Today we kick off Guest-Post-Stravaganza with a neat post from Dona Francis of Wandering Dona. Dona has spent time traveling in Africa, India, and South East Asia. Her experiences in the field have taught her a lot about natural first aid and natural remedies, which she shares with us today.
It’s inevitable that at some point during your travels you will get sick. Maybe it’ll be in the form of a cut that got infected, or that baggie of water you bought has turned your insides into a screwed up mess. But whatever is, it’s probably not going to go away on its own and you’ll be left feeling rather uncomfortable.
Coming from a family of medical professionals, my parents are insistent that I travel with enough medication to run my own infirmary. Before leaving for an extended jaunt through South East Asia, India, and Africa, my step-dad put together a first aid kit that would have made any village clinic envious. Between the runs in Mumbai, a nasty cold in Kunming, and enough cuts and scratches crisscrossing my legs to play tic tac toe, I had ample opportunity to use all of those medications I was hauling around, but instead, they remained shoved down at the bottom of my pack; untouched for an entire year. Rather than reaching for Imodium at the first sign of intestinal distress, I looked to the advice of the Ayurveda doctors lining the streets in Rishikesh, to the grandmothers I shared chai with in Tanzania, and to the families who looked after me in Vietnam and reached for natural remedies. Not surprisingly, turmeric and ginger were two of the most frequently suggested treatments for everything from combating a cold to easing indigestion. Using common ingredients and building on the advice of elders from around the world, here are a few of the most simple and effective natural remedies for ailments that are common among travelers.
Colds & The Flu
At the first sign that your body is fighting an invasion of germs or a virus, grab the turmeric, hook up, and strap in. Turmeric is an incredibly powerful antibiotic that has been a cornerstone of Ayurvedic medicine for over 2500 years and is the cornerstone of a lot of natural remedies. Mix a spoonful of powdered turmeric into a glass of warm milk, top with a sprinkling of black pepper, and enjoy twice a day (adding in a bit of sugar to help with the taste is OK too). Within a day or two, you should be back on your feet and ready to rock it.
To relieve a stuffy nose, chew on a piece of ginger, it’ll blow that snot out of your sinuses faster than any antihistamine on the market.
Travelers Diarrhea, Nausea, and Other Intestinal Harassment
When Delhi-Belly sets in the first thing to do is to start yourself on the BRAT diet—essentially a low-fiber diet of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast to help stop up your system. Also, sip on an electrolyte drink throughout the day to help keep you hydrated (1 liter of clean water + 1 teaspoon salt + 8 teaspoons sugar). Green coconut water and weak tea are also decent substitutes. For persistent diarrhea (if you’re going more than 4 times a day) mix 1 teaspoon ginger powder with a cup of buttermilk (commonly found in South Asia and Africa) and drink a few times a day. This should cure most forms of diarrhea, but if the problem continues, check with a local doctor to make sure you don’t have a parasite or something more serious.
If its nausea that’s getting to you, steep a piece of ginger root in a cup of hot water, or better yet, chew on a small slice of fresh ginger root to settle your stomach. This is great for those mountain pass bus rides that have turned your face green and have you forcibly trying to hold it together. Go easy on the ginger though, it’s potent stuff and a little goes a long way.
Is that fiery hot papaya salad turning your stomach into a churning, burning mess? Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into a glass of clean water and add a teaspoon of baking soda. The acidity from the lemon and the fizziness of the baking soda will provide immediate relief.
Long distance train journeys, dusty grimy buses, and a “shower” that consists of a solid wipe-down with baby wipes can make for a pretty gnarly backpacker. Although you may be OK with the griminess, once that dirt wiggles its way into a forgotten cut or scrape, it won’t be forgotten much longer. Inflamed, sore, and warm are the tell-tale signs of infection and you’ll want to stop it before it gets worse. Once again, bust out that turmeric and watch it work its wonders. Mix turmeric into a thick paste using water, milk, or honey and apply to the infected area. Repeat a few times a day and make sure to keep the area clean and dry. Bada big, bada boom, infection gone!
My pale skin is no match for the thinning ozone layer, and be it on the tops of mountains or on the beaches of the tropics, a sunburn just can’t seem to stay away. Aloe Vera is a well-known natural remedy for a sunburn, and if you’re in the tropics, fresh aloe can be found in many local markets. Cut the stem in half horizontally and rub the sticky pulp directly on the affected area. If fresh aloe vera is tough to come by, the inside of a banana peel makes for a great substitute.
Want more herbal natural remedies to take with you on the road?
Dona Francis is a 20-something freelance writer and photographer who dreams of a year-round flip flop tan, a never-ending supply of mangoes, and long bus rides down dusty roads. Talk to her about wasting less, giving more, and going organic. Riding bikes, climbing stuff, and getting lost are a few of the things that make her giddy. Join in her adventure at @wanderingdona.