We’re coming into the driest time of the year and Arizona (the “arid zone”) is already one of the driest places on Earth. This year, it’s much drier than usual, given the lack of rain and snow we’ve had over the winter and early spring.
Our typical atmospheric humidity in Prescott in late spring runs about 9 percent. This year, I’ve seen some weather stations already reporting less than 3 percent, and we’re just at the beginning of the dry season! Not only is this a challenging time for the forest plants and creatures that rely on water, it’s also very demanding on us. The human body feels best when the humidity is over 30 percent – our skin likes it, our lungs like it, our sinuses like it and our hair likes it. Atmospherically, it feels better to be in a drier climate because moisture makes cold feel colder and hot feel hotter, but the lack of moisture for our mucous membranes and skin takes its toll.
There are many things you can do to help your body fight the dryness. You can run a humidifier in your house, and houseplants can keep your home a little more humid because they hold onto moisture. When you’re cooking food, and especially when you’re boiling water, don’t run your outside vent – let the steam release into your house.
Physically, make sure you stay really well hydrated. When the humidity is this low, just walking around in open air draws moisture out of your skin and into the atmosphere, dehydrating you. The minimum amount of water you should drink every day is half your body weight in ounces, so if you weigh 150 pounds, the minimum amount of water you should drink is 75 ounces a day. If you are outside exercising or even just walking, or you are drinking dehydrating drinks like tea, soda or alcohol, make sure you add at least that much water as you do other fluids. Electrolyte drinks are also important if you’re sweating a lot.
With all of the water being drawn out of your body and into the atmosphere, our skin and mucus membranes need extra attention. Most body lotions actually dehydrate you more because they contain alcohol to keep them from feeling sticky. My favorite treatment, which not only helps hydrate and soften skin but also aids in detoxifying, is castor oil applied topically.
Castor oil is a very thick, heavy oil that has a slightly musky smell. (If you want to, you can add a few drops of a nice-smelling essential oil like lavender, citrus or rose oil.) If you apply it to wet skin, it doesn’t feel heavy or thick. When you first get out of the shower, don’t use a towel to dry off; use a wet washcloth to simply dab off the water droplets. Then, place a quarter-sized amount of castor oil in your palm, rub your palms together, and pat the oil over the lower part of your body. Repeat this for the upper part of your body, then massage the oil briskly into your skin. Wait three or four minutes to allow the oil to soak in, then marvel at your soft, supple, well-hydrated skin!
Often with these dry conditions, the nasal passages also can become very dry, thin and can rupture easily, causing severe nosebleeds. A good solution for this is to put a small amount of castor oil on the tip of a q-tip and gently dab it on the inside of each nostril. Taking an essential oil supplement like fish oil, flax oil or perilla (seaweed) oil can always be helpful for internal dryness, and adding food oils like olive oil and coconut oil, can also be helpful.
If you suffer from dry mouth, especially if you have to use a C-PAP machine at night, try swishing a teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth before bed to keep your mouth soft and supple all night. You can swallow or spit out the oil after swishing.
Keep hydrated and stay healthy. QCBN
By Dr. Susan Godman