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Nomadic life can be tough on our bodies. Travelling to far flung locations we subject ourselves to an abundance of new bacteria that our immune systems have yet to combat.

Over tired from a long haul journey and unprepared for what lies ahead we leave ourselves susceptible to colds, flu and tummy troubles.

This guide highlights some happy herbs used in traditional medicine to maintain a healthy immune system.

Most people associate a dodgy tummy with visits to foreign environments. Food is often served with bacteria of which our gut is unfamiliar thus reversing the process of ingestion post haste.

We are left feeling a little green until our gut balances its new inhabitants and we settle into our new surroundings. It’s often when our body is busy ridding itself of these new bacteria that we are exposed to viruses and infections lurking in the background.

I’ve never been one to pump myself full of drugs at the first sign of illness. I just don’t like the thought of polluting my body with chemicals. I appreciate in some circumstance modern medicine is a life line without which there would be no hope for recovery. However for my daily health requirements I often take inspiration from the inhabitants of the location I’m in.

So I ask you, why not work with your body to strengthen your immune system and assist the natural process of producing virus fighting antibodies?

Please note my suggestions below should not be construed as medical advice. I have no medical training and am simply offering food for thought which should be utilised after conducting your own thorough research.

CATS CLAW

Happy Herbs For Your Backpack Peruvian Cat's Claw

LOCATION // Native to South America.

DESCRIPTION //  A vine, its roots and bark are traditionally used in Peruvian medicine.

PROPERTIES //  When ingested it is believed to stimulate the immune system, aid digestive complaints, kill cancer cells, and fight viruses. An active oxindole alkaloid found in the plant increases the immune response in the body and act as antioxidants to rid the body of free radicals.

DOSE // Can be taken as tea, in capsules, a tincture or in a raw form. Seek advice from your local health practitioner before incorporating Cat’s claw into your daily routine.

SIDE EFFECTS // Few side effects have been reported however it is known to interfere with certain medications and should be avoided by those who are pregnant and breast feeding.

WHY YOU SHOULD PACK IT // Taken at the first sign of a cold or flu it can help prevent a full blown illness and can aid with digestive troubles encountered when sampling unfamiliar cuisine.

ASTRAGALUS ROOT

Astragalus_Root

LOCATION // Native to Asia.

DESCRIPTION // The yellow root of the Astragalus plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

PROPERTIES // It is classified as an adaptogen because it increases the bodies resistance to an array of chemical, physical and biological stressors. When ingested it is believed to increase immune function by aiding in the production of white blood cells. Astragalus is also thought to have diuretic properties which serve to lower blood pressure.

DOSE // Usually taken as a tonic made from boiling the roots however it can be purchased as a tincture or in powdered form. Seek advice from your local health practitioner before incorporating Astragalus into your daily routine.

SIDE EFFECTS // Few side effects have been reported however it is known to interfere with certain medications and should be avoided by those who are pregnant and breast feeding. Patients with autoimmune diseases, type I diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus should not use Astragalus unless directed by their healthcare professional.

WHY YOU SHOULD PACK IT // Taken during periods of stress such as long haul or exhausting periods of travel it can give the body a boost at a time when it may have weakened defences.

ECHINACEA

 Happy Herbs For Your Backpack Echinacea Flower

LOCATION // Native to America, North East China, Eastern Russia, Korea and Japan.

DESCRIPTION // There is more than one strain of the Echinacea plant. The American plant is believed by those who practise Chinese medicine to be the least effective.

PROPERTIES // Used to fight upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, chronic fatigue and migraines. It is believed that chemicals in the plant attack inflammation in the body reducing any symptoms.

DOSE // Predominantly taken in tincture form however it is also available as a tea, in capsules, freeze dried in tablets and in liquid form. Seek advice from your local health practitioner before incorporating Echinacea into your daily routine.

