A compact, easy-to-travel-with natural first aid kit is a wonderful way to be prepared for everyday health concerns when you’re away from home.
With that in mind, my question for guests in Season 9 of the podcast is, “What would you include in your herbal first aid kit?”
I’m getting the ball rolling by giving you a peek into my travel kit. I hope it will serve as a useful springboard for creating your own.
After listening in, you’ll know:
► Principles to rely on when creating a natural first aid kit for travel
► Seven herbalist-tested and -recommended products to support the big three systems in your body that are often impacted by travel
► What to look out for when you’re reading labels and choosing products
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Hello friends! We are gearing up for Season 9 of the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast and with the new season comes a new question that I’ll be asking all of my guests and that question is, “What would you include in your herbal first aid kit?”
I’m going to start things off with a little show and tell of my own travel natural first aid kit. I’m excited to be sharing this because it’s actually what I’m going to be using this summer as I travel to Colorado and in Washing State to see a couple of Tori Amos concerts. I’m also headed to Mexico this year. I’m going to go down there for some celebration of life gatherings for my dad who passed last fall. He spent the last 20 years of his life in Mexico. He’s very proud to be a Mexican citizen and he has a lot of chosen family down there. I’m going to go down there so that we can celebrate his life together.
What I’m sharing today is actually what I’m taking on these trips. This Season 9 question was submitted by Maggie, who’s a listener of the show, and in return she’s going to be getting a signed book from me. If you’d like to submit a question for the podcast, the best way to do that is to be subscribed to my weekly newsletter because in there I often ask folks questions like this, “What would you like to see as a question for the podcast?” as well as other things. I always love getting your feedback.
Okay, so let’s dive in.
Hello and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee Podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food and through nature connection. I’m your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this Channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.
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Okay, grab your cup of tea and let’s dive in.
When I’m thinking about my travel natural first aid kit, I have a couple of considerations. The first is how am I going to travel? Because if I’m traveling by car, that gives me a lot more space than say, traveling by air or train or even if it’s with a backpack. So, in any case, whether I’m traveling by car or with just a backpack through the woods or by air, I always want to keep things somewhat contained, right? To do that, I’m looking for herbs that do more than one thing. I want to have one herb that does a lot of things to limit the space. The term for this is “polychrest herbs,” herbs that do many things.
I’m going to share my favorites with you. You might have your favorites. I’m going to give some alternatives. The goal, of course, is not that your travel natural first aid kit looks exactly like mine, but that you understand the principles behind it so you can create your own that works really well for you.
When I’m traveling, there are three areas of concern for me and that is digestion, my nervous system, and also upper respiratory infections. I’m going to start first with digestion and the things I bring along. Digestion is a big one for a lot of folks when they travel because you’re eating new foods. You’re on a different schedule. Any anxiety or nervousness—which we’ll talk about more—of course, can affect our digestion. For me, personally, I like to have something that’s really readily convenient that I know is going to work for me because if I have anything off in my digestive system, I don’t want to have to go spend time looking for something. I just want to have it with me. Let’s see what I’ve got here.
One thing that I always bring with me anywhere I go—really, it’s always in my purse—is some kind of ginger candy. Ginger is so fabulous for all sorts of digestive stuff, whether it’s nausea or just any kind of bloating. I love that these are just little, small packages that I can put in my purse, put in my pocket, take them with me wherever I go so I always have some when I’m traveling. It’s worth trying different kinds because when we are using ginger candies, we don’t really want them to be candy.
We want them to be strong, potent and work. If you’re going to add this to yours, try different kinds out. I really like Reed’s. I just haven’t seen that in a while so I have these other ones. Try out different kinds of gingers. They are great and easy to take along, and are just going to be your one-stop shopping for all sorts of digestive stuff. Also, great for upper respiratory infections, which we’ll discuss in a moment as well.
