Aromatherapy and travel
Every trip, especially long distance, is often associated with a change of climate, environment, time zones and inevitably the long plane, cruise ship or car travel trips cause us a rather close and almost intimate contact with other passengers, i.e. we become exposed to a lot of health hazards in the face of viruses, foreign bacteria and the extreme weather conditions can contribute to challenging further our immune system. During prolonged travel, especially if changing a few time zones, we lack sleep due to jet lag, do not eat properly or at the correct times (who enjoys the food on a plane, if we are lucky to get it?) and we never seem to get enough water, especially with the stringent airport security procedures, restricting the liquids to 100 ml only.
The result is often pretty damaging to our health- the lack of sleep, poor nutrition and dehydration, leave our bodies tired and weak, making it really easy to become victims of colds, flu and gastrointestinal diseases. Often the accommodations we end up using in hotels and resorts may not be all that sanitary and we may be exposed to other issues- bed bugs, flees and insects.
Many people try to manage all these challenges using pharmaceuticals, like pills (melatonin or tranquilizers to help them sleep), disinfectants and sprays against bacteria and insects, multi-vitamins and flu shots. The truth is that even if these chemicals help on some level, they all have side effects and ultimately can damage our delicate immune system even more.
Through a tedious trial and error, I have come to realize that the only way to go about facing such challenges are the natural ways, i.e. with the help of super foods, herbs and essential oils, you can achieve optimal results, protect yourself and your family at home and abroad, as well as strengthen your immune system, without any side effects.
When I first discovered the benefits of Aromatherapy, I could not believe that I have lived without it. Not only most of the herbs and essential oils are pretty inexpensive and easily accessible, but they have a wide range of benefits that even the strongest antibiotics can not achieve, for example the most potent antibiotic can only kill around 60 % of known bacteria, but totally useless against viruses. Not to mention, our bodies quickly become resistant to many antibiotics, rendering them further pointless. Many Essential oils on the other hand (tea tree, lavender, cinnamon, garlic, thyme, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano, frankincense, etc) individually, as well as in various combinations can destroy 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, without harm to the human body. The only potential hazard is if the essential oils are ingested (exception will be the food grade oils like certain brands of peppermint oil, the citrus oils, etc) or develop an allergy if used in excess.
The spectrum of health benefits of the essential oils is extremely broad- not only they help us live in a healthier environment by fighting mold, parasites and insects, but with their antimicrobial qualities, they can prevent illness, enhance our immune system, help us replace and eliminate harmful chemicals in cleaning products, cosmetics and even help against sun damage. In short, the essential oils have many applications in our households and every day life, they are a much cheaper and more easily accessible than expensive chemicals, as well as come in tiny bottles, making them practical to store.
While the benefits of EOs are endless, their detailed characteristics and usage are beyond the scope of this article, I will focus on their application during travel and how they can help us maintain our health when outside of our normal living conditions.
I can not rave enough about this great invention. The EO diffuser, contrary to the old fashioned oil burners and lamps, does not heat/burn the precious oils, but simply breaks down the water and oils into molecules and disperses them into the air around it. This helps humidify and purify the air, spread pleasant aroma, kill harmful bacteria and viruses and create a spa-like atmosphere around us. The effects of the EOs are various, mostly they have the same properties, however some stronger than others. Depending on what oils you put in the diffuser (never more than 5-6 drops of one or several EOs in some water), you can achieve various benefits, like relax, concentrate, de-stress, breath easily, sleep better and some oils can even put you in the mood for their aphrodisiac qualities.
The diffusers very in size and quality, there are dozens of different types on the market and since I have tried several already, I can recommend the ones I found to be the best. Depending on where you need the diffuser (you can put it in any enclosed area), you may want a larger capacity for bigger living- rooms, which also have a longer operational cycle. Medium size diffusers are suitable for bedrooms, offices, hotel rooms and cruise ship cabins. They come in different styles, many have the ability of changing the color and some can produce a soothing melody or natural sounds, thus combining aroma, color and sound therapy in one. Also, the duration of operation can be 30 min, 60 min, 90 min and the larger ones have a setting that lasts 8 hours. They are ultrasonic , eco-friendly and have the ability to automatically shut when the water in the container is finished, i.e perfectly safe and economical.
Myself, I have a couple at home (larger ones in both the living room and bedroom, as I like to have them function for several hours), one in the office and in the cabin on the ship, a tiny one in my car that plugs in the lighter and even a small one that I like to travel with, especially when going on a holiday for longer than a few days.
If you are going to travel or use the diffuser in different continents, just make sure that it is designed for the various electrical outlets. To be on the safe side, pick one with voltage 100-220 and this way you will cover your bases.
The last thing that I want to mention is that the diffusers have one more calming quality- they produce a small bubbling sound, that reminds you of a running spring in a rain forest. I love this feature, as it always makes me think of a tranquil scene and helps me fall asleep quickly and easily.
Before we begin, it is probably prudent to make a brief mention as to what Essential Oils actually are- they are the product achieved mostly after steam distillation of those parts of the plant, not associated with the nut, like leaves, bark and roots. They are always produced in small quantities, come in miniature bottles and have to be used very sparingly- only a few drops go a long way and they should never be ingested (unless specifically instructed) or applied directly to the skin, for the risk of developing an allergy.
