Hypericum Oil
St. John’s Wort is especially helpful in soothing sunburned skin. But if it’s a nice muscle relaxant that you are craving after you have been doing a lot of hiking and are feeling sore, it’s the way to go as well. Just massage it into the affected area in the evening when you are can relax.
Another one that is great for sunburn. If you get sunburned, often there will be aloe growing nearby, even if in a garden, or hotel lobby. Take a leaf, split it open, and apply on burnt skin, and aaahhhhh! Alternatively, bringing a tube of aloe gel is helpful.
Activated Charcoal and Wormwood Tincture
I hope you don’t get food poisoning, but if you do, these two remedies are your allies. The charcoal bonds to the bad bacteria in your gut and safely removes them from your system. Wormwood is super bitter and lowers the pH in your stomach, making it inhospitable to unwanted bad bacteria. Of course, you need to stay hydrated, but keep up with these two and tomorrow you will be saying “what stomachache?”
Iodine Tablets or Water Filter
Everywhere I travel makes me appreciate living in Oregon, possibly the best public water on earth, definitely the best in the USA. Water borne disease is rampant and you don’t want to be another statistic. It might not be herbal and I hate the flavor that iodine imparts on water, but it’s an option. I just recently got a water filter, the UV type used for backpacking. I hope to use it everywhere I go, I’ll keep you posted!
Often hotels or homestays will have a large bottled water system and I can refill my two water bottles there. I drink a lot before I leave for the day, then I go out for the day and fill up as soon as I get home. Sometimes I am wishing I had a third bottle, but I have to make do, so I am not carrying too much stuff around in my day pack. Also, if you are in the tropics, it is likely you can get fresh coconuts for about $1. Cheaper than bottled water and SO good for you. Balances electrolytes and all that jazz.
Lavender oil can be mixed with a little olive oil to be used topically. It is most used for its relaxing effects on the body. Simply smelling it is relaxing. But it can also be used to cleanse cuts, bruises, and skin irritation. A half ounce takes up so little space, it’s an easy remedy to ensure you have on hand. It is one of the few essential oils that you can use undiluted.
Psyllium seed has the ability to regulate digestion. It helps move things along, due to the abundance of fiber, etc. True story and helpful since traveling can cause constipation. It needs to be drunk with a lot of water to be effective in that way. If not enough water is consumed, the opposite effect can happen. Which might be medicinal, if you are going to the bathroom too often. However in that case you likely have some mild food poisoning, so use wormwood tincture in addition. But do yourself a favor and double bag it. Bags get holes in them, especially when packing and unpacking and the mess is very difficult to clean up if they spill.
Like American Express, don’t leave home without them! Most people need more bitters in their diet, even when they are not traveling. An assured way of getting them into your body is a tincture. There are tons of herbs that are bitter and it’s a world unto itself. For simplicity’s sake, how about a mixture of dandelion leaf, artichoke leaf, and ginger root, equal parts. If you are not used to the flavor of bitter, or don’t like the flavor, you may need to hold your nose, or something to get them in. I actually have grown to like it and now crave the flavor. Anyway, taking a dropper full or so 15 minutes before you eat a meal is helpful. Swish it around your mouth until you can feel yourself salivate and then swallow. Keeping digestion moving and stable is the cornerstone of health.
Every herbalist has their list of favorite plant allies. Thus this list is in no way exhaustive. But it is super helpful to have these things on hand, as they deal with so many common ailments that come up during travel. So get started with some of these and perhaps you will find your personal favorites along the way. And often, as I am grateful, I find people are very open about sharing their plant knowledge, so surely you will be able to find what you need wherever you are!