A new season has arrived and along with it an extra hour of sunlight and warmer weather. Many will take advantage of the sunny days to come by exploring other regions - ranging from the nearest national park to more exotic locales in far away countries. Whichever you opt for, no matter where you go -- there are sure to be some pesky traveling inconveniences.

A scrape from a fall during a hike, mosquitoes hungry for some fresh blood, motion sickness from rough waters, an upset stomach from local food or just plain old jet lag. The list goes on. You may encounter one; you may encounter all, but one thing is for sure, they will put a damper on whatever fun you had planned.

Now certainly everyone should anticipate some of these problems and bring a traveling first aid kit, but what makes a difference is what you put in yours. Sure you could bring the antiseptic, the cortisone cream, the insect repellant, the antacids, the Dramamine. Once again the list goes on. But there are other options you may want to consider - ones that are pure and natural, lack strange chemicals you can't even pronounce and are able to treat multiple ailments.

They are known as essential oils and have been used for centuries to treat a wide range of problems. They contain potent medicinal properties that are sometimes more powerful and versatile than the chemicals you would find at the pharmacy. For example tea tree oil, which of late has been incorporated into many beauty products such as shampoos and facial cleansers, is a stronger antiseptic than carbolic acid, with both antibacterial and antifungal uses.

One crucial factor is to know how each one may be used. Just as you would not pick up a package of cold medicine and start popping pills without reading the directions, you cannot apply essential oils with abandon. As stated earlier they are very powerful and many must be diluted with a carrier oil of some sort.

The following are some helpful essential oils to bring with you on a trip, some of the things they can be used to treat, different applications and safe amounts to use.

Lavender - Lavender is one of the few oils that can be applied directly onto the skin, which makes it particularly convenient. It is a versatile oil that is incredibly useful for cuts, burns and bug bites.

Cuts: Wash the area and apply two or three drops of lavender to gauze or a bandage and cover wound. Do this twice a day.

Burns: Apply ice cold water for several minutes. After drying area apply two drops of lavender directly on the burn and cover with gauze or bandage that has an additional five drops of lavender oil on it. The lavender will immediately soothe the burn. Reapply as necessary.

Bug bites: Apply one drop of lavender oil directly on bug bite. Reapply as necessary.

Bug repellant: For skin you can combine 30 drops of lavender to two tablespoons of base vegetable oil, such as sweet almond or apricot kernel, and apply to skin when you go outside. Another way to do this is to add the lavender oil to an unscented lotion, though it may not be as effective since the oil will not distribute as well. Either remedy may appeal to many because most bug repellants contain toxic components and cannot be left on the skin for extended periods of time. For your hotel room you can apply one drop of lavender oil per one piece of tissue or ribbon and place them around your bed and room.

Eucalyptus - This is a great oil to take if you are traveling to hot areas. If suffering from heat exhaustion get indoors immediately and apply a small amount of eucalyptus oil (lavender works well too) to the temples, back of the neck and upper abdomen. If suffering from a heat rash try a warm bath to which you have added four drops of eucalyptus and four drops of lavender (if you have it). If you have a fever try sponging the body with cool water that has a few drops of eucalyptus added to it.

Ginger - Works well to alleviate seasickness. Place two drops on a tissue or handkerchief and inhale. Ginger is also good if you get a bout of food poisoning. You can add two to four drops of ginger to a warm bath and then rub the abdomen with a vegetable base oil with ginger added using the ratio of five drops per teaspoon of oil.

Peppermint - An antibiotic and antiseptic oil, peppermint is excellent for calming frayed nerves and soothing upset stomachs. If you feel stressed out - as traveling can be challenging - put a drop of peppermint (lavender works well too) on a tissue and inhale. If you have an upset stomach try one drop of peppermint with one tablespoon honey, mix with hot water and drink. If trying to recover from jet lag, two drops of peppermint in a warm bath helps in the morning (this also works well for a fever).

Thyme - Works well as a disinfectant. If traveling to more suspect parts of the world and you have doubts about the cleanliness of your sleeping quarters you can apply a few drops of thyme to a tissue and wipe down relevant areas such as the toilet, sink and other areas you will come in contact with. Thyme is also helpful if you find a tick on your body. One drop placed on the tick will cause it to remove itself.

Lemongrass or Citronella - Works as an excellent bug repellant and can be used in your hotel room as explained with lavender. Also works well with other airborne methods, such as placing a drop or two on light bulbs, hot water taps, placed in a steaming bowl of water or diluted with water and sprayed around the room.

Just bringing two or three oils may help with many ailments -- but remember always make certain you buy from a reliable retailer and are purchasing pure, uncut, 100% essential oils, otherwise the efficacy will be compromised. Also, keep in mind that essential oils cannot take the place of treatment and diagnosis by a medical doctor and there is no guarantee that they will work the same for everyone. Some may even experience allergic reactions to essential oils -- like with any medicine -- so be certain to test a small amount first.

This is only a brief list of oils that can be used while traveling -- and likewise there are many other uses for the oils I have named, but they are too numerous to list. An excellent book to refer to is The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, written by Valerie Ann Worwood.


© Melt Magazine 2001