SIDE EFFECTS // Few side effects have been reported however it is known to interfere with certain medications and should be avoided by those who are pregnant and breast feeding. Patients with autoimmune diseases, type I diabetes or systemic lupus erythematosus should not use Echinacea unless directed by their healthcare professional.

WHY YOU SHOULD PACK IT // Taken at the first sign of fatigue or infection it can assist the body in reducing symptoms caused by bacteria.

ALOE VERA

Happy Herbs For Your Backpack Aloe Vera

LOCATION // Native to the Arabian Peninsula however it has been naturalised in the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South America and the Caribbean.

DESCRIPTION // It is thought to give effective relief to many skin conditions including psoriasis, burns, frostbite, and sores caused by the Herpes simplex virus. When taken orally it can help to lower cholesterol and aids in lowering blood glucose levels in patients with type II Diabetes.

DOSE //  The colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma can be used in its raw form on the skin and ingested. Seek advice from your local health practitioner before incorporating Aloe Vera into your daily routine.

SIDE EFFECTS // Few side effects have been reported however the most common are stomach discomfort and skin irritation. Refrain from using Aloe Vera if these symptoms appear. Be sure to research the source of any Aloe Vera you ingest. There are a number of counterfeit products on the market that have none of the medicinal values of the Aloe Vera plant.

WHY YOU SHOULD PACK IT // It serves as after sun lotion, inspect bite relief and the vitamin content serves to build the body’s immune system and assist in combating stress.

CARDAMOM

Happy Herbs For Your Backpack Cardamom Plant

LOCATION // Native to the rain forests of southern India.

DESCRIPTION // Known to improve digestion, promote good blood circulation and effectively cleanse the body. The aromatic pods are rich in many vital vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health.

DOSE // Incorporating Cardamom as part of your diet is recommended to take advantage of its properties. Seek advice from your local health practitioner before incorporating large doses of Cardamom into your daily routine.

SIDE EFFECTS // Do not take cardamom in amounts greater than those typically found in food if you have gallstones are pregnant or breast feeding.

WHY YOU SHOULD PACK IT // Ingested regularly it helps to keep your gut healthy and promotes good digestion, vital to break down those late night street vendor snacks.

Travel health is something you start to take seriously after falling ill unexpectedly. Yet it is something you should start to consider before you step onto the plane.

It can change the course of your trip in less than twenty four hours. Both Ben and I have had nasty experiences of bad bacteria and are now even more concious of the need to maintain our health while on the road. We suggest it’s something you consider, a healthy immune system is something you should always carry with you.

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Have you ever fallen foul to bad bacteria while travelling? What precautions do you take when you’re on the road?

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13 Responses

  1. Carol Henshaw MB CHB MD

    Many herbal remedies interact with prescribed medications including the oral contraceptive. Also – as their production is not licensed or regulated, you cannot be sure of what is in any preparation unless you do it yourself. I think you should also remind people of of the need for immunisation (and malaria prophylaxis if going to an endemic area) before travel. Also some countries will not allow plant materials to be imported and some require a prescription for any drugs carried in.

    Reply
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  5. Alyse

    Aloe Vera when taken orally can also be a non-habit forming aid for constipation! Wonder plant!

    Reply
  6. Helen

    This is a great article. I never knew cardamon pods looked like that when they’re not dried and put in a jar.
    Another herb/ plant which sticks in my mind for being very helpful is the coca leaf, native to south america and is far from its processed form! It can be a lifeline when suffering from altitude sickness and can starve off thirst and hunger too.

    Reply
  7. Jelly Bean

    My mother used to insist I take echinacea at the first sign of illness, I am therefore reluctant to use it. However your post has made me think twice!

    Reply
  8. Seasoned Traveller

    I have often used Echinacea and Aloe Vera to good effect although I have not heard of Cat’s Claw. However I will certainly do some research and try it should the need arise.
    I too am an advocate of prevention is better than cure.

    Reply
    • Charli | Wanderlusters

      Thank you for your comment, great to hear we’ve introduced you to a new herb!

      Reply