At last! Just one day left to cross off the calendar. You’ve set up your ‘out of office’ message, washed and packed your must-have holiday clothing (along with a few items that probably won’t make it out of the case) and you’ve even managed to avoid catching that dreaded lurgy that’s been ‘doing the rounds’.
Just before you head off into the sunset, complementary therapist Mary Dalgleish offers a few tips to help you stay well on your holiday, so that you can make the very most of your precious time away...
Travel sickness and tummy trouble
I was born and raised in Ireland, so regularly travel there by car ferry to see my family and friends. As someone who suffers from sea sickness, I always make sure I’m wearing my trusty Sea-Bands. These are elasticated wristbands that have a little plastic stud embedded on the inside of each band, which applies pressure to a specific point on the wrist called the ‘Nei-Kuan’. This is an acupressure point used in oriental medicine that helps to relieve nausea and vomiting when stimulated.
As an aromatherapist, ginger essential oil is also one of my first go-to oils for nausea, vomiting and motion sickness – simply add one or two drops to a cotton ball or handkerchief and inhale regularly.
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Slowly sipping peppermint, ginger, chamomile or fennel tea can also be useful for an unsettled tummy.
For some people, getting to and from a holiday destination can be a real source of stress and anxiety. One of my favourite aromatherapy books is Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, by Gabriel Mojay. Gabriel teaches aromatherapy from an oriental medicine perspective and says that the two organs that are most frequently in disharmony when we are anxious are the kidneys and the heart – the kidneys are associated with fear and the heart with anxiety.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘rescue remedy’ of aromatherapy, neroli is one of the best essential oils for anxiety. One or two drops on a tissue can linger for hours and bring about a sense of calm if inhaled deeply.
There are many other essential oils that can help to relieve anxiety too, thanks to their sedative properties – these include bergamot, chamomile, lavender, marjoram, jasmine, patchouli, verbena, clary sage and benzoin.
‘Heart 7’ is an acupressure point that can also relieve anxiety. It can be found on the side of the forearm: follow a line down from the edge of your little finger, to where the wrist creases. This point can be activated by pressing with the middle finger of the other hand for one minute while breathing deeply (make sure you do both wrists for best results). This point is used in oriental medicine to treat emotional imbalances, nervousness, anxiety, palpitations, fear and forgetfulness. It can also help insomnia.
Repelling mosquitos and other insects
Mosquitoes can be a problem on holiday – not just because they can ruin a lovely evening in the outdoors, but because in certain countries, they can carry some nasty diseases. Robert Tisserand is a leading expert in aromatherapy and his books, along with the Tisserand Institute website, offer excellent advice about the safe use of essential oils. To repel mosquitoes, he suggests creating a blend of turmeric, peppermint and citronella essential oils in a base oil. I use 20 drops turmeric, 15 drops peppermint and 15 drops citronella in 100ml fractionated coconut oil or unscented cream (though of course you can use any carrier vegetable oil of your choice, including rice bran or jojoba oil).
Lavender oil in a cream or base oil is also a good insect repellent and can be mixed with eucalyptus, if preferred. I make a blend containing 35 drops of lavender with 15 drops of eucalyptus in 100ml fractionated coconut or rice bran oil.
If using a burner or vapouriser, lemongrass, clove bud and citronella are all effective.
Soothing mild sunburn
Even with the best sun protection routine in place, most of us have been caught out by the sun at least once. While severe sunburn requires medical attention (for example, if your skin is blistered or swollen, you have a high temperature or you feel sick and dizzy), mild cases can often be soothed naturally.
Hydrosols (also referred to hydrolats) are the waters that remain after an essential oil has been extracted from a plant by steam distillation. They have a delicate nature and a light aroma, and are ideal for situations that require gentle care, with chamomile and lavender being particularly effective for soothing mild sunburn. Unlike essential oils, hydrosols do not require dilution and can be applied directly to the skin.
Aloe vera has also been used for thousands of years to treat skin conditions, including wounds and burns. In fact, it is so effective at soothing burns, it’s sometimes referred to as the ‘burn plant’. To treat sunburn, spread a layer of pure gel extracted from the inside of an aloe vera leaf over the burnt skin. You can grow your own aloe vera plants at home or of course buy aloe vera extracts to take on holiday with you.
Dealing with jet lag
Jet lag can happen either end of a holiday and take a huge toll on your mood, energy levels and quality of sleep. Changing your sleep schedule to tie in with the time zone you are in can certainly help, as can relaxing just before you are due to go to sleep.
Lavender essential oil is an excellent choice for relaxation, helping to reduce anxiety as well as promote a sense of peace and calm, while cedarwood’s tranquilising properties can help to reduce feelings of restlessness and unease. Apply one or two drops to a hanky or the top corner of a pillowcase and inhale deeply.
Alternatively, you can add a total of 4 to 5 drops to an emulsifying agent, such as solubol (available from essential oil suppliers) and mix into a warm bath before bedtime. If not diluted properly, essential oils can float on the top of bath water, and potentially irritate the skin - using an agent like solubol will help to prevent this.
If you need a little pick me up, citrus oils like grapefruit or bergamot can help you feel uplifted and refreshed, for example, after a long plane ride. Again, just add a drop or two to a tissue and inhale.
Important safety tips for using essential oils
Essential oils are real health heroes, but they are very powerful and need to be treated with respect. If used inappropriately, they can harm your health. Below are just a few safety pointers to bear in mind:
- Only buy essential oils from reputable suppliers.
- Store in a cool place and do not use beyond the recommended date (which may be earlier than the product’s expiry date, if the oil has been opened).
- Never ingest (swallow) essential oils or apply them to the skin neat (undiluted).
- Never use essential oils in place of medical care.
- If you have sensitive skin, always patch test a small amount of any blend or product containing essential oils before use.
- Various cautions apply for babies, children, the elderly, during pregnancy, prior to sun exposure, when taking certain medications, and for some medical conditions. If in doubt, consult a professional aromatherapist (find a registered, qualified and insured aromatherapist in your area at www.fht.org.uk).