The EOs are usually deluded in carrier (base) oils, which are made of the nut or the seed of a plant, like Avocado, Almond, Olive, Apricot, Grape seed, Coconut and Jojoba oils. They are totally harmless and can be used in greater quantities. Traditionally, you will put 2-6 drops of an EO in a table spoon of a carrier oil to get the necessary concentration. Like this, you can apply the oils directly to the skin, often at the bottom of your feet and massage gently until absorbed. You can also apply directly to the area of concern, like a particular muscle, or the temples, to treat a specific spot. When traveling I usually carry a small bottle with a few blends that help me alleviate muscle strains, menstrual cramps, general pain relief and sun burn (the actual proportions and type of oils are in the recipes below).
Other ways of using the EOs is by breathing them. You may have heard that when congested, you can have an inhalation that will help you alleviate the symptoms. If you boil water in a pot, you can pour a few drops of Eucalyptus, Lavender and Mint and covering your head with a towel, you can lean on top of the steam to perform the inhalation. This is a great way to cleanse your skin as well, in case you have black heads, but make sure your skin is not prone to acne or easily irritated, as this can cause the pores to widen and deteriorate the condition if not performed properly.
The best way to inhale the EOs and reap their numerous benefits is via the above mentioned Diffuser. Mind you, it will not produce heat or steam, so it is not suitable for inhalations or skin cleansing rituals, for this you will need a humidifier/steamer with aroma therapy capabilities.
OK, so now that we have a diffuser, we need some basic oils to play with. Amazon and most of the famous brands like DeSensua, Eden Gardens, DuTerra, etc offer small starter kids with 6 generic oils, like Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Frankincense and Rosemary or ready made blends, like Sleep Easy, Five Thieves, Breath Easy, Sensual, etc that can also work well.
Over time, if you get into it, you can acquire bigger sets or buy oils individually, which is what I do, as I make my own blends and like to mix and match and have a different aroma according to my mood. My top favorite oils for a pleasant and relaxing aroma are: Ylang-Ylang, Lavender, Spearmint, Sandal Wood, Grapefruit, Rose oil and Sweet Orange. As I mentioned, most of them have relaxing, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, so breathing them in the air, will bring their molecules to your lungs and via the blood stream will reach your brain, where they will impact the centers for de-stress and encourage creativity and positive thinking.
Some oils have been recognized for their healing properties since ancient times, praised and exchanged for gold, like Frankincense and Myrrh. Some are extremely difficult to produce and takes tons of material to extract 1 ml of the precious oil, like Rose Otto, Sandal wood and Frankincense.
When buying oils, you have to be careful and pay attention to whether they are 100 % pure, where they were produced, who is selling them and I find it beneficial to read some customer reviews as well, to get an idea of the quality of the product. I have bought oils from different sellers and no two oils are the same, but over time you will develop the skill to recognize the good stuff and will learn how to better select them.
I mentioned, that it is a good idea to have a small diffuser when traveling, as it not only help you enhance the holiday experience, but will also disinfect rooms that you may have doubts about in humid climate.Unfortunately with all the moisture in seaside resorts, there are nasty little microbes that truly enjoy humidity and really thrive. Namely: the molds, mildews and other fungi. I have had close encounters with these in many respectable holiday properties.Tea Tree, Thyme and Cinnamon will help you fight the nasty smell and if you prefer to use a spray, you can add some Vodka, which can serve as a drying agent. You can spray the area or if not sure where exactly the smell coms from, you can spray the corners of the room or fire up your diffuser. Even if you do not manage to sterilize the room, you will purify the air and have a healthier environment to breath in.
When flying or traveling in a train or a bus, you will have people close to you, many times sneezing and coughing, spreading germs all over. I find it useful to have a small inhaler with EO that I can use to help me breath, or I can make have a small spray bottle with EOs bland that I can spray my scarf with. Amazon sells small inhaler capsules that you can charge with whatever EO you please. I have one of these kits and even made some for my family and friends, it was a lot of fun to play with
Very useful are also the EO sticks. these are small roll on bottles that you can fill with your favorite carrier and EOs and use to apply all over your body as a perfume or repel insects (peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, citronella).
Another fancy way to carry your oils is in a jewelry. You can have ear-rings or a necklace charged with EOs that can uplift your mood, keep you concentrated or relaxed.
I am sure all women have noticed that when traveling even a few hours on a plane, the skin suffers the most- despite the fact that I nap most of the time when flying, when getting off the plane I usually sport a puffy face, with dark circles under the eyes and wrinkles emerge out of nowhere that make me look 5 years older. This is no surprise, considering that the pressurized cabin, the air-conditioning and the filtered air in the plane all work together to effectively dehydrate the skin and no matter how many expensive cosmetics we use, the result is pretty much the same. Recently, I found out, that applying carrier oils (enriched with EO) can retain the moisture in the skin much longer thus helping it look fresh and rested. My top favorite is Rose Hip oil and Jojoba. For very dry skin I use Grape seed or Avocado oil and I usually like to add a few drops of Bergamot, Rose Otto and Lavender, which help enrich and enhance the base oil.