Another thing I like to bring is a bitters blend. This can be something that is a blend or it could just be a simple bitter herb that can also help with digestion. Bitters are wonderful for just keeping things in check. I don’t expect them to solve every problem with digestion, but when we take them regularly, it just helps prime our gut and prime our whole digestive system so it’s working well. I love bitters. I make all sorts of different bitters blends and so sometimes I’ll bring my own blend.
I really like Urban Moonshine Bitters. This one here, the Calm Tummy Bitters has chamomile in it, which I’m going to talk a lot about. This is a great one. It comes in a spray bottle so you can just spray it and it’s pretty compact. It can fit into pocket, purse or backpack. That’s a great one because sometimes our digestion, when it’s off when we’re traveling, is due to kind of a nervousness factor, so the Calm Tummy Bitters are great.
I mentioned chamomile so I might as well start talking about chamomile. Chamomile is one of my personal favorite herbs, one that I rely on for so many things. You may love chamomile or chamomile might not work for you. I’ll give you some other things you can try if chamomile is not for you. I love chamomile for digestion, specifically. It can modulate inflammation in the digestive system. It is a bitter so it helps with that digestive process. It’s also antispasmodic, so if there’s any kind of digestive spasms going on, chamomile can be great for that. It’s wonderful as a tincture because it’s convenient to take it with you like that, but I also often take chamomile tea with me. I just throw in some tea bags. I want to make sure that they’re pretty fresh, potent and of good quality. I take some chamomile tea bags with me too because that chamomile tea is also wonderful for just supporting digestion. We’ll talk about it in the nervous system as well or for soothing the nervous system. It’s a nice after-dinner treat. Chamomile is this wonderful polychrest herb who does so many things.
One year, I was traveling and I was teaching at an herbal conference. I woke up that morning and I had pink eye. My eye was all goopy and pretty gross and I thought, oh great. This is not really how I want to teach, having this eye infection. I had just flown in the day before. I must have picked something up at the airport. I had chamomile tea bags in my little kit, so I took it out, dunked it in some warm water and then used that tea bag as a compress on my eye and by the time I was teaching, everything looked great. So a wonderful polychrest herb as a tea bag, as a tincture.
I also really like chamomile glycerite. You want to have a really strong blend, a strong preparation of it. I love Galen’s Way. Chamomile glycerite is a non-alcohol preparation and has a sweetness to it. Also wonderful even though that sweetness in there can still be used as a digestive. Can still be used for calming. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself, but there’s so much you can do with just chamomile. You could just bring the tea bags. You could just bring the tincture.
If you haven’t already listened to my episode about chamomile with Leslie Lekos, then I highly recommend that. She has a recipe in there for chamomile cardamom bitters and she talks about how that has really helped her with some digestive stuff as well. Highly recommend that episode, highly recommend chamomile. But I get that chamomile isn’t for everyone. Some people are sensitive to the Aster family and so they have some problems with chamomile.
If you know that too, then skip the chamomile, but there are some other herbs that can work somewhat similarly. Lemon balm is a good option. Lemon balm is wonderful for digestion and is also wonderful for soothing the nervous system, which we’ll talk about soon as well.
Another option could be yarrow. Yarrow is great for digestion. It’s great for upper respiratory infections. If you brought the powder along or a tea bag then you could use it even to stop bleeding, so yarrow can be an excellent choice as well. I just happened to have an episode about yarrow as well. I have a solo episode and I also have an interview with Guido Masé on yarrow and that episode is one of the most popular episodes of the entire Herbs with Rosalee show, so if you haven’t listened to that episode with yarrow and Guido Masé, definitely check that out.
For my next digestion suggestion, it’s Curing Pills. These are a very well-known remedy from Plum Flower. They are something I learned when I was in Traditional Chinese Medicine school and I have relied on them so many times. They come as capsules and the capsules are filled with the little pills. If necessary, you can just take out everything and put it in a smaller container. These are great for many different digestive upsets that you might have. There’s some activated charcoal in there. It’s just a great formula that works super well, one that I’ve relied on so many times.
