Crews use aromatherapy to reduce overseas jet lag

Business travel

August 26, 1991|By Tom Belden | Tom Belden,Knight-Ridder

So, you think you've tried everything to combat jet lag after a long international airline flight, and nothing really seems to work?

How about slathering your body in aromatic oils, the same ones Princess Diana uses to relieve stress?

Aromatherapy, which uses your sense of smell to enhance mood and physical well-being, now is being applied in a serious way by two international airlines to try to help travelers overcome jet lag-induced fatigue, disorientation and inability to sleep at normal times.

Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic Airways provide their first- and business-class passengers with the "Afterflight Regulator Kit," which includes a three-day supply of two aromatic-oil formulas, one labeled "Awake" and the other "Asleep."

The makers of the oils sell the same formulas to airline coach passengers on board flights or through the mail from London.

Air New Zealand says its passengers and flight crews have found that the aromatic oils definitely help, especially when used along with more widely accepted methods of fighting jet-lag symptoms.

The airlines' aromatherapy products are made by Daniele Ryman Ltd., a London specialist who counts among her clients Princess Diana and the Duchess of York.

Ryman marketing director Farrol Kahn suggests using the Awake formula, which has a pungent, piney scent, with a bath or shower after arrival on a long flight, provided it is daylight.

The Asleep formula is used with another bath or shower just before you go to bed. The whole process should be repeated daily for the first three days in a new time zone.

Some travelers also find it helpful on a long overnight flight to rub a touch of the Asleep formula on their chins or around their noses to help them rest, Kahn said.

"The sense of smell can influence your mood, just like music does," he said. "A fox trot puts you in a relaxed mood, and patriotic music makes you feel upbeat. The fragrances suggest things to you. The Awake formula alerts you, like walking in a pine forest would. It gets you invigorated. The Asleep formula does the opposite."

Daniele Ryman, who has been experimenting with aromatherapy since the early 1960s, doesn't "make outlandish claims" about the fragrances, Kahn said.

But they clearly "stimulate the olfactory nerves, and that sends a signal to your brain," he said. "The sense of smell is a neglected sense."

Air New Zealand tested the aromatherapy kits on more than 2,000 volunteers, all of them frequent international business travelers or airline flight crews. In the crew tests of about 300 individuals, 73 percent said Awake and Asleep improved their ability to overcome jet lag, Kahn said. Forty-three percent of test subjects who were given placebos reported help, he said.

Air New Zealand, whose crews battle jet lag virtually every time they fly, also has sponsored extensive biomedical research on other ways to fight the debilitating effects of upsetting one's body clock with time-zone changes of as much as 12 hours.

Much of the research has focused on melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps regulate a person's sleep and wake cycles. Administered in small doses to people with jet lag, melatonin seems to have "a statistically significant effect" in preventing such symptoms, with few side effects, said Sandy Dawson, a physician who has been doing biomedical research for Air New Zealand for more than six years.

"It seems to be the neatest way we have to stop or avoid the jet lag," Dawson said.

Unfortunately, melatonin in pill form is not publicly available, because patents on it have died and no pharmaceutical companies are willing to invest in getting it approved for use in fighting jet lag, he said.

In the meantime, Dawson said, aromatherapy probably is useful because it has no side effects and no "realistic prospect of doing harm, so any good it does you puts you ahead on the balance sheet."


Runzheimer International, the Northbrook, Ill., travel-cost consulting company, has found that London ranks as Europe's most expensive city for business travelers. Three meals a day and one night in a London hotel average $364. Paris is next, at $332 per day. At the other end of the spectrum, the same meals and a hotel in Budapest, Hungary, average just $143, followed by Lisbon, Portugal, at $191.

In another measure, the Japanese National Tourist Organization surveyed costs of three days in a first-class hotel, plus meals, drinks and taxi rides, and also found London to be the world's most expensive city. Paris was next-most expensive, followed by New York; Frankfurt, Germany; Geneva, Tokyo and Sapporo, Japan.


Business travelers will be paying about 4.5 percent more for air fare between July 1991 and December 1992 for a variety of reasons, according to a forecast by Topaz Enterprises Inc., a Portland, Ore., firm that audits the fares travel agencies are getting for their corporate clients.

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