Perceptions of the holidays are peppered with romantic visions of families gathered round the fireside, logs cracking and chestnuts roasting with the weather safely concealed behind the windowpanes. Yet somehow, we manage to block out the less romantic underpinnings of these happy scenarios: the delayed flights, the marathon races through endless airport corridors, the lost luggage and icy roads all involved in making that cosy fireside gathering possible. Yes, travel: that thing nobody likes to think much about for the simple reason that it is rarely fun and even less frequently easy.

But while we may not be able to make the airplane seats any less lumpy or control the fate of our baggage, we can take some steps to make the process of traveling less stressful to ourselves. A few well-chosen herbal allies can make all the difference between an experience that is memorable for its horribleness or for its ease. Choose a few herbs that will offer protection in the areas below that are most pertinent to you and slip them into your carry-on. You won’t regret the lost space, I promise.

Immune Support

One of the best places to catch a virus is on a plane and no one wants to spend the holidays snivelling in bed. Bolster your immune system and help prevent that nasty cold with two dropperfuls of echinacea every two hours on the day you travel.


A high quality vitamin C supplement with added bioflavonoids also offers immune support in addition to protecting against the radiation you are exposed to while flying.


Stress, lack of sleep and air-plane food can be a terrible combination for your belly. Slip a few packets of ginger or peppermint tea in your bag to support digestion, soothe nausea and ease gas and cramping.



Demulcent herbs like licorice, marshmallow, or slippery elm soothe inflamed bellies and can ease constipation and loose stools with their high mucilage content (be sure to take with plenty of water).

Stress and Tension

Boost your body’s capacity to handle stress by taking an adaptogenic herb such as ginseng or eleuthero beginning a week before travel.


Lavender essential oil can be inhaled or applied to temples to sooth in-flight anxiety, promote sleep, and ease headaches. Relaxing herbs such as skullcap, valerian, and passionflower can also be taken internally to reduce emotional and physical tension and promote relaxation. If flying is a source of extreme anxiety, kava-kava can be taken as needed.

Jet Lag

That familiar constellation of fatigue, achy muscles, and disorientation that so often accompanies flying is caused by a combination of new time zones, lack of sleep and dehydration. Drinking plenty of water on the plane and avoiding beverages such as coffee and alcohol can go a long way towards prevention. A venous tonic such as horse chestnut can also be used to prevent water retention and swollen ankles while a homoeopathic preparation of arnica can reduce the physical trauma of flying and prevent sore and achy muscles.



Adaptogens such as ginseng and eleuthero help the body’s biological clock more efficiently adapt to new time zones. Brain tonics such as rhodiola, gotu-kola, and ginkgo can be used post-travel to help clear out brain fog and boost energy without depleting the body.

Here’s to a travelling experience that is safe, stress-free and easily forgotten. Happy holidays!

Danielle Charles Davies has a BSc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and in addition completed two years of clinical training at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. She has written for the the American Herbalists Guild  and has also served as a food columnist. Her musings, and recipes, can be found at her blog, Teacup Chronicles.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.