Medical herbalist columnist Nicola Parker, of Health and Herbs, Morecambe, writes about gentle relaxants.
Now that we are well into spring, I’m hearing lots of discussion about holiday plans.
Many people love the opportunity to travel outside the country, especially those fond of the warmer climate offered by trips abroad. I often put together little packages around this time of year, to work as herbal first aid kids for clients that seek herbal relief from holiday hindrances.
For some, the holiday itself is never the problem though, it’s getting there and back.
Flight and boat travel can cause a number of unpleasant issues, including anxiety and fear.
If you’re the type to suffer from phobias associated with travel, you’ll know how much of your holiday it can spoil, as you wrestle with the anxiety of travelling both there and back.
This type of worry can ruin a trip and in some cases, put people off travel entirely.
Fortunately, there are things you can do.
If it’s fear of flying that your worries are focused on, then you might be considering taking a sedative.
Sedatives make us feel relaxed and sleepy.
The idea of popping a pill before our flight and snoozing our way through the worst of our fears, is appealing.
Yet, it’s rare for this to be an option.
Most sedatives strong enough to act as ‘knock out pills’ are addictive and too strong to be available from anyone but your GP. Naturally, doctors reluctant to prescribe strong, addictive medication unless it’s 100 per cent necessary.
As a health practitioner myself, I’m inclined to agree with them.
While herbal sedatives do exist, those available over the counter are gentle relaxants, designed for people already tired due to sleeping problems.
They don’t pack the kind of punch that would put us out for the count in the middle of the day.
They may however, help us feel calmer and more relaxed, helping us face our fear more calm and less panic.
As always, when possible, I like to get to the root of a problem, rather than just deal with the obvious symptoms.
When it comes to fears and phobias, these issues are rooted in the mind, so rather than give a general relaxant, I believe it’s important to start at those roots.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you undertake months of therapy, just so you can take a trip abroad every so often.
Instead, I’m suggesting that you ignore the gentle sedatives and look for something that focuses specifically on calming the mind. I’ve written before about Theanine, an amino acid that is extracted from green tea.
I often describe Theanine as bottled meditation, because it helps to settle the brain and block obtrusive thoughts.
This means that when your worries start to kick in and invasive thoughts trigger your anxiety, a capsule of Theanine can help you remain focused by pushing that panic aside.
My last recommendation of Theanine was to the mother of a friend of mine.
She normally avoids travel but when an important family celebration came up, she decided that this time she’d bite the bullet and face her fear.
The closer the travel day came, the higher her anxiety rose.
On hearing this, I gave her my own Theanine and told her to try a few capsules for the journey. It works well alongside meditation techniques, which she already practices, so the Theanine really appealed to her.
Effects last for about three hours, making it ideal for short term flights or sudden bursts of worry.
While it didn’t eradicate her fear entirely, it stopped it from getting the better of her.
While she didn’t ‘enjoy’ the flight, she wasn’t plagued by panic, making her feel more relaxed about the journey home.
She said she barely thought about the return flight until she arrived at the airport.
With another dose of Theanine, she found the journey back even easier, as the worries that had been spiralling were no longer ever present, to make anxiety worse.
Theanine has saved me from myself on a few occasions when my fears have tried to get the better of me.
Although it’s not a cure, it’s the remedy I love most for making the unmanageable manageable.