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I love to travel. I consider it a necessity for my quality of life to go somewhere internationally at least every other year, if not yearly. Getting out of my comfort zone, experiencing different cultures, seeing Earth’s natural wonders, stepping out of my daily life routines, feeds my spirit in a way nothing else seems to. Now, I am realizing a long-held dream of mine, to travel to “meet” the many plants and herbs I use in my craft, products, and shop, as well as to meet the farmers, distillers, and the many people who are responsible for planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, extracting, distilling, pressing, and providing this precious plant material for us to use. This trip is meant to help create new connections and sources for plant material that is of the highest quality, sustainably grown and harvested, and helps promote the sustainable economies of the people and countries they are sourced from. That is ultimately the goal.
I thought I would share what I have used and would never travel without, to help you develop your own herbal travel kit, for your travels locally, domestically, or abroad. Over decades of travel, I have learned what I need to bring with me to make my travels as successful and easy on my body as possible. I have certainly had my share of intestinal upsets in my traveling life, and since this is a point of weakness for my body, I stock a lot of things to help prevent contracting intestinal parasites or bacteria, and to help my body digest food it is unaccustomed to.
My kit contains herbs to support:

  • The Immune System
    • Herbs to take daily while traveling (especially by plane) to keep your immune system strong. I like our Immune Builder Drops from Herban Wellness or Astragalus Supreme capsules from Gaia Herbs.
    • Herbs to take if you feel like you have contracted something. I like our Cold & Flu Away Drops from Herban Wellness or Anti-V Formula capsules by Natural Factors. The Anti-V Formula can also be taken daily while traveling to prevent, and more frequently if you feel you have contracted something.
    • Essential oils to inhale regularly when exposed to recirculated indoor air, such as in an airplane cabin, or in large crowds of people coughing and sneezing. I swear by our Be Well Blend that contains Eucalyptus, Lemon, Oregano, Myrrh, Clove and other essential oils that are antiviral, antibacterial, and help keep your lungs and sinuses clear. This also makes a good hand and surface sanitizer!
  • The Digestive System
    • I always travel with Ginger root – in “chews” or crystalized ginger, such as those found by Reed’s Ginger Company to help calm my stomach if it gets queasy, motion sickness, or if my stomach feels in any other way upset. You can also take Ginger root capsules, such as those by Gaia Herbs or New Chapter, daily to prevent parasites and to help improve digestion.
    • If you’re prone to parasites or simply want to ensure you don’t get them, you can take Black Walnut hull capsules or Wormwood capsules as a preventative. Oregano leaf capsules (not the Oregano oil) can also be taken preventively. 1-2 capsules per day should do it. If you do get exposed to something, you can take Oregano Oil capsules, 1 capsule several times/day to treat, but Oregano Oil can disrupt your own healthy flora so should only be taken in acute situation and for a limited period of time, such as 2 weeks at the most unless you know you are treating an active parasitic or bacterial infection.
    • Digestive Enzymes are something I personally take with me to take with meals to help me better digest different foods, especially since I eat very differently when I’m traveling then when I’m at home. For example, this trip I am eating way more cheese and bread than I ever normally eat! I like Digest Gold enzyme capsules by Enzymedica, because it is a very broad-spectrum and powerful digestive enzyme and Enzymedica only focuses on digestive enzymes and enzyme research. I have had a lot of success with them.
  • The Nervous System and Endocrine System (specifically the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal, aka HPA, Axis)
    • If you need help getting in sync with a new time zone, it is helpful to have an herbal sleep aid on hand, like our Sleep Well Drops to help promote rest and sleep if your body is not responding to the dark in the new locale. You can also take a capsule such as Valerian root or a blend such as Sound Sleep by Gaia Herbs. All of these promote sleepiness and relaxation and can help promote deeper sleep.
    • Melatonin can also be utilized when adjusting to a new time zone by taking 3-5 mg an hour before your intended sleep time at your destination (you can take it enroute) or your intended bedtime when at your destination.
