Alternatively Speaking: Flying high

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: Are there any natural alternatives to treat Jet Lag? What can help with repetitive strain syndrome?

Passengers plane flight 311 (R) (photo credit: Vivek Prakash / Reuters)
Passengers plane flight 311 (R)
(photo credit: Vivek Prakash / Reuters)
Q. I commute overseas frequently for my work. Are there any natural alternatives to Jet Lag?
A. There are many herbal supplements that can be great for both reducing the onset of jet lag and treating the symptoms. It can be rather hectic preparing for a flight, the body can be put under a great deal of stress during lengthy flights that involve several time changes, and time spent just sitting in one place. The effects of one person's jet lag can therefore be compounded by a hectic schedule and too much anxiety and not enough sleep in the days before. I recommend that you start taking Vitamin C (with bioflavonoids, 1,000 mg up to 3 times a day) to strengthen the immune system and Vitamin B complex  (100 mg) to support and relax your nervous system. Take both at high doses just a few days before the flight. You should continue with the same doses during and after the flight. These will help your body deal with the stress caused by long distance travel. To help bring some balance to the body, the herbal supplement Siberian Ginseng can be taken; one capsule per dose daily for a week before the start of the trip and this same regimen can be continued every day throughout the trip to offset all possible signs of jet lag. Avoid drinking coffee and alcohol during the flight, both are dehydrate the body, and you will be much more tired as a consequence. Instead, ask for a cup of hot water, and use this to steep some fresh leaves of lemon balm along or leaves of peppermint for about ten minutes. The key is to make sure you keep hydrated during the flight!
Jet lag occurs after air travel across several time zones. It's caused by the body's circadian rhythms being out of sync with the local destination time. One of melatonin's key jobs is controlling the body's circadian rhythm - our internal clock that plays an important role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. Melatonin release is tied to the amount of light there is. Melatonin is released when we are in darkness and therefore light suppresses its release. When we cross time zones and are suddenly exposed to excessive light when it's normally our bedtime, our melatonin cycles are disrupted and we experience jet lag until our circadian rhythms adjust to the new environment.
The release of this hormone raises the levels of serotonin in the brain allowing the body to relax and sleep. In different time zones, supplements of natural melatonin will help regulate the sleep wake cycles within the body and is an excellent way for enabling sleep to come to a person who has just arrived at a different time zone after a very long journey. Melatonin can also be found in natural plant sources; St. Johns Wort Flower, Fever Few Green Leaf, White Mustard Seed and Black Mustard Seed.If you are someone who finds it hard to sleep on the plane try Valerian herb. Valerian is a herb used as a natural sleep aid. For jet lag, it is used to help adjust to new time zones by helping people fall asleep at their desired time. Unlike other sleep aids, valerian is not believed to be addictive or cause grogginess the next morning. You can buy natural valerian supplements in most good health food stores.
I have seen homeopathic remedies work wonders for jet lag. Since everybody experiences slightly different symptoms of jet lag; you can check your specific symptoms against the following list:
-I recommend Arnica - for symptoms of sleeplessness and restlessness when over-tired.
-Try Chamomilla if you experience emotional and mental stress, sleeplessness, impatience, intolerance and disorientation.
-The homeopathic remedy Ipecacuanha is perfect for intense and constant nausea during a flight.
-Finally I suggest Lycopodium for symptoms including anxiety, anticipatory fears, apprehension, inability to adapt to new surroundings, digestive problems, especially bloating and gas.
For all homeopathic remedies, follow the instructions on the vial or consult a homeopath for specific instructions.
Q. Natalie, I am 40 years old and have returned to University to study for my Masters degree. Since beginning to use my computer and write my Thesis, I have been suffering from 'repetitive strain syndrome', making it almost impossible to type for long periods. Is there anything I can do to make this better? Thank you so much.
A. You are suffering from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome commonly reffered to as repetetive strain injury. This involves the median nerve which passes between the bones and the ligaments of the wrists through what is called the carpel tunnel. When it is strained or repeatedly compressed, it reacts with an inflammatory reaction and swells. Trying several things will work together to facilitate healing. I recommend begining with a detox. It is important to cleanse any accumulated toxins from the body. Cleansing the liver can assist with the removal of toxins that have accumulated in our bodies. This will reduce the tissue irritation and facilitate joint and nerve healing. A great liver cleanse is Milk Thistle. You can buy this in tincture form. Put 15 drops in half a glass of water and drink twice daily, first upon waking and before going to sleep.
Try to include more silicon into your diet. Silicon is crucial in the growth and development of bone, cartilage, and connective tissue. The richest sources of silicon can be found in whole grains, cereal products, plant fiber, leafy green vegetables, and root vegetables. Keeping hydrated is very important for healthy tendons and ligaments. Make sure you are drinking between six to eight glasses of water a day and try to avoid high levels of caffeine such as coffee and cola since caffeine causes mineral loss and dehydration.
Vitamin B6 is another vitamin supplement that is important to take in the case of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. I recommend taking one supplement of 50mg taken one to two times daily. This should be taken for at least six weeks. The maximum intake should be less than 200 mg a day, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor. Foods rich in B6 are: Salmon, avocados, brown rice, sunflower seeds,  sweet potatoes, chick peas, chicken, potatoes, turkey,  barley, mangoes, and bananas.
Willow Bark is also known as a natural form of aspirin, this will relieve pain and inflammation when taken as a tea or supplement. You can buy meadowsweet herb - a herbal tea made from the leaves and flower tops can relieve pain and inflammation. The herb I have seen most success with is Turmeric – this is another anti-inflammatory herb that can be made into a tea or added to a spoon of honey. You can also buy supplements and take for a minimum one month.
Green tea is a fantastic liver cleanser providing antioxidants. Drink this to help with inflammation and to strengthen the immune system.
Another very effective form of treatment for repetitive strain injury is Acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine theory explains that there are blockages along energy pathways in the body, called meridians. These blockages can can cause pain. Acupuncture treatment releases these blockages and improves the flow of energy along meridians. The number of acupuncture sessions will depend on various factors such as how long you've had the symptoms and their intensity.
Typically, I have found that applying Arnica Oil (or cream) into the affected area can be very soothing. This can be purchased from nearly every health food store and any drug stores.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected]
Thought for the Day: 'What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.  ~Yiddish Proverb