To recap, for your everyday digestive stuff when you’re traveling, I love ginger candy. I love bitters blends. I love a chamomile tincture or glycerite. You could also turn to lemon balm or you could turn to yarrow. I love the Curing Pills as well.
Later this year, I’m headed to Mexico, which sometimes I get stomach upsets that go beyond the normal upset belly kind of thing, and so for that trip I’m going to bring things that are a bit stronger. I’m definitely going to bring activated charcoal capsules that can be really fabulous for all sorts of stomach bugs. I’m also going to bring wormwood tincture. This is a very potent herb. It takes just a couple of drops to get results. I’ve seen it have amazing results for long-term stomach problems, as well as things that are more acute in nature. I just take a couple of drops with that as needed and I’ll bring that to Mexico as well. For Mexico, I’ll bring all the stuff I mentioned but I’ll also bring some activated charcoal, as well as the wormwood tincture.
Another thing that can go a bit awry with me when I’m traveling is my nervous system. I can be a bit of an anxious traveler, just being out of my routine or having to catch early morning flights or what have you, can leave me feeling a little bit frazzled and I really want my plant friends with me so I can rely on them to just help me bring things down a notch or two.
Some of the things that I love for this we’ve already discussed because they’re polychrest herbs that do a lot, and remember I want to bring one herb that does so many things. That chamomile tincture is fantastic for soothing and calming the nervous system taken in larger dosages. It can also be great for promoting sleep, which I don’t tend to have a lot of trouble with sleep myself, but when you have to get to bed early because you have the early morning flight, something like chamomile can be great. Again, it can be a tincture. It can be glycerite or you could take the tea bags as well. Chamomile is a great one to rely on for that.
Another one I really like is lavender. Especially if I’m going to be staying in hotels, I like to bring a lavender sachet with me because—I can smell it. It smells so good. I don’t like the smell of all the bleach and everything that’s on the sheets in the hotel room and it’s just nice and comforting to have some lavender with me that I can squeeze and smell as I go to sleep. I also like lavender hydrosol or lavender essential oils, pretty compact just having that aroma with me.
Speaking of which, I often bring hydrosols with me. This is rose hydrosol from Leslie Lekos at Wildroot Botanicals. Sometimes I’ll think it’s kind of excessive to bring a whole hydrosol with me when I’m on a trip, but every time I don’t bring it I regret it. Hydrosols are just so great for that aroma and the soothing quality. When you’re visiting a hot place, it can just be a great refresher. There’ve been times I haven’t brought a rose hydrosol with me and then I end up buying it when I’m traveling because I love it so much. I love the rose. I love lavender as well. There’s chamomile, lemon balm. Lots of different choices in that realm for whatever you would like.
Another thing I mentioned, sleep. That chamomile can be great for sleep or whatever works for you if sleep tends to be an issue for you when you’re traveling. I love that you can create a blend, a bitter relaxing nervine blend that can help both when taken in smaller quantities, be great for digestion, and then taken in larger quantities can be great for sleep. Again, I love chamomile. Chamomile could be a base of that, but there are so many herbs to choose from here. Lemon balm, as I mentioned, great for digestion. It doesn’t really put me to sleep, but maybe it does to you. Valerian, again, some people don’t get along with valerian, but for those of us who do, that can be a wonderful herb that promotes digestion as well as promotes sleep. That’s it for the nervous system.
The other thing that I like to be prepared for when I’m traveling is an upper respiratory infection. That’s because when we are traveling out and about, it’s just easy to pick up things. But I’d rather not so I like to bring things both for prevention, as well as something to immediately address a symptom which can help to shorten the duration of an illness or perhaps stop the symptoms from gaining speed and becoming a full-blown illness.