    • Adaptogenic herbs that help with energy levels and cortisol balance can be useful for taking in the morning at your location, especially for the first few days when you may wake up not feeling fully rested. Licorice root and Rhodiola root are both used in the morning to help boost energy levels. I prefer tinctures, where you can take 15-30 drops when you wake up. We also make Energy & Metabolism Drops from Herban Wellness that would accomplish the same thing, plus it contains a seaweed extract, Bladderwrack, to help support the thyroid gland and metabolism. Or Adrenal Health from Gaia Herbs is a good capsule blend.
  • Essential Oil singles I bring with me:
    • Tea tree – for any cut, wound, or pimple you might want to dab this onto for its antimicrobial benefits.
    • Lavender – for burns, wounds, or for relaxation and anxiety this can be applied to wrists and temples.
    • Peppermint – for headaches on the temples, for stomach upset if applied to the area around the belly button, for cooling you by applying some to your feet or temples.
    • *Please dilute appropriately and know the limits of these very strong aromatic extracts!
  • Essential Oil Towelettes by Herban Essentials (I know, they have Herban in their name, too!) are my new favorite travel kit item because they use 100% pure essential oils such as Orange, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Lavender, & Peppermint on towelettes that are individually wrapped (I don’t love that part but it’s handy). You can open one and wipe down things around you on the plane, as well as cleaning your hands when you don’t have access to a sink and soap. And they smell awesome too! We now carry them at Herban Wellness.

Modify according to your travel needs and the time you’ll be away, of course.
Let me know if there’s anything herbal you won’t leave home without!
Happy and safe travels to you!
 

Written by guest writer and herbalist Taylor Jeffers for Herban Wellness.
We are taught in grade school the basics of health – nutrition, exercise, and hygiene, but what about having health goals specific to the world we live in? Nowadays we are exposed to more toxins on a daily basis, have high-stress lifestyles, and are overfed yet undernourished. Shifting our focus to creating optimal health now is investing in tomorrow.
It’s important to acknowledge the basics of the body’s needs and support the foundations of health. We can do this by providing the body with essential nutrients, ensuring proper organ function, removing things that directly impede optimal health, and supporting a balanced microbiome. The following are primary factors to address when building optimal health.
Deficiency:
Despite the fact that we are a well-fed nation, nutrient deficiency is still a common issue. Nutrient deficiency is not only caused by a poor diet but also by farming practices that deplete the soil, overconsumption of nutrient depleting substances like sugar, consumption of processed foods that are lacking in vital nutrients, and long-term use of medications.
Toxicity:
As a growing concern in our highly developed and ever expanding world, reducing our exposure and ensuring our bodies’ capability to release toxins is crucial. Exposure to toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, medications in our water supply, volatile organic compounds like flame-retardants found in furniture, petroleum-derived ingredients in topical products, and much more are all linked to various issues from allergies to cancer.
Stressors:
The effects of stress are far-reaching. Stress is not just a conversation of mental health but of the entire body. Prolonged stress affects every single organ system and is linked to decreased immunity, digestive issues, cardiovascular disease and so on.
Pathogens:
Like the Earth, our bodies are an ecosystem. This delicate ecosystem may become disrupted through exposure to pathogens and by overuse or misuse of antibiotics. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem requires a healthy gut flora through the use of fermented foods or probiotics, preventing spread of pathogens, and supporting the immune system when necessary.
Creating a plan that is as unique as you:
A truly holistic approach requires a look at our family history, lifestyle, and constitution.
While genetics are not a death-sentence, it is important to know what runs in your family to know where your predispositions may lie. Taking account of your genetic background along with your constitution and lifestyle can provide clues that support your plan. It can be hard to know where to start, but focusing on the basics of nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are all great places to begin. Once that has been established, herbal medicine can provide extra support.
