Aromatherapy for Travelers: What to Use, Why It Works
Lyn Belisle and William E. Kurtin, Ph. D.
Lyn shares her tips for travelers about how Essential Oils can make your trip more enjoyable, and Dr. Bill explains why these tips work from a scientific standpoint.
Here are some tips on keeping your body relaxed, your mind sharp and your spirits uplifted during your travels using pure essential oils from plants. Lyn Belisle, educator, artist and certified aromatherapist since 1989, and Dr. Bill Kurtin, Professor Emeritus in Biochemistry and lecturer on Essential Oils explain the art and the science of effective aromatherapy for travelers. We’ll assume that you’re going by air, but these techniques apply to any mode of transportation -- or even if you’re just taking a quiet “staycation” weekend at home.
Lyn suggests travel-friendly aromatherapy formulas and Bill explains the science that makes them so effective.
LB: Many of us get tense while packing because we’re not sure we’ll remember everything. Make a new or updated “to take” list several days before you pack. As you add items to your list, keep a tissue next to you on which you’ve placed two drops of Rosemary Essential Oil (EO). This will help sharpen your thought process and you’ll be able to think of things you wish you had included on your last trip but didn’t. As you do your actual packing, keep a fresh Rosemary-infused tissue close by to sniff. It will activate your memory of the list items, plus, when you are finished packing, you can tuck the tissue in your suitcase to gently scent your clothes with the clean scent of fresh Rosemary. Don’t forget to pack your two-ounce spray travel bottle of natural aromatherapy linen spray (formula below). Put it in a plastic baggie between layers of clothes.
BK: Why it works*: All essential oils are complex mixtures of plant molecules known as terpenes. Inhalation of the vapor of any essential oil results in the chemical interaction of the various components of the oil with an array of protein molecules in the nasal cavity known as olfactory receptors. These receptors are embedded in nerve cells that extend to structures in the brain that form the limbic system, which is associated with emotion, memory, and mental acuity. In controlled clinical studies Essential Oil of Rosemary has been shown to enhance alertness and the overall quality of memory. The principal chemical component of Oil of Rosemary is camphor.
LB: The night before you leave, indulge in a steam treatment over a bowl of very hot water. Get a large bowl, a bath towel, and some Bergamot and Chamomile essential oil. Add three drops of Bergamot EO and three drops of Chamomile EO to the surface of the steaming water. Sit comfortably at a table with your face above the bowl and drape your head with the towel to “tent” the steam. Breathe deeply for ten breaths; take off the towel and breathe for a minute or so, then repeat the steam treatment. You’ll sleep well (chamomile) without feeling groggy (bergamot) when you wake up.
BK: Why it works*: The primary components of Essential Oil of Bergamot are similar to those found in lavender EO. In aromatherapy, such odorants are known to be calmative and balancing. These molecules have been reported to calm the central nervous system in mice by inhibiting neurotransmitter release. The main component of chamomile EO has been reported to show analgesic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory effects in laboratory animals.
LB: You won’t need to worry about carrying on liquids when you use this trick. Fill a clean empty prescription bottle with Epsom salts 2/3 full. Add ten drops of Lavender EO to balance your anxieties and relax you when you uncap it and take a small sniff. Lavender is the “magic” essential oil that calms you if you’re jittery and refreshes you if you’re tired.
BK: Why it works*: The primary component of Lavender EO, linalool, has been shown to relieve stress in laboratory animals, as demonstrated by the suppression of stress markers in the blood when the odorant is inhaled.
LB: In your carryon, pack a plastic baggie with damp folded paper towels. Add 1 drop of EO of peppermint to each one. Before landing, use one of these to moisten and freshen the back of your neck, your wrists and hands (and the soles of your feet if you can get away with that). Don’t get it near your eyes, however. You’ll feel like a new person! An extra benefit of peppermint EO is its digestive properties. It can calm an upset stomach.
BK: Why it works*: In this case the components of the essential oil enter the system by the process known as transdermal absorption. Some components enter the bloodstream, while others interact with protein receptors in the skin and surrounding tissues. The principal chemical component of peppermint is menthol. In aromatherapy it is known to have natural tonic and analgesic effects. Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce daytime sleepiness in humans. It is also widely recognized as an alternative medical therapy for irritable bowel syndrome.
Once You Arrive:
LB: Once you arrive at your hotel, unpack the aromatherapy linen spray with Lemon and Geranium EOs that you made at home just for this trip:
In a two ounce spray bottle filled 2/3 full with distilled or spring water, add:
10 drops of lemon EO (fresh and antiseptic)
10 drops of lavender EO (calming and balancing)
Spray it on your pillow to ensure a pleasant environment far from home as well as a good night’s sleep.
BK: Why it works*: Inhalation of lemon oil vapor produced anti-stress effects in laboratory mice. In controlled clinical studies lemon EO was shown to reliably enhance positive mood. The major components of lemon and geranium EOs are among the most volatile of the plant terpenes. Thus solutions containing these EOs should be as fresh as possible.
LB: Here is a formula for general jet-lag symptoms that can be used as a bath or shower oil, a body oil, or just to inhale. The combination of Essential Oils (the “synergy”) will bring you balance and help center you after a long trip, going or returning.
Carefully pour one ounce of grape seed or jojoba oil in a small dropper bottle, then add the following:
5 drops of sandalwood EO (grounding)
5 drops of bergamot or sweet orange EO (cheering)
5 drops of Clary Sage EO (enhances intuition and perception)
Put a few drops on your wrists, in your bath, or even on the air-conditioner grate.
LB: Aromatherapy works! Think Cleopatra wafting trails of lovely plant-based infusions as she sailed along the Nile, and don’t leave home without *your* essential oils – they are the lifeblood of the healing plants and your scientifically-proven natural solution to ease the stresses of modern-day globe-trotting. Ginger, Lavender, Peppermint, Chamomile and Rosemary are among the essential oils that can be with you in small bottles inside a little mint tin when you travel. In our next article we’ll give directions for making one of these travel kits.
BK: *The aromatherapeutic use of essential oils is similar to other molecular-based therapies, in that responses should be expected to vary from person to person. The reasons for this are that essential oils are complex chemical mixtures, and that the array of protein receptors in our olfactory system is determined by our individual genetic make-up. As with any plant material, some people may have a sensitivity to certain Essential Oils. Always dilute an EO that you put on your skin (20:1 is a suggested ratio, EO to carrier medium) and make sure to do a patch test before you travel if you have concerns.
For more information on the art and science of aromatherapy and essential oil, visit our educational website: www.chemaroma.com
Dr. Bill Kurtin is a biochemist, with a distinguished record of teaching and research at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX.