Holiday Health: how to stay well abroad

Holidays should be all about relaxation and fun. But all too often little niggles such as an upset tummy, too much sangria the night before or hot flushes can put a damper on your well-earned break.

Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke shares some top tips on how to have a healthier holiday.

As with all health issues, the secret is to address problems as soon as they come up them and knock them on the head fast. This is where a rummage in the herbal medicine box can really help to put your holiday back on course.

Here are some common holiday hitches and the herbs that might help.


Hot weather can exacerbate menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes, which are thought to affect around seven out of 10 women to some extent, especially if the nights are hot and clammy.

TRY: Black Cohosh and Sage

Studies show that black cohosh, a traditional Native American herb, can help reduce typical menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and disturbed sleep in around six to eight weeks. It you are going through the menopause and planning a holiday, start taking a few months before you go away. It also works well with relaxing herbs such as St John’s wort and Valerian.

Well known as a culinary herb, the lovely garden favourite sage can also help reduce hot moments by day and by night. You can take as a supplement or just pour boiling water over two to four tablespoons of chopped sage leaves and drink as a tea.


Foreign food, missing meals, eating on the run or overdoing it normally results in bloating, heartburn or indigestion – all common holiday complaints, which can make you feel uncomfortable.

TRY: Artichoke

Artichoke supports the digestive process by stimulating the production of bile and helping breaking down and eliminate fatty foods and alcohol from the body. Artichoke extract can be taken daily as a protective measure throughout your holiday or you can increase the dose for fast relief from immediate symptoms if you overdo it.


The journey to and from your holiday destination as well as being with friends and family round the clock for a week or more can result in periods of high stress.

TRY: Rhodiola

When it comes to building up stress resistance Rhodiola wins hands down. It is what is known as an adaptogen herb or’ tonic’ making it the perfect remedy for reducing fatigue, and building up strength and energy – in short just what you need when the sun is burning down and the kids won’t stop bickering.

The active ingredients of Rhodiola are thought to affect the function of neurotransmitters – the brain chemicals that transport messages between nerves. This can help to regulate mood and other brain functions.

And as with all stressful situations, breathe!


One in ten of us are thought to spend more time in the bathroom than on the beach while on holiday. Infected tap water, bacteria-ridden foods or eating unusual dishes are the usual triggers so pay attention to what you eat. Experts suggest that if food can’t be peeled or cooked be wary.

TRY: Turmeric

If you do start to suffer from a dodgy tummy a dose of Turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, can help to put things right.  It helps to increase bile, thus preventing the fermentation of undigested fats in the intestine, which can lead to flatulence, bloating and cramps.


As we know only too well, too much UV light from the sun can damage our skin causing redness, burning and premature ageing. Your best defence is to wear a high SPF sun cream and to escape to the shade during the hottest time of the day – between 11am and 3pm.

TRY: Aloe vera

If you do get burnt, aloe vera gel is a wonderfully cooling and soothing, healing remedy. Apply after you have washed off all traces of sun cream. Chickweed ointment, and calendula cream also both have a similar healing effect. Or you could try six to eight drops of camomile or peppermint essential oil in a cool bath.


  • Stand up and have a good stretch. Shake your hands and arms briskly and shrug your shoulders to help reduce muscle tension.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially if you feel hot. Dehydration can exacerbate stress-related symptoms such as a headache or fatigue.
  • Go for a brisk walk along the beach. The exercise will help to neutralise the negative effects of stress hormones and promote energy.
  • Watch those exotic cocktails. Drinking far more than you would usually can have numerous negatives effects.