Using herbs as tools to optimize health:
The most favored herbs amongst herbalist are generally those that tonify the body. These herbs are given the name tonics as the generally support the overall function of an organ or organ system by nourishing and strengthening. True tonics are herbs that walk the line between food or herb but are generally more medicinal or nutrient dense than most foods. By supplying essential nutrients to a particular organ or organ system, the organ may resume proper vital functioning. A well documented example is the balancing nature of red raspberry leaf on the female reproductive tract. Other tonic herbs include nettle, oats, dandelion, milk thistle and hawthorn.
Many herbs are incredibly helpful at nourishing the body as they provide nutrients in a highly bioavailable form. These include herbs such as nettle, oatstraw, horsetail, chickweed and so on. You can add these herbs to your food by sprinkling them in as powders, adding them to smoothies, infusing your oils and vinegars, or infusing in broths. Most commonly they are taken as a long-infusion where they will be steeped in cold water overnight (this maximizes extraction of minerals) and drunk freely everyday.
Herbs such as ashwagandha, astragalus, or one of the many ginsengs are given the title ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens help the entire body adapt to stressors by modulating the stress response mechanisms. Where there is deficit or excess these herbs will bring back into homeostasis. They strengthen the entire body and are safe to use long-term. While in order to be a true adaptogen they must be non-specific in their action on the body, some herbs will have higher affinities to certain organs or slightly different energetics. For some examples, reishi mushroom strengthens the cardiovascular system, while astragalus is king at strengthening the immune system, and ashwagandha is calming whereas rhodiola is stimulating for most people.
Herbs that are considered cleansing are herbs that promote optimal function and generally stimulate the organs of elimination. It’s easy to overlook this step and sometimes we take this step too far by making detoxification a race to be won. For some, targeted detoxification programs are necessary and should be overseen by a professional. For the rest of us it’s crucial to recognize what can support optimal function of our emunctory organs: the intestines, liver, kidneys, skin and lungs. Some herbs that are helpful here include dandelion leaf and root, burdock root, yellow dock root, cleavers, and milk thistle. Using these herbs periodically to open elimination channels can relieve the toxic burden on those organs and revitalize the body.
Creating a healthy gut microbiome is often considered to be the route to optimal health, as it is commonly where many ailments start. Including bitter herbs with our meals supports our digestive processes and consuming plenty of pre- and probiotics are essential to a thriving gut flora. Some herbs like burdock or dandelion root provide inulin, a fiber that acts as a prebiotic, and are also bitter which can improve digestion. They are optimally consumed as a powder or other whole-root form to provide inulin, and can also be consumed as teas, capsules or even taken as a tincture before meals to prepare the body for digestion and for their other benefits. Other herbs in this category may include specific antimicrobials that can balance out a disrupted flora or fight chronic viral or bacterial infections. Our favorites at Herban Wellness include olive leaf, berberine-rich herbs such as oregon grape root or goldenseal, lemon balm, thyme, and yarrow.
Reducing oxidative stress on the body takes high precedence in the modern world. Incorporating antioxidant rich herbs in your cooking or supplements can dramatically change the way your body is recuperating from the damaging chemical warfare it encounters daily. This ultimately leads to less chronic inflammation in the body. Herbs in this category include the well-known turmeric, ginger and rosemary and lesser acknowledged olive leaf, artichoke leaf, and clove. Essentially colorful foods are the richest sources, so don’t forget your herbs such as elderberry, schisandra, hawthorn berry, rose hips and goji berry! The cell protective capabilities of milk thistle, schisandra berries, and astragalus are an important consideration where any damage is suspected or to be expected with certain types of ongoing medical treatment.
As you work towards supporting your body’s needs from the ground up, you may discover that radiant health was always within reach. The recommendations are intended to spark a desire to focus on the building blocks of health in a holistic way by using what nature offers us. For centuries we have evolved with plants as food and medicine, and this unique relationship can be re-established to create vibrant health for today and tomorrow.

