Jet Lag Wonder Drugs?

On Long-Haul Flights, at Least the Hamsters are Having Fun.

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington

I was about to delete the e-mail. “Dear Dave,” it began. And everybody knows that these days, most e-mail that begins with “Dear Dave” is spam.

Like, this one time, my mother sent me an e-mail, and it started with, “Dear Dave.”

I was all like, “How sweet. My mother is e-mailing me.” But then her message continued:

“I am Miriam Mbuto Kfaswane, the beautiful and wholesome widow of Malcolm Herman Eugene Tiger Mbuto Humpenstein Kfaswane XII of Spamistan. And if you do not come home and clean your room and pick up your dirty underwear off the floor before dinner, you are not going to get the 64.8 quadzillion US dollars I have been instructed to deposit into your Swiss bank account.”

I immediately picked up the telephone and called my mother. “Listen, Mom,” I told her, “I am 40 years old. I do not live with you anymore. I will leave my dirty underwear on the floor if I want to. Besides, your name is not Miriam Mbuto Kfaswane!”

At this point, my mother reminded me that she doesn’t really understand the Internet, or own a computer, and probably was not the person who sent me that e-mail.

But that’s not the point. The point is, you mustn’t believe every random e-mail you receive from a stranger, even if that stranger is your mother. Or mine. So I was leery when this other e-mail arrived — from a stranger named Ted, who really, seriously, is not my mother.

“Dear Dave,” Ted began.

Ted wanted to know if he could send me a free sample of his homeopathic, herbal cure for jet lag. “I know you’re a seasoned traveler,” he wrote, “and therefore are justifiably skeptical about any product that claims to treat or prevent jet lag. But, it would be great if you or a friend would give it a try on your next trip.”

I was about to delete Ted’s e-mail, but he had not asked me to clean my room, which was a rare and courteous departure from the e-mail I normally receive, so I wrote back:

“Dear Ted! Thanks for your e-mail! Yes, I am skeptical that your herbal anti-jetlag remedy actually works, but I will give it a go, because, hey, who doesn’t like swallowing random pills they receive in the mail from strangers?”

A few days later, two packages of Ted’s “FlyRight Jet Lag Formula All-Natural Herbal Supplement” arrived in my mailbox.

I spent a couple of weeks sniffing the little white capsules, wanting to just down them all and wait for the purple elephants to come swimming across the sky. But that would have defeated the purpose of seeing whether the pills worked for jet lag, so instead, I picked up my dirty underwear, stuffed it in a backpack, and headed off to SeaTac Airport. Next stop: Frankfurt, Germany, where, if Ted’s product worked, I would arrive blissfully refreshed and ready to skip through meadows of edelweiss.

Normally when I land in Europe after 10 hours in economy class, I do not arrive ready to skip through meadows of edelweiss. I arrive hung over. This is an unfortunate but necessary side effect of my own, time-tested jet lag remedy, which involves a sleeping pill and copious amounts of booze. Most doctors say alcohol worsens the effects of jet lag, but most doctors can afford business class, and do not understand the need to sedate oneself in order to minimize the trauma of having one’s knees squished against one’s face for many hours. So I take their advice with a grain of salt. And a lime.

(For the record, doctors also say combining booze and sleeping pills may result in instant death, so I do not recommend that you try this yourself. If you do, and end up dead, do not come and haunt me afterward. You were warned.)

But I digress. Here I was now, with a free sample of a new jet lag cure, and a ticket to Europe. It was time to compare Ted’s FlyRight jet lag pills with my usual approach to surviving a long flight.

When conducting scientific experiments, it is important that your new conditions match your original, or “control,” conditions as closely as possible. This created a dilemma. Should I fly without drinking alcohol to test FlyRight under optimum conditions? Or should I slurp a few little drinkies to test the formula under my usual flying circumstances? Before I could decide, something else happened that totally screwed up my scientific data: Lufthansa upgraded me to business class.

It had been years since I’d flown in such luxury. Life is different up there. In business class, you can actually sleep. The seats unfold into completely flat beds. Business class also offers high-quality adult beverages in generous amounts, and in today’s economy, turning down free alcohol from an airline is just plain irresponsible.

Long story short, I slept very well on the flight. I landed with an awesome hangover. I was still very jet lagged my first couple of days in Europe — but that could be because FlyRight’s efficacy is reduced when chased with large glasses of single malt scotch. I don’t know.

What I do know is this: I used FlyRight, and for the first time in several years, I got upgraded! I do not know if my upgrade had anything to do with the pills or not, but sometimes, medications come with unexpected, bonus side-effects. For example, Viagra was originally intended to treat high blood pressure, but… yeah! (Also, researchers claim Viagra reduces jet lag in hamsters, so if you happen to be a hamster, I say skip the FlyRight and join the Mile-High Club.)

As for my human readers, I cannot confirm whether or not FlyRight actually works for jet lag. I had intended to give it another try on my flight home, but I accidentally packed it in my checked luggage. I did not get upgraded on that flight, though Lufthansa did seat me in a bulkhead row with extra leg room.

So, dear readers, I regret to report that thus far, my research on the FlyRight Jet Lag Formula All-Natural Herbal Supplement is inconclusive. The good news is it did not kill me. The bad news is the purple elephants never did come swimming across the sky. My advice to you is: try it if you like and let me know how it goes. Or don’t. But accept the fact that our bodies are not designed to be flung halfway around the planet in half a day, and long-haul flights tend to yield fatigue no matter what you do.

My advice to Ted is: good luck! Perhaps you have a product that can help people. Though if you really want to create a wonder drug, I propose you forget the jet lag cure, tweak your formula, and market a pill that increases our chances of getting upgraded.


[Photo by Rupert Ganzer / “Flying Hamstar” graphic by Vanesser III.]

Published on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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