The smell of desert rain may be good for you, according to a new US study |

It’s been a pretty wet and cloudy summer for the sunny interior of southern BC.

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Nevertheless, a study from an american university says that the smell of desert rain can be good for your health.

While the southern Okanagan, with its well-known abundance of fruit and wine, isn’t a desert, it does have semi-arid scrub, which is close enough.

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The University of Arizona study says the smell of desert rain can not only bring on euphoria, but may also have additional health benefits, as plants release oils and other chemicals after a good soak.

“The flora of the Sonoran Desert is one of the richest in the world in plants that emit aromatic volatile oils, and many of those fragrances confer stress-reducing health benefits to humans, wildlife, and the plants themselves,” said Gary Nabhan, a research social scientist. .

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A prickly pear cactus in the Osoyoos Desert Center in the southern Okanagan.

Osoyoos Desert Center

The Sonoran Desert stretches from northwestern Mexico to the southwestern US, but contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t extend as far north as Canada.

Additionally, the Southern Okanagan is also not part of the Great Basin Desert that encompasses most of Nevada, although it does share some plant and animal species with its neighbor to the south.

Considered distinct from those two desertsThe South Okanagan remains a hotspot, and there’s no arguing that when rain hits the semi-arid region, it smells good.

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“After a heavy rain in our desert environment here in the southern Okanagan, you will definitely smell the scent of sage,” said Jayme Friedt, CEO of the Osoyoos Desert Center.

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Friedt says the area is home to three to four different types of sagebrush, which will be the dominant scent that lingers in the air after rain.

“It smells amazing,” Friedt said. “It’s like a turkey dinner, I guess, although our sagebrush that grows here isn’t necessarily edible. But it has that delicious sage smell.

Friedt noted that there are also plants that bloom at different times, making for a variety of fragrances and places to see.

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According to the University of Arizona, Nabhan is the lead author of two new studies that explain how organic compounds that evolved to protect plants from solar radiation, heat waves, drought stress and predatory animals may also have benefits. for human health.

The study focuses on the Sonoran Desert and its monsoon season, which typically runs from June 15 to September 30. About half of the region’s average annual precipitation occurs over the course of those three and a half months.

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The university says that Nabhan and his co-authors identified 115 volatile organic compounds in 60 plant species in the Sonoran desert that are released immediately before, during and after rainfall. Of these, 15 have been shown in previous studies to offer tangible health benefits.

“The fragrant volatile organic compounds in desert plants can contribute in many ways to improving sleep patterns, stabilizing emotional hormones, improving digestion, increasing mental clarity, and reducing depression or anxiety,” Nabhan said.

“Its accumulation in the atmosphere immediately above desert vegetation is what causes the rainy smell that many people report.”

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Nabhan also said that many desert plants produce more volatile oils during the summer to protect themselves from harsh conditions.

“The production of the oily compounds occurs during extreme droughts and severe heat waves, but they remain in the leaves until the summer rains come,” Nabhan said.

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“We used to think that during the summer rains those oily, gummy substances get washed away and become airborne, but now there is some evidence that with the humidity and fierce winds we have with the onset of rain, they are released. in the atmosphere even before the rain falls and contribute to that incredible rush of anticipation you feel just before the first drop of rain from a thunderstorm.

“From there, they travel to our lungs and our bloodstream in a matter of minutes.”

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In particular, the Osoyoos Desert Center has a 1.5 kilometer boardwalk that was recently built. It meanders through acres of scrubland that the center cares for.

“It’s a beautiful ride,” Friedt said. “You are really immersed in the habitat and there are all kinds of critters that live there.

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“It’s a great way to get to know the environment.”

A western bluebird.

Osoyoos Desert Center

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