The smell of desert rains can have health benefits

Oils and other chemical plants can explain the feelings of euphoria released after a rain and the health benefits after a storm in the desert, research shows.

“The flora of the Sonoran Desert is one of the richest plants in the world that emits fragrant fragrant oils, and many of these scents provide health benefits to humans to reduce stress, wildlife, and plants,” says Gary Nabhan, a social researcher. Scientist at the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona and chair of food and water security at the southwestern border.

Nabhan is the lead author of two new studies, one International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and the other inside Desert plants– Explain the volatile organic compounds that have evolved to protect plants from harmful solar radiation, heat waves, drought stress, and predatory animals that may also have health benefits for humans.

Desert monsoon season

After learning about the “forest bath” that inspired Nabhan to research the health benefits of desert odors, it originated in coniferous forests in East Asia and involves spending time in nature to help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

At first, he was disappointed that the forests closest to him are thousands of feet high in the Catalina Mountains, with their highest point being about an hour and a half by car from the center of Tucson.

“But then I thought some of these compounds are found in desert plants,” says Nabhan, “and we know we have horrible odors at certain times of the year, especially after a monsoon thunderstorm.”

The southwest monsoon season usually runs from June 15 to September 30. About half of the region’s average annual rainfall occurs in those three and a half months.

Nabhan and his collaborators, Eric Daugherty, a former Southwest Center Fellow, and Tammi Hartung, co-owner of Desert Canyon Farm in Canyon City, Colorado, identified 115 volatile organic compounds in 60 plant species in the Sonoran desert. it is released immediately before, during and after rain. 15 of them have been shown to offer tangible health benefits in past research.

“The fragrant organic compounds of desert plants can help improve sleep patterns, stabilize emotional hormones, improve digestion, increase mental clarity, and reduce depression or anxiety,” says Nabhan.

“It is the accumulation of air in the atmosphere above the desert vegetation that causes the smell of rain that many people complain about. It also reduces exposure to harmful solar radiation as it protects desert plants, the fauna they use as food and shelter, and the humans who live among them.

Many desert plants produce more volatile oils in the summer to protect them from harsh conditions, Nabhan says.

“The production of oily compounds is occurring in extreme droughts and severe heat waves, but they remain in the leaves until the onset of summer rains.

“We thought that in the summer rains these greasy and gummy substances would clean up and get into the air, but now there is some evidence that with the humidity and the onset of rain, the strong winds we release are released. even before the rain actually falls into the atmosphere and contribute to that horrible prediction you feel before the first raindrop of a storm. From there, they travel to our lungs and our bloodstream in a matter of minutes. ”

Medicinal gardens?

The creosote shrub is one of the most iconic plants in the Sonoran desert and is referred to as a plant that gives the desert a familiar scent when it rains. One of the medicinal compounds that contributes to the familiar smell of creosote is trans-karyophyllene, which comes from a fungus that lives inside the plant, Nabhan says.

Equipped with his knowledge of desert plants, Nabhan is part of an initiative to create fragrant gardens to promote healing and well-being in the southwest.

In March, Nabhan and his colleagues set up a garden in Ajo, Sonoran Desert Inn and Conference Center in Arizona. By the end of the fall, they would like to complete another one at the base of Tumamoc Hill, where a lot of people go outside for exercises. Carondelet Hill St. Being close to Mary’s Hospital makes it an even more strategic location, says Nabhan, who believes patients and their families receive the health benefits of the garden.

“I would like to see these fragrant gardens around hospitals, community clinics, and all the beds and breakfasts, where anyone can come to heal, relax, and regenerate,” Nabhan says. “These public blooms will not only produce nutritious food, they will provide residents, out-of-town guests and hikers with a powerful opportunity to feel how the desert smells of rain.”

Source: University of Arizona

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