Travel & First-Aid with Essential Oils
Aromatherapy with a First Aid Travel Kit
By Jeanne Rose and Diana Badger

          Perhaps you're an old hand at frequent-flying, or you're regularly on the road commuting or for business or education purposes, maybe you're one of those who can only manage to tear themselves away from home for a summer camping trip to the mountains. Whatever the case, it's a wise practice to have a good first-aid travel kit on hand and at all times. It can save you or your children a lot of hassle and anxiety to have the simple remedies you need right at your fingertips or at the end of your nose!

          Assembling a first aid kit need not be a complicated endeavor, or an expensive one. Basic first aid can be both simple and cheap, and even aromatic! With a few of the most broad-acting and effective essential oils -- Eucalyptus, the oil of respiration; Tea Tree, the oil of first aid; Rosemary, the oil of stimulation; Peppermint, the oil of digestion; and Lavender, the oil of soothing sedation -- you can treat just about any ailment that should happen your way.

Air Travel: If your stomach or nerves typically go topsy-turvy come take-off time, a blend of Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.) oils -- one drop of each inhaled from a hankie can be used for nausea and motion sickness, as well as a whiff of Lavender for anxiety.

          Upon arrival, you might need something to ease your jet lag, if you are traveling far from home.  That same blend of Rosemary and Peppermint oils can help stimulate and clear up any lingering lag you may feel upon arrival, or throughout the trip.  Later on, Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia) will calm your nerves and ease you into sleep at night; just sprinkle a few drops on your pillow case at bedtime, or freshen your room with some diluted in water in a spray bottle. A hot bath with a few drops of Peppermint or Lavender oil will also help unwind tousled thoughts and prepare you for sleep. Another good treatment for insomnia, jet-lag related or not, is a warm compress of Lavender oil applied on the forehead and chest.

          Aches & Pains: If you have a busy schedule of conference events or tourist attractions in a big city, you may find yourself suffering from tired feet or aching muscles. Rosemary, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) oils are all effective diluted in vegetable oil as a rub for sore muscles and limbs. If your legs and arms feel weak or swollen, give them a rejuvenating Peppermint oil bath.  Feet threatening to collapse? Take off  your shoes and try a rub of Rosemary oil with Bruise Juice to put some spring back in your step. If too much roving in your new walking shoes has given you blisters, apply Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil neat and cover with moleskin.  A good  foot  soak with salts will help those feet of yours.

          Sprains and Injuries: Whether you lose your footing ambling down the Parthenon steps, slip into a mountain stream while blithely jumping rock to rock, or fall head first over a curb chasing after a New York City bus, a sprained ankle or other serious injury will heal more rapidly with immediate and appropriate treatment. The best approach is RICE--not the sushi kind--but Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Combine this with gentle massage with Rosemary and a carrier oil like Bruice Juice.

          Headaches: For the all-too-common stress or tension headache rub the temples with 1 drop Rosemary oil, and slowly sip on 1/2 a glass of water to which another drop of Rosemary oil has been added. Alternatively, dab one or two drops of Peppermint and/or Eucalyptus oil at the back of the neck, or apply as a compress.  With cramp-related headaches or cramps themselves, Lavender is your oil of choice. Dilute it in a massage oil and rub on cramped area.

          Gastro-intestinal: For many of us, travel can be a somewhat harrowing adventure for the digestive system, since we can be exposed to all manner of foods (and food look-alikes!) and preparation techniques to which we may not be accustomed. Peppermint oil is a remedy par excellence for stomachache or bowel distress. Just add one drop to a glass of water, sip slowly, and let the uplifting mint relax you! If the condition is a more serious one of vomiting, increase the dose to two drops of Peppermint, and apply a soothing compress of Rosemary oil on the forehead and stomach. You should also always carry a small bottle  of activated Charcoal.  Whenever  intestinal distress is  imminent, take 4-5 capsules  with that glass of Peppermint water.