This has been a thought on many health-conscious people’s minds: how do I protect myself from this invisible, potentially toxic, radiation that is drifting our way via air and water from Japan as I write.  I think it is a question worth asking, even though there are those who scoff.  I especially think it’s important when prevention and acting “as if” in sensible ways could only provide health benefits. From what I can find, iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, the radioactive element that can most effect/damage the thyroid gland, but cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years!  It also mixes easily with water and acts similarly to potassium in the body, and so is taken up and processed by the body similarly.  Cesium and uranium both have the most potential to negatively effect the kidneys.  Therefore, it appears that the thyroid gland and the kidneys are the most susceptible to nuclear radiation.
The problem with radiation  in general is that we don’t really know what damaging levels are, and our exposure has gone up as more radiation is continually being emitted around us, from electronics, cell phones, etc.  With the exposure to nuclear radiation through this current crisis,  we may not notice immediate health problems but could experience higher cancer rates years down the road.
How do we protect ourselves?  The reading that I’ve done now points to several things you can do right now, that are generally really good things for the body all the time.  Some of this is based on scientific studies that looked at mainly animals, but people as well, during and after radiation exposure, to nuclear radiation as well as radiation from cancer treatment, x-rays, etc.,  and some is based on information we know about how radiation is processed in the body.
Antioxidants:
Makes sense, right?  Radiation causes free radical damage and antioxidants can help reduce that damage.  Some antioxidants to consider: turmeric (or curcumin at 2-4 g/day, a compound extracted from turmeric, which has been shown to protect the body from breast cancer after radiation exposure), Ginkgo biloba (protective after radiation exposure), rosemary, beta carotene (from carrots, kale, tomatoes, blue-green algae, etc.), vitamin E, glutathione (a powerful antioxidant made up of the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamine;  found in high amounts in barley and watercress, but otherwise is synthesized by taking the amino acids in supplement form or applying a glutathione cream), superoxide dismutase (SOD) (another powerful antioxidant that you can take in supplement form and is found in horseradish), selenium cysteine (found in high amounts in broccoli and garlic), and the brassica family plants (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.).
Mushrooms:
These wonderful fungi can help protect the body from radiation, probably partly because of a compound called beta-glucan, which is particularly protective to the bone marrow after radiation.  Mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, and cordyceps are also immune supportive and have many anticancer/tumor properties.  How much do you need to take to be effective?  A typical dose would be 1-2 g twice/day of the powder, capsules, or tincture.  You can also incorporate some mushrooms (shiitake, maitake)  into your food.
Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda):
This substance appears to bind to both uranium and cesium and minimize their damaging effects on the kidneys, which have to excrete them.  One source I found suggested 1/2 tsp, twice/day away from food.
Adaptogens:
This powerful category of plants is protective and supportive to the body in general.  Particularly of note are Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng), RhodiolaEleutherococcus (Eleuthero), and Holy basil (Tulsi).

A therapeutic dose of these would be 2 dropperfuls (about 60 drops or 2 millileters) 2-3 times/day of the tincture (1:2 extract would provide 1 gram of herb per 2 ml of liquid ingested), 2-3 cups of tea at 1 Tbsp/cup simmered for 20-30 minutes for the roots and steeped 20 minutes for the leaves (holy basil), or 2 grams of the powder/capsules, twice/day.
Algae & Other Chlorophyll-rich greens:

Chlorella & Spirulina in particular are detoxifying to the body and known to carry radiation out the body, partly due to the chlorophyll content and due to carotenes and minerals in these superfoods.  Wheatgrass is also very high in chlorophyll and shown to help with radiation.
Iodine & Seaweed:
Iodine can compete with iodine-131 for use by the thyroid gland, therefore limiting radioactive exposure.  Although potassium iodide is recommended for high levels of radioactive iodine exposure, it is not recommended for long-term use.  Seaweed and other iodine-containing substances (fish, iodized salt) are better long-term sources.  Kelp, kombu, bladderwrack, and other “brown seaweeds” are considered the best for protecting the body.  They also are a source of trace minerals that are helpful for metabolic processes in the body and have antioxidant effects.  3-5 g/day is recommended, with 3 g amounting to about 1 tsp of kelp powder.
