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Best herbs to stay healthy when traveling
Photo: Chieko Kato
Pack & Prep

These herbs are like nature’s Emergen-C


Boost your body's immunity, no fizz necessary.

by Rebecca Willa Davis | 03.03.2018

Herbs surround Melissa Parke Rousseau—even when she’s hard at work. “I use schisandra, hibiscus, nettle, and the tea that I drink in the morning as the base of my art,” says the painter, pointing to the large, pastel-haze pieces leaning up against walls and tables in her sun-drenched Joshua Tree home.

In fact, they’re the reason she’s made a career out of putting color to canvas in the first place—for eight years, Rousseau had stopped painting entirely as she battled the debilitating symptoms that come with late-stage Lyme disease. “I was feeling kind of dead,” she remembers.

But in the midst of her herbalism studies at The Gaia School of Healing, she introduced schisandra—an obscure Asian berry—into her routine and felt an instant change. “She basically gives you superpowers—I started painting again, and I haven’t stopped since. Now that’s what I’m doing full time, so she really brings you back to life.”

Best herbs for healthy travel

Melissa Parke Rousseau prepping herbs in her Joshua Tree home and studio.

It’s a big reason why herbs play such an important role in Rousseau’s on-the-road routine—one that she’s had to hone, since her system (thanks to that chronic illness) is so sensitive. “The whole ‘immune’ thing gets hot press in winter, but for me it’s definitely a year-long nourishment,” she says. “What’s most important when I’m traveling is to constantly boost my immune system and keep me from getting sick. For travel specifically, there’s so much stress.”

That’s why she swears by a range of plants that work to both improve immunity while also manage the tangible effects of anxiety. While you can now find highly portable herbal tinctures, powders, teas, and tonics, Rousseau still insists on packing her arsenal of herbs everywhere she goes.

“What’s so brilliant about traveling with all of this stuff is that, if you’re staying somewhere that has a stove, you can just put it on there, let it boil, and then sip on it throughout your time there,” she notes, adding, “It’s simple medicine, and it’s meant to be really easy to make. If you’re staying for a week, you can make your infusions, keep them in your fridge, and keep up your normal routine that supports you when you’re home.”

And though she particularly hearts these options, what’s most important if you want to avoid flus, colds, coughs, and other not-so-ideal health issues when traveling is keeping up that regimen. “If you’re working with burdock root at home, take burdock root when you travel; let’s say you’re working with oat straw, you’re going to want to keep taking your oat straw,” Rousseau says.

But if you’re starting from scratch, these are the top-five herbs to take when traveling to sip your way to a better immune system.

Schisandra
“She basically gives you superpowers. She nourishes every system in your body and gives you energy—not in a caffeinated way, but more in that you have the powers to do anything and take on the world. She also helps you adapt to stress.”

How to prepare it: Fill the bottom of a small mason jar with dried schisandra, fill it with hot water, let it sit overnight (or infuse for at least eight hours). Rousseau recommends sipping on it in the morning.

Nettle
“I love nettle for its nutrients. We infuse it this way because it draws out the most minerals and potency out of the leaf, but you can get nettle leaf tea bags and have it on a flight.”

How to prepare it: Add a couple handfuls into a small jar, fill it with cold water (and put in the fridge, if possible), and let infuse for eight hours.

Red Raspberry Leaf
“She just helps rein in that stress and is so deeply nourishing.”

How to prepare it: Add a couple handfuls into a small jar, fill it with cold water (and put in the fridge, if possible), and let infuse for eight hours.

Chaga
“I love immune boosters like chaga. You can get it in tincture or powdered form, which is really beautiful to travel with. A little reishi, chaga, and almond milk is so yummy!”

How to prepare it: Put the chaga in a pot filled with water and boil it down. Sip on the liquid—or mix in to your tea for a DIY tonic.

Reishi
“It’s so immuno-supportive. If you’re staying somewhere with a stove, you can boil it, or some people like to powder it—you can make a tea out of it that way.”

How to prepare it: Put the reishi in a pot filled with water (along with any other plants you might want to throw in, like chaga or cinnamon) and boil it down. Sip on the liquid, or mix in to whatever you’re sipping.

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