I travel often. Every month or so I am changing time zones and continents. I usually dread the trip right up until I am in the airport when I think, "it's nice to get away!" Travel often clears my mind and allows me to think "outside my box."
We all get out of balance when we are traveling, and it can put a damper on the joy of the trip. With a little planning and some herbal knowledge, we can take more control of how travel affects us.
The act of flying in an airplane, or extended car time, has the same qualities as vata dosha, and therefore increases and aggravates vata dosha. This aggravation of vata also has an adverse effect on our agni, the digestive fire. Agni is of central importance to our ability to digest foods and maintain our body stability. Impaired agni will feel like digestive irregularity, poor elimination, general weakness, or coldness, and our minds will also be affected by this agni imbalance. Keeping agni stable should be our primary goal, and travel makes this goal more challenging.
Herbs can be our great friends and helpers for travel, and today I am outlining my Ayurvedic herbal travel kit. I keep some of these herbs in my bathroom kit and some in my carry aboard bag. Tablets are fine, but I do like the liquid extracts for traveling. They are easy to digest, and they stay fresh for a very long time. Most of them are alcohol based, so they may not be right for everyone.
Maintain Strong Digestion
It's not an herb—but it is the most important part of your travel kit.
Hot Water—The best tool for maintaining strong digestion. Bring a thermos with you. Carry it EMPTY until you are through security and then find a friendly barista or server who will fill it with hot water. My thermos holds that water toasty warm for 12 hours. Take any herbs with this water, and also sip it on the plane.
Ayurveda holds that cold substances cause poor digestion and the fastest way to end up with digestive issues on your trip is to drink iced beverages.
Even with our friend hot water, most of us will benefit from a digestive stimulant periodically, and travel is the best time. That is where Vata, Pitta or Kapha Digest tablets come in handy. If you don't know which is right for you, consult an Ayurvedic practitioner (which is always a great thing to do). If you’re not able to talk to a practitioner before your trip, take a bottle of Easy Digest liquid extract with you. It will support your digestion and is good for vata, pitta, and kapha.
Bring Herbal Tea Helpers
Teas are the most traditional way to take herbs. You can ask for an empty coffee cup on the plane and make your tea using, yes, hot water.
Ginger tea— Drink it before meals while you travel to strengthen your agni. It also helps with travel-induced stomach discomfort. For more acute cases try the Ginger liquid extract as a quick support.
Tulsi tea— Tulsi helps our bodies adapt to stress. Travel is stress, even if it does not feel like it. (You can also use Tulsi liquid extract if desired.) Have tulsi tea while your seat neighbor has wine (I suggest avoiding spirits altogether).
Chamomile tea— A relaxing tea to prepare for and support sleep. Chamomile is a mild herb and can also help you feel more calm and relaxed while sitting.
Disturbed vata dosha usually interrupts sleep. Place some I Sleep Soundly in your carry-on bag to help promote restful sleep. I take them immediately after boarding an international flight and continue to use them most of my trip and often after returning home with jet lag.
If your first night presents larger sleep issues, try massaging some Ashwagandha Bala Oil on your feet. It comes in convenient 4oz bottles! (Tip: Bring some socks that can get a bit oily.)
Disturbed agni impairs our immune system. Try the I Travel Well liquid extract for maintaining health on extended trips. I have many clients who have sworn by this mixture supporting health while on a journey. Also in this category is Chyavanprash—A must-have for the travel first aid kit. It acts as a digestive stimulant, is a natural source of anti-oxidants, and is a general strengthening tonic. Have a tea made with Chyavanprash as a morning or mid-day boost.
"What Was in That Curry?!" Travel often means eating meals at odd times, often with delicious ingredients served at your exotic destinations. Sometimes this is unavoidable. My rule of thumb is never to eat the evening meal served while flying. I always choose to eat in the airport, and fast while on the plane. If you are pressed into a late dinner, perhaps by your European friend, try using the Amalaki liquid extract before bed. In this case, I like the extract because it is easy to digest and removes heat from the digestive tract that can create stomach discomfort after a rich meal.
Keep Everything Moving
Elimination. What more do I need to say? Many of us will become constipated while traveling and this is a core symptom of an upset vata dosha. I always travel with Triphala tablets or Triphala liquid extract. The extract is nice and compact in size. It is held in an alcohol base—so it’s not for everyone, but it does digest more easily than tablets and it keeps for a long time. This formula, made from three fruits, maintains regularity and is an absolute necessity. I stay regular using these immediately on arrival and throughout the trip.
Support Your Adrenals
Energy levels will vary during long trips and especially when changing time zones. No matter how much you love the trip, the stress of airports and train stations will get to you. We’ve all been tired and irritated, dragging our luggage around. Stress Ease and 7 Herb Energy are two herbal blends especially created for these circumstances. The names explain the guidelines for usage!
Combat Dryness with Oil—and More Oil
From the moment you leave home, your body starts to dry out. Dry airplane air, dry hotel rooms. What's more, when our friend vata dosha is irritated, the body dries from the inside out. Try using vata, pitta, or kapha massage oils during your bath time. In a travel situation, I usually take a 4oz bottle of my favorite (or just use sesame oil) and apply it in the shower or bath. That's right—just massage it gently all over the body while you are bathing. Use a minimum of soap, letting the oil moisten your skin.
Increase your internal moisture by using Nasya oil. After boarding, I apply a few drops of nasya oil in each nostril. The oil helps maintain the tissues in the nose and moisten the incoming air. Nasya application also helps me relax and get ready to sleep.
Enjoy the Journey
With a little planning, these plant-based helpers can make your journey more pleasant and help you return home feeling good. Ayurveda is a very personal health system. If you travel often, I suggest seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner and getting specific recommendations just for you!