Travel Supplements

July 15, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Traveling can be a lot of fun provided that you stay healthy along the way. This isn’t always as simple as it seems. Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile, you can pretty much count on being exposed to a wide assortment of germs and microscopic spoilsports that, under the wrong circumstances, could dampen your good time. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help fortify your immune system and keep you running strong. Whenever we hit the road, I use three specific supplements to shield myself from the unseen hazards of travel.

About 10 years ago or so, echinacea was all the rage. If you mentioned the words, “I think I’m coming down with a cold”, it’s likely that some caring family member or friend would suggest an extract of “purple coneflower”. But over the past decade, inconsistent results in clinical trials have caused this herbal extract to lose some of its luster. I think the inconsistencies have to do with variations in the composition of the products being tested. Herbal remedies are not “cookie cutter” medicine. Plants simply don’t grow under the exact same conditions every time. What ultimately ends up in a capsule reflects many variables, including how an herb is grown, extracted and the quality control measures that are used to ensure its ultimate content. This understanding has allowed me to confidently continue to use a high quality, reliable echinacea based extract for years with good success. (1,2,3)

The cornerstone of my travel supplement routine is a product by Natural Factors called Anti-V Formula. Its primary ingredient is a patented Echinacea purpea flower and root concentrate. Anti-V also features several other botanical extracts.

  • Astragalus – This root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Proponents such as Dr. Andrew Weil often recommend it as an immune tonic that may be used for extended periods of time. Modern science has also documented its anti-viral activity and suggested that it may have a compounding/synergisitic affect when combined with other medicinal extracts such as echinacea, garlic and licorice. (4,5,6)
  • Licorice – This fragrant root is extremely versatile. Recent evidence indicates that it can support immune function during periods of poor dietary intake and combat a variety of viral invaders. (7,8)
  • Lomatium – Is a root that has significant historical application in the Native American healing tradition. It is believed to have played a valuable role in combating the 1917 Spanish influenza in this community. Modern scientific inquiries are beginning to validate its therapeutic potential as well. (9,10)
  • Reishi – Is one of the most widely used medicinal mushrooms in the far East. It contains a variety of phytochemicals that have demonstrated both immune boosting and virus fighting applications. (11,12)

I also make sure to take a good garlic supplement prior to and during my time away from home. The scientific literature not only supports garlic’s role in combating infection, but it’s also widely known to promote healthy circulation. (13,14,15,16,17) Long plane trips have occasionally been implicated in dangerous blood clotting episodes (pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis) in sensitive individuals. (18) Encouraging the healthy flow of blood may help to counter such unwanted side-effects. Based on my research, I’ve chosen to use an enterically coated garlic extract called GarlicFactors that is standardized to 6,150 mcg of allicin per tablet.

My final travel-friendly supplement is a probiotic called Culturelle. The reason why I use this particular product is because it’s one of the most successful and extensively studied nutraceuticals of its kind. The medical literature is filled with examples of beneficial bacteria supporting the immune system, but they also keep the digestive process working as it should. (19,20,21) Issues relating to constipation, diarrhea and even protection against food borne micro-organisms can be addressed by increasing the number of healthy bacteria in your intestines.

I make it a point to begin taking these supplements a few days prior to my trip. I then continue to use them consistently during my time away from home and for a few days after my return. This is a strategy that has served me very well over the years. My hope is that this information will afford these same benefits to any and all of my fellow road warriors.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Nutritional Supplements

3 Comments & Updates to “Travel Supplements”

  1. Paul F. Says:


    This is a very pragmatic recipe to use in preparation and during a trip involving air travel!

    It sounds very timely and even more relevant to senior travellers, in these days of high risks of swine flu. Seniors, on account of age, are more prone to blood circulation sluggishness in the legs and may tend to have a lazy immune system!

    Should one follow the recommended doses provided on the supplement labels?

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.


  2. JP Says:


    Thank you for your kind comment. I typically follow the manufacturers’ instructions. But, if I sense any hint of digestive trouble, I will personally double or triple the probiotic dosage. This appears to be both safe and advisable, in my opinion.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/17:

    Nutrients. 2016 Mar 24;8(4):182.

    Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.

    Intercontinental air travel can be stressful, especially for respiratory health. Elderberries have been used traditionally, and in some observational and clinical studies, as supportive agents against the common cold and influenza. This randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of 312 economy class passengers travelling from Australia to an overseas destination aimed to investigate if a standardised membrane filtered elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) extract has beneficial effects on physical, especially respiratory, and mental health. Cold episodes, cold duration and symptoms were noted in a daily diary and assessed using the Jackson score. Participants also completed three surveys containing questions regarding upper respiratory symptoms (WURSS-21) and quality of life (SF-12) at baseline, just before travel and at 4-days after travel. Most cold episodes occurred in the placebo group (17 vs. 12), however the difference was not significant (p = 0.4). Placebo group participants had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days (117 vs. 57, p = 0.02) and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher (583 vs. 247, p = 0.05). These data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers. More research is warranted to confirm this effect and to evaluate elderberry’s physical and mental health benefits.

    Be well!


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