Herbal Holiday Help

Hannah Charman

Hannah Charman

Hannah Charman is founder of Panacea Holistic Health and we are delighted to welcome her to the3rdi.co.uk.

Hannah says, “Panacea Holistic Health is a new way of looking at your health. The name ‘Panacea’ was chosen because Panacea was the greek goddess of healing, well versed in the practice of Herbal Medicine, and because nowadays ‘Panacea’ is used to describe a ‘cure all’.

Whilst Herbalists can’t claim to ‘cure’, many of our patients make a far better recovery than they ever expected when they try herbal treatment.

The holistic approach I use enables patients to make informed decisions about their health based on a combination ancient knowledge and the latest research.”

There’s nothing worse than waiting all year for your well earned break, and then getting ill as soon as you’re off the plane. It’s as if your body is just waiting for a window of opportunity to force you to rest, and takes full advantage!. Luckily there are plenty of herbal tricks you could use, and here are just a few essentials.

Holiday Tummy
For those with a sensitive digestion, even a relatively minor change in drinking water will upset them. Obviously it’s sensible to follow guidelines on the local drinking water, but bitter herbs can also be used to strengthen the digestive system from before you leave until after you come back. Many are very strong so you only need a small amount, making them easy to carry.

Bitter herbs work by stimulating the digestive processes. If you try one you immediately salivate more, your stomach makes a little more acid, your liver more bile, your pancreas more pancreatic enzymes, and before you know it things are firing on all cylinders. All these help to kill any bacteria you’re likely to encounter and if you’re a more adventurous traveller, gut parasites as well. Many people confuse bitter and sour tastes. Foods like lemon and vinegar are classed as sour, whereas examples of bitter foods would include things like strong black coffee or tea, and lettuce hearts. It’s useful to carry a small dropper bottle of Mugwort or Gentian with you, and take 5 drops in a mouthful of water about 10-15 minutes before eating. The French aperitif Absinthe is actually derived from Mugwort (Artemesia absinthium), and all aperitifs were originally used to prepare the digestion for a heavy meal.

It’s important to taste the bitterness of the herb, and not disguise it by taking capsules or something more pleasant at the same time. It’s the bitter taste of the herb that makes it work, which can be difficult when trying to persuade children to use them!

Bitter herbs should not be taken during pregnancy or if you’re trying for a baby, and care should be taken by those with inflammatory conditions in the stomach or bowel, so ask your herbalist for advice if you need to.

If the worst happens in an otherwise healthy adult, it’s really best to take plenty of fluids and leave it 24 hours to work its way out of the system naturally. Cola makes a cheap and readily available rehydration mix for diarrhoea wherever you are in the world, having exactly the right ratios of sugars and salts. Get medical advice if a child, elderly person or someone already unwell gets a stomach upset, or if symptoms carry on for more than 24 hours. In an emergency, very strong black tea (ie 10 teabags to a mugful) sipped at regular intervals will usually stop diarrhoea pretty quickly.

Bites & Stings
If you’re one of those people on the mosquito hit list, you’re likely to smell very attractive to them. Mossies favourites include sugary blood, and smelly feet, so there are a few things you can do to keep them away, starting a couple of weeks before you leave.

To make yourself smell nasty to them, cut out as much sugar from your diet as possible, including fruit sugars by swapping fruit for vegetables. At the same time, start taking a Vitamin B Complex or Brewers Yeast tablet every day, and all the time you’re away. Quite rightly you’ll be wanting to indulge in ice cream and other sugary delights whilst you’re on holiday, so if you can abstain before you go and carry on with the tablets, the mossies will probably go and find someone tastier to bite.

Your herbalist will be able to make you a herbal travel mix which can be used anywhere, but is particularly good if you’re going a bit off the beaten track or into a malarial area. Formulas vary between Herbalists as we’ve all got our favourite herbs, but generally contain a base like Marigold, along with a little Echinacea and 4-5 bitter herbs. As well as aiding digestion, Mugwort has been found in several clinical trials to have strong antimalarial properties, so it would be very wise to have some with you. Whilst it’s not 100% guaranteed to prevent malaria, those of us who regularly use herbal travel mix are confident enough to leave the malaria tablets at home, and I don’t know of any disasters having happened as yet! It helps prevent stomach upsets, malaria and can be used to bathe wounds, so ask your herbalist to make you some next time you go away.

Echinacea is a mild analgesic and one of its traditional uses was as an antidote to Rattlesnake venom. The tincture or tea can be safely applied to all bites and stings, including those from dogs and jellyfish, and will not only take away the pain but help any wound to heal more quickly as well.

Wasp stings where the sting is left in the skin should be gently removed by gripping the base with tweezers, or using a finger nail or credit card to sweep it away. Don’t touch the venom sack and if you can, put some fresh onion juice or Echinacea tincture on it afterwards.

Unlike wasps, bee stings are alkaline so need to be treated with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

Sunburn
There are a few good quality natural(ish) sun creams on the market now, many of which contain carrot juice as a natural UV filter. It goes without saying to be really careful not to let your fiery friend ruin your holiday.

With mild sunburn, Aloe vera gel kept in the fridge and if possible mixed with a drop of Lavender oil will help to soothe it and aid the healing. Likewise grated potato applied to sunburn will take the heat away nicely, but as always, get medical help if you’re worried.

Prickly Heat
Prickly heat is the itchy rash that happens when the sweat glands become blocked, and if you’re prone to it your herbalist will be able to include something in your travel mix to help. As an emergency measure, bathing the affected areas in cold chamomile or marigold tea (at least 2 tea bags per mugful) will help, as will plenty of chamomile drunk as a tea. Creams and ointments should be avoided if possible as they clog the pores further.

Heat Exhaustion
Unlike heat stroke, which is quite different, heat exhaustion will make a person collapse suddenly. Often they’ll feel dizzy and nauseous, so it’s best to get them somewhere cool if possible and give plenty of fluids. A pinch of chilli powder either in their water, or straight onto the tongue will get their circulation back into balance and help them to recover more quickly.

Heatstroke comes on more slowly and makes the person feel cold, in which case it’s really not a job for herbs as they need hospital treatment.

So, your ideal holiday herbal first aid kit could include:

* Travel mix from your herbalist. Let them know if you’re pregnant though.
* Aloe vera gel.
* A dropper bottle of Echinacea
* Chamomile tea bags
* Brewers yeast tablets

Happy trails!

To find your nearest herbalist, go to www.nimh.org.uk > find a herbalist.

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