Vitamins & Minerals:
Vitamins E, D3, C, and A are all antioxidants and vitamin D3 has been shown to support immune function, so all of these are potentially helpful.  The minerals selenium, iodine, & magnesium are most cited for their potentially beneficial effects during this time.
What would a good approach be?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing.  I take a tincture (a liquid extract) combining several herbs, including Adaptogens & Antioxidants.  Mine includes adaptogens (American ginseng & Schisandra berry, which protects the liver) and antioxidants/liver support (Turmeric, Rosemary, & Ginkgo).  I take 60 drops (2 dropperfuls) twice/day.  I take 2 – 500 mg kelp capsules twice/day, so 2 grams/day.  I also take 1 Tablespoon of a green powder blend once/day that contains chlorella, spirulina, kelp, alfalfa, and nettle.  I take about 5000 IU vitamin D3 once/day.
It may sound like a lot, but it takes me 5 minutes out of my day to do.  I put 2 squirts of my herbal tinctures in a little water, 1 squirt of my liquid vitamin D3, &  toss it back with my kelp capsules with breakfast.  At some point during the day I shake up my green powder in about 4 oz of water in a jar and get it down as quickly as possible (you could alternatively take this in a smoothie or with juice).  I then take 2 more squirts of my tincture and 2 more kelp capsules with dinner.  And I’ve done my best at getting in some good nutrients for the day, including broccoli and kale.  I was, by the way, doing all of this except for the faithful taking of my kelp capsules, before I found out about the nuclear radiation from Japan.
My hope in sharing this information is to empower you with tools you can incorporate into your life to help protect you from the radiation we are going to be exposed to in some degree over the weeks/months to come.   It is better to act than to ignore this potential danger or to freeze in fear.  Please give feedback/insights and feel free to ask questions.

Stress is unavoidable at points in our lives.  The goal is to manage our response to stressors in such a way that it is not detrimental to our health or well-being over time.
This is a tea blend for stress relief and adrenal support, containing herbal “adaptogens” that help the body better adapt to stress.  The challenge with many of these adaptogens is that they are roots, bark, or berries that do not infuse very well as a tea; they need to be “decocted,” which means they need to be simmered in water like you would when cooking a grain like rice, for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Herbal adaptogens are herbs that act in nonspecific ways to help the body better “adapt to stress.”  These herbs were originally studied on world-class athletes and people in the military, primarily by Russian and Chinese scientists, and have been shown to generally help support the adrenal glands, strengthen the immune system, protect organs vulnerable to the effects of stress, and increase energy levels and endurance.  Adaptogens are thought to act on the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis in some way, helping to re-regulate and balance teh hormonal signaling systems in the body. Three herbs in this tea blend have this effect, all but cinnamon.
The herbs in this blend, Eleuthero, Licorice, and Devil’s club also have their particular unique properties.  For example, Licorice root is protective to the liver and antiinflammatory while also supporting the adrenal glands and energy levels.  Devil’s club is a native plant whose root bark is used to balance blood sugar, boost the immune system, and help with respiratory health, helping to break up mucus and acting as an expectorant.  Eleuthero is generally balancing while strengthening the immune system, increasing endurance & oxygen-carrying capacity, lowering blood pressure & triglyceride levels.
Ingredients: Devil’s club root bark, Eleuthero root, Licorice root, Cinnamon bark.
*As a side note, licorice root does not take like the flavor associated with black licorice candy, which is flavored with anise seed oil.  Licorice root has a sweet, starchy flavor and is very nice in tea blends.
*Licorice root should not be consumed in quantities of 3 grams or more per day (about 1 tsp of the dried root) by people with a tendency toward high blood pressure because of its effect on aldosterone in the kidneys.