Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Home Remedies for Minor Travel Ailments

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Home Remedies for Minor Travel Ailments

Article excerpt

Adventurous travelers are often in a quandary: How do they pack lightly and still be prepared for the unexpected?

Travel-savvy physicians, pharmacists and scientists suggest that some grocery items available almost anywhere can do double duty for on-the-road ailments.

"You don't need to pack a medicine chest on holiday," said Dave Harcombe, a pharmacist in Doncaster, England. "I rely on traditional medicine to pay my mortgage," he added. "But in certain cases, home remedies are as good as drugs. There's a place in the world for both of them."

Mr. Harcombe used his travel experience and that of his customers to create a list of items that he posted on the website Debbie Marshall, editor of the site, said the response has been enthusiastic.

"It is well worth knowing some of the healing properties of common foods when traveling," she said, noting that acquiring and using conventional medicines in certain countries can be complicated. "Pharmaceutical labels may be written in an unfamiliar language, quantities can be ambiguous and quite often nature has a remedy that will bridge the gap until more conventional aid can be found."

"My slant is there's nothing wrong with old wives' tales in the kitchen or in the medicine cabinet as long as there is validity to them," said Kent Kirshenbaum, a pharmaceutical chemist and an associate professor of chemistry at New York University.

He is quick to add, though, that travelers should not disregard signs of a serious problem.

"If somebody thinks that they can take a food to treat a serious ailment, they can be in for a world of hurt," he said.

With that in mind, here are some novel ways to treat common travel maladies.

Stomach problems

It may be difficult to try this in Singapore, where the sale of chewing gum is restricted, but most everywhere else in the world, travelers with digestive ailments can find relief by chewing sugar- free gum.

For reasons he describes as "mysterious," Joe Graedon, a pharmacologist in North Carolina, notes that many travelers suffer from constipation, for which he says sorbitol, the artificial sweetener used in sugar-free gum, can provide relief.

"The nonsugar sweeteners draw fluid into the colon and digestive tract," said Mr. Graedon, who with his wife, Teresa, a medical anthropologist, wrote the book "The People's Pharmacy: Quick and Handy Home Remedies." They also run the website

Chewing gum also can help with heartburn by stimulating the production of saliva.

"Saliva buffers the contents of the esophagus, acts as a flushing agent and washes back down into the stomach anything that comes up into the esophagus in the form of reflux," said Mr. Graedon, who added that chewing sugar-free gum will "keep the dentist happy."

Another common travel malady is nausea, as some airline and cruise passengers know all too well. …

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