travel wellness on an airplane

I adore traveling, and as the president of an online holistic health college, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to travel often, taking students to exotic locales to study indigenous medicine and sourcing organic essential oils around the globe.

For example, this November I volunteered in Nepal with Winrock International and USAID, teaching local cooperatives (many of which are run by women) how to grow and distill quality essential oils.

Whether I’m roughing it or staying somewhere luxe, I’ve developed some tried-and-true strategies for staying healthy while on the go. Microorganisms love airplanes, and a jet-lagged immune system is a compromised immune system. Your natural wellness kit should be as critical an item in your suitcase as your toothbrush. 

The following essential oils and herbs from around the world not only promote health and wellness—they also fit in a plastic zip-top bag so you can breeze through airport security.


Support Your Immune System

The three (or four) thieves blend is an aromatic recipe that has remained a go-to since the 14th century. This blend’s name comes from a long, colorful history. The tale goes that four French thieves were able to rob the graves of the dead without catching the Black Plague during the Middle Ages. Their protection was a mixture of herbs and spices that later became known as “Four Thieves Vinegar.”

Today, there are many variations of this blend. My favorite is a blend of cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Blume), clove Syzygium aromaticum (L.), lemon Citrus limonum (Risso), eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus (Labill.), and rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.) essential oils. 

When you’re sitting on an airplane, listening to other passengers coughing and sneezing, just inhale this delightful aroma or make an aromatic spray to mist yourself once you’re off the plane—but remember to keep it at three ounces or less for those security checkpoints. 



Promote a Happy Head and Tranquil Tummy

The origins of peppermint Mentha ×piperita (L.) date back to ancient Greece. Its botanical name, Mentha, is derived from Greek mythology. As the story goes, Hades, god of the underworld, was in love with the beautiful nymph, Minthe. When Hades’ wife Persephone became jealous, she transformed Minthe into a fragrant but lowly plant, mint. Not to be suppressed, Minthe’s potency and beauty persevered through this aromatic plant.

Results of research such as “Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters” (1994, Cephalalgia) suggest that mint essential oil can promote a clear head from pain. The essential oil is beneficial for suppressing nausea, and the herb also promotes a calm stomach, especially when eating unfamiliar food that can upset your system.

You can also simply inhale the essential oil deeply if your energy is flagging, for clarity or for a quick pick-me-up.

Mint is essential in any wellness kit.



Get More Restful Sleep

It can be challenging to find a healthy sleep cycle when you’re changing time zones. Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia (Mill.), is another versatile, peaceful, must-have botanical in any natural travel kit.  

Lavender’s history dates back more than 2,000 years, when it was used in the mummification process in Egypt. In England, during the Victorian Era, Queen Victoria was wild about lavender and appointed Miss Sarah Sprules “Purveyor of Lavender Essence to the Queen.”

A few drops of lavender oil in your bath can create a soothing, calming aroma sure to promote restful sleep and help you adjust to a new time zone.



Support Your Digestion

When traveling, your digestive system can be thrown off-balance. Ginger, Zingiber officinale (Roscoe), is one of the most effective natural remedies for easing a turbulent tummy.

Ginger is a remarkable herb with a history that goes back 5,000 years. In 500 BC, Confucius wrote that he never had a meal without ginger—and I think we can assume from his calm and wise disposition that his stomach was rarely upset. This little root can be very handy when traveling. It supports digestion and can help ease nausea.

A bottle of ginger essential oil is also a must-have in your natural travel kit. Research supports its use for easing nausea and motion sickness. For those of us who feel a bit green when in motion, rubbing a dab of diluted ginger oil on your pulse points can promote feelings of balance and calm during turbulent boat, car or plane rides.


Stay Clean

One big benefit of traveling with essential oils: They have powerful cleansing properties.

You can make a natural hand sanitizer with essential oils like eucalyptus, E. globulus; rosemary, R. officinalis; ylang ylang, Cananga odorata (Lam.) var. genuine; and tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia (Cheel).

Afraid of hotel shower floors? Blend some of these oils into an aloe base and rub on your feet after a shower for a cleansed, soothing foot massage. (Don’t forget your flip-flops.)


Travel Happy

Armed with your zip-top baggie of these natural travel wellness tools, you’ll be prepared to manage a variety of common issues you may encounter.

Happy, healthy trails!


Dorene PetersenAbout the Author

Dorene Petersen, Dip.N.T., Dip.Acu., R.H. (A.H.G.), is President of American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) in Portland, Oregon, a Distance Education Accrediting Commission-accredited institution offering certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs in holistic health. She has more than 35 years of clinical teaching and lecturing experience in aromatherapy and other holistic health subjects.