          Respiratory congestion: Eucalyptus oil is an excellent remedy for all respiratory problems. Put a few drops in a hot bath and inhale deeply, or better yet, do a steam treatment: boil 2 cups of water, pour in a bowl, let sit a few minutes, then add 2-4 drops of oil. Sit over the steaming bowl and wrap a towel around both your head and the bowl.  Breathe to loosen bronchial secretions so they can be coughed up. Continue for 5-10 minutes, taking breaks as needed. For sinus congestion, alternate, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lavender oils which are all effective as a steam inhalant. Alternatively, put a few drops on a hankie and sniff throughout the day.

          Colds & Fevers:  If due to climate change or too much going on you find yourself under the weather, try inhaling a blend of Peppermint, Tea Tree, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus oils.  Also, apply a compress of these to the chest, diluted with vegetable oil. Of course, the old standbys of rest and high doses of Vitamin C work wonders as well.

          Sunburn:  Although far removed from the frantic pulse of the city, even the serene landscapes of sea, field and forest (to which many of us like to escape) can pose another set of challenges to our bodies. It is easy to forget to cover up as much as we should with hats and sunscreen. If not regularly exposed to the sun's rays, apply cooling Tea Tree and Peppermint oils which provides welcome relief for sunburn pain. First, cool the burned area with a damp cloth. In a spray bottle, mix the oil/s with cool water or hydrosol and spray. The hydrosols of these two oils are quite effective as well.  Peppermint can also soothe overheating due to weather or hot flashes. Apply diluted in water as a compress to the forehead. (Never apply Peppermint oil neat around the eyes as it can irritate!)

          Skin Problems: Many of the assaults of nature are only skin deep, but they can still be painful or annoying! For all of these, be they cuts & scrapes, insect stings or bites (including tick), bruises, deep wounds, athlete's foot, poison oak or other rashes, or road burns, Tea Tree oil and Bruise Juice is a superior remedy. For most of these problems, wash the area if needed and apply the oil neat. For deep or infected wounds, first apply a mud or clay poultice to drain the infection, and then apply neat oil.

Essential Oils Needed: Peppermint, the oil of Digestion; Rosemary, the oil of Stimulation; Eucalyptus, the oil of Respiration; Tea Tree, the oil of Healing; Lavender, the oil of Soothing and Sedating; and Bruise Juice, the all-purpose carrier oil.

Definition of Terms:

Aromatherapy: healing with essential oils (from plants) through the sense of smell by inhalation or through other applications of these therapeutic volatile substances.

Compress: an application technique using a cloth soaked in a combination of water, vegetable oil, or a bland lotion to dilute and spread herbs or essential oils over an area of skin. The size of compress, number of drops of essential oils, and amount of solvent used depends on the size of the area treated.

Essential Oils: volatile materials contained within plant cells and derived by physical processes from the plant. Some essential oils are not in the living tissue but are found during its destruction.

Hydrosol: the water from the distillation process, which contains water-soluble parts of the plant material and micro-droplets of essential oil.

Inhalation: a method of treating mental and physical problems through the breathing in of the volatile, essential oils of aromatic and medicinal plants rather than the drinking of the herbal tea or the ingestion of the oils. Standard methods include inhalation, undiluted through a room diffuser, or diluted in bath or massage oil.

Resources:
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.1994.
- The Aromatherapy Studies Course. San Francisco: Herbal Studies Library.1996.
. The Modern Herbal. Jeanne Rose Herbal Library. 1978
Price, Shirley. Aromatherapy for Common Ailments. New York: Simon & Schuster.1991. 

The Herbal BodyWorks has an Aromatherapy First-Aid Kit for Travel and Minor Emergencies for $26. Includes the five  (4 ml each) basic oils + Bruise Juice and a laminated card describing uses in a beautiful tapestry traveling bag for all home needs. Write them at 219 Carl St., San Francisco, CA 94117, or call 415/564-6785.

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