green leaves

woman sleeping in airportSummer season is high travel season for those of us in the United States. If you will be traveling across time zones, disturbing symptoms that we commonly know as “jet lag”, can wreak havoc on the body.

My friend Lisa recently asked me if I had any remedies for her feelings of discombobulation and fatigue now that she’s landed in Santa Barbara (after spending 7 months in India and Greece).

Jet Lag is caused by a disruption in our natural circadian rhythms and sleep/wake homeostasis which is our innate 24 hour cycle.

The National Sleep Foundation says that our internal circadian biological clocks regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. It dips and rises at different times. Adults strongest sleep drive generally happens between 2 and 4 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. (maybe that’s why I need an afternoon treat every day) although there is some variation depending on whether you are a morning or evening person.

The sleepiness we experience during these circadian dips will be less intense if we have had sufficient sleep, and more intense when we are sleep deprived. If you read “Why We Sleep” by Mathew Walker PhD he explains why “My Rhythm Is Not Your Rhythm” leading to different variations from one person to the next.

So what can we do to help this uncomfortable feeling of disconnect ?

The Townsend Letter (my favorite journal) reported in an article entitled “Earthling: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever” (May 2010) that connecting with the earth’s natural surface electric energy, also known as grounding, is extremely important when it comes to our health.

What is grounding? Simply standing on the earth with bare feet. The article shows blood images before and after grounding (decoupling and thinning) and reports relief from jet lag as one of the many benefits. This makes sense to me after flying thousands of feet above the earth through multiple time zones.

Other remedies I recommend:

  1. Melatonin supplements. A dose that is between .3 mg and 5 mg may be taken on the first day you travel at the time you go to sleep at your destination, and for a few days if needed. Melatonin seems to be most effective when crossing five or more time zones, traveling east. It should only be taken by adults and do not drink alcohol when taking melatonin. Consult your doctor if you plan on taking it.
  2. Take an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens help the body cope with stressful situations by regulating cortisol and your body’s stress response.

Common adaptogenic herbs:

Rhodiola – an herb grown in the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. This is an herb that has many healing benefits from anti-tumor, cardio-protective, anti-depressant to anti-microbial but for jet lag recommended dosages are up to 600 mg a day. Higher doses will lower cortisol levels (500mg 3-5x a day) thus relieving stress but might not get you out of bed in the morning which is when cortisol levels should be at their peak.

Ashwaganda – Ayurvedic herb also known as “Indian Ginseng”.  This is another “cure all” herb. The indications are boundless, one of my favorites. I attribute this herb to my deep uninterrupted sleep! A typical dose is 250mg twice a day.

Siberian ginseng – from mountain forests in eastern Asia. This is an herb used in my pharmacy,  combined in a Chinese Herbal Formula. It is considered a “qi tonic” used for general fatigue. General dose can be 100-200 mg twice a day

Maca root – plant native to Peru. This plant is become very popular, added to smoothies and protein bars, etc. Much is not absorbed and poorly digested. There are 13 different species of maca and each one varies in therapeutic value. There is one company I trust due to their extensive research and manufacturing practices. Their maca is in pill form. The company is Symphony Natural Health and they formulate the proper strain of maca for both men and women.  I include maca here for “jet lag” because it is an adaptogen and affects hormone balancing (melatonin being a hormone).

tulsi leaves

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Holy Basil (Tulsi) – plant native to India, known for its many uses. It is especially known as an adaptogen, supporting the body’s stress response so a perfect herb to take before, during and after your travels. You may drink the tea (I recommend Organic India brand), purchase dried leaves or powder at your health foods store, or use fresh leaves for cooking (in soups, fish dishes and desserts).

Licorice – herb native to the Mediterranean, souther and central Russia, Asia Minor to Iran. We use this herb in most Chinese herbal formulas for balancing the properties of all the other herbs. It is very helpful as an adrenal tonic, not recommended for people with high blood pressure. I like Wise Woman Herbals Licorice solid extract. 1/8 tsp twice per day, morning and mid-day.

Other adaptogenic herbs to explore:

Reishi – an herbal mushroom from many parts of Asia, Australia, South America, Southern Europe and the Southeastern United States

Schizandra – a Chinese tonic herb

Nettle – flowering plant that has its origins in colder regions of Europe and Asia

Panax “panama” ginseng – perennial plant that grows in the mountains of Eastern Asia

If you are looking for a product with nearly ALL of the above herbs, I highly recommend “Thrivagen” from Quicksilver Scientific and you can purchase it from me. Call the office at (805) 898-1804 if you want to check it out.