One thing I love for this is elderberry. Sometimes I’ll just bring elderberry tincture as a simple. I often like to combine it with echinacea though--this combination of elderberry and echinacea together. You can bring that as a tincture with a little dropper in it and that can be this sort of thing and you could take it like that. I really like to bring it as a spray because you can spray it directly on your throat if you’re feeling like you have a sore throat, which is excellent. It’s just really convenient. If you don’t want to make your own elderberry or echinacea throat spray, you can buy some.
This is a wonderful blend from Pixie Botanicals and it’s a propolis throat spray. So, a propolis throat spray, elderberry echinacea throat spray or whatever kind of throat spray you’d like to make. In my book, Wild Remedies, I have a recipe for a flower power throat spray. Lots of options out there, but it would just be a wonderful thing to bring with you to help prevent an illness and to address it right when it starts. With these, I’m often taking them a little bit preventively. For example, if I am in a train or a plane then I’m going to be taking them while I’m traveling as well.
Another thing that I really like to bring sometimes instead of or in addition to, are elderberry gummies. I love elderberry gummies because they are just an easy, convenient way to bring elderberry with you. I’m going to be sharing a recipe for you to make your own elderberry gummies with, so check out that recipe. You can download it for free above this transcript. That recipe is also available in our book, Wild Remedies. But perhaps you don’t want to make your own, I highly recommend Gaia Herbs--their extra strength black elderberry. Definitely get the extra strength kind.
Right now, gummies are just huge for all sorts of herbs. If you go to your local health food store, you might see an entire shelf of elderberry gummies. Be sure to look at them very closely. Look at those ingredients because I did that and so many of these different kinds, the first ingredient is sugar. I don’t want sugar to be the first ingredient of my medicine. Gaia Herbs is different. It uses no sugar but it uses apple juice concentrate and it has a high amount of black elderberry per dose. That’s another thing. You don’t really want to have a black elderberry flavored sugar gummy. We want this to be medicine so I really love Gaia for that.
Alright, so those are the things I’m taking with me on my travels this summer and this fall. I hope it inspires you. Maybe you get some ideas from exactly what I’m taking or you get your own ideas. I do want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free printable recipe card for the elderberry gummies.
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One of the best ways to retain and fully understand something you’ve just learned is to share it in your own words. So with that in mind, I invite you to share your takeaways with me and the entire Herbs with Rosalee Community. You can leave comments below or you can simply hit “Reply” to my Wednesday newsletter. I read every comment that comes in and I’m excited to hear your thoughts about a travel natural first aid kit. I’d love to hear what you loved about what I shared. What do you always include in your travel natural first aid kit that maybe I didn’t mention? Let’s inspire each other here.
Okay, you’ve lasted to the very end of the show which means you get a gold star and this herbal tidbit:
I shared some of my favorite things to bring along when I travel, but part of the fun of traveling is being open to what you find in the place where you are. It’s a great way to get to know the area you’re visiting. For example, one year I was travelling in France and I started to get an upper respiratory infection. It’s like a little cold or something and so I wanted elderberry. I don’t know why I didn’t have elderberry with me but I just had it in my mind that I wanted elderberry. So, I went to the health food store and I’m looking around for elderberry and I can’t find elderberry syrup. I just couldn’t find what I really wanted, but it was in my head. Then I just took a step back and I realized this store had an entire section on propolis so I started asking around and propolis is such a big deal there. I thought I’ll try propolis instead and that kind of started my little love affair with propolis. If you aren’t really familiar with propolis, I do have an episode about propolis with Benjamin Pixie who created this propolis throat spray. It was fun to get to know propolis because of that very hands-on experience.
Another time I was traveling in Mexico and I really enjoyed speaking with the curanderos at the market to get something to address the bee sting that I had. I wasn’t prepared for that with my own travel natural first aid kit, but I got to have an enriching experience by turning to others for support.
I’m wishing you happy travels. Thanks for tuning in.
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.