This is the time of year when our Yinova Center patients ask us about jet lag. Some people travel more in the summer and as a result, our patients are looking for safe, natural ways of limiting jet lag or desynchronosis to give it it’s proper medical name.
A long flight on a stuffy plane combined with a dramatic time zone change can make even the healthiest person feel as if they have the flu. Common symptoms are fatigue, malaise, disturbed sleep, headaches, anxiety, and digestive problems. Chinese medicine has some great herbs to help combat jet lag which we usually prescribe along with a pre-flight acupuncture treatment combined with a small magnet that we leave in the ear for the first few days of your trip. Most of our patients find that this helps a lot, especially when combined with a few sensible travel tips.
Here is the advice we give our Yinova patients who are about to travel
Have an acupuncture treatment
An acupuncture treatment before you fly can help to address some of these symptoms in advance. We usually add to this treatment by placing a tiny magnet at a specific point in the ear and instructing you to massage this point at regular intervals during your journey. This may sound strange but amazingly enough, it can be very effective. Many of our patients swear by this ear point and come in regularly to have the magnet placed in the correct position.
Take some herbs
Ask us for a specially crafted herbal formula to suit your constitution. This can be prepared for you as a powder that you mix with hot water and drink as a tea. By understanding how you react to traveling we can customize this formula so that it fits your pattern.
Some of the Chinese herbs that address jet lag symptoms are as follows.
- Dehydration – mai men dong (ophiopogonis), sha shen (glehnia), yu zhu (solomon’s seal)
- Headache – bai zhi (angelica), ju hua (chrysanthemum flower)
- Swollen limbs – yi yi ren (barley), fu ling (poria)
- Fatigue – huang qi (astragalus), bai zhu (atractylodis)
- Sleeplessness – suan zao ren (zizyphus), bai zi ren (biota seed)
- Weakened immune system – ling zhi (reishi mushrooms), wu jia shen (eleuthro root)
- Protection from airborne pathogens – fang feng (siler), jie geng (playcodi)
- Body aches – yan hu suo (corydalis), bai shao (white peony)
- Anxiety – Long yan rou (longan), hong zao (dates)
Make sure you stay hydrated
The recycled air on the plane tends to be dry and it’s easy to become dehydrated. Combat this by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and coffee both of which can make dehydration worse.
Pay attention to your circulation
Air pressure in the cabin is far greater than normal leading to swollen limbs and poor circulation. This combined with restricted mobility can lead to problems ranging from very common and less serious issues such as body aches to more rare and very serious problems such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Every hour or two, get up and walk around and while seated during your flight stretch periodically.
Here are some yoga stretches that you can do in your seat:
- Shoulder rolls. Move forward and position yourself on the edge of your seat to keep your back straight. Inhale and lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Exhale and move your shoulders back and down. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Arm stretches. Hold your right elbow, inhale, and stretch your arm across your body. At the same time twist your head to the right to create a stretch. Exhale. Repeat with your left arm. Do this sequence 5 times on each side.
- Neck rolls. Inhale and stretch your head back. Exhale and slump your head forward onto your chest. repeat 5 times. Then make circles with your head clockwise 3 times and anti-clockwise 3 times.
- Torso stretch. Imagine a cord running upwards from the top of your head. Inhale and allow it to pull you up, stacking one vertebra on top of another and lengthening the spine. Hold for 10 seconds and then exhale and round your shoulder and slump forward. repeat 5 times.
- Leg Stretches. Inhale and flex your feet upwards. Hold for 5 seconds then exhale and point your toes. Repeat 10 times.
- Ankle rolls. Move your ankles in circles clockwise 5 times, then circle them anticlockwise 5 times.
- Leg swings. Swing your legs from the knees down like windscreen wipers side to side 10 times.
For most people traveling is an anxiety-provoking experience. If you get particularly stressed when you travel let us know so we can add herbs to your formula to help you stay calm. If you do feel anxious, consciously drop your shoulders and focus on taking deep breaths down into your abdomen.
Help your body adjust to time changes
When you get on the plane change your watch to the time in your destination. When you arrive at your destination adapt your schedule to the local time so if you arrive at lunchtime eat lunch even if it is 5 am to you. Try to stay up until the evening so that you immediately establish a sleep rhythm that is on local time. During the day try to get some sunlight. This will prompt your hypothalamus to signal to your body to produce less melatonin during the day and more in the evening which will help you feel sleepy at an appropriate time.
Using natural sleep aids.
A natural sleep aid is less potent than a sleeping pill but will leave you less groggy. At the Yinova Center, we recommend a product called Botanicalm PM which gently promotes sleep if taken 1 hour before bedtime.