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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Beat the Heat

Jul 28, 2020 03:35PM ● By J Garnett
Arizona is known for being hot, and in the eyes of people across the country it’s the place to be in the winter because the temperatures are more moderate than most of the country. This is why the population of the state increases dramatically in the winter months. But what about the summer? Retirees pack up and leave their winter escape when the heat is turned up. College students pack up at the end of the semester and head home, usually before the thermometer hits 100 degrees. So what about the locals—the people who live here all year? They endure some of the warmest weather in the country. Thankfully, many Arizonans have learned coping mechanisms to deal with the extreme heat. There are some methods, however, that are not as mainstream as others.
A glass of cold water, a dip in the pool or hunkering down inside with the air conditioner are common ways to beat the heat. Some people have been seen using an umbrella to keep the sun off of them while walking, some are sporting large-brimmed hats and of course there’s always sitting under a large shade tree to help beat the heat. There are even products on the market with little misters and a fan to wear around the neck. Staying cool in the Arizona summer could be considered necessary in order to have the best quality of life. Heat can have adverse reactions to the human body and health.
Extended exposure to extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps. In severe cases, it may even cause death. When exposed to high temperatures, the human body needs to work harder to maintain a healthy internal temperature. The heart rate increases in order to get more blood to the skin, sweat glands work overtime and respiration increases as the body tries to rid itself of too much internal heat. Because the body is working hard to stay cool, there are certain things that occur. Increased agitation, loss of focus, lack of concentration, lethargy and fatigue are just a few of the symptoms of getting too much heat.
During the steamy months of summer, some people say that it is Mother Nature’s wrath, however, she also provides many natural ways to cool down. Staying out of direct sunlight is perhaps the easiest way to remain cool. Although not overly populated with shade trees, Arizona has its share. The Tipu is perhaps one of the more popular shade trees in the desert because it grows quickly, reaching heights of 40 to 50 feet in just a few seasons. The Sissoo tree is also popular because it’s a semi evergreen. It grows to about 60 feet high and offers the much needed shade to anyone sitting under it. The green-trunked Palo Verde can be spotted throughout Arizona, and with its wide canopy, can bring relief from the sun’s harmful rays. The Arizona Ash, Weeping Willow and Elm are also known for being a landscaper’s favorite for beating the heat.
Because trees draw moisture from even the driest of environments, it’s not unusual for the bark and leaves of a tree to be cooler than the surrounding air temperature. By simply being near a grouping of trees, a little relief can be found. Tree huggers may have the right idea. Hug a tree and feel the heat exchange. Ever wonder why the koala is often seen lounging in a tree, arms wrapped around a branch or the trunk? Michael Kearney, from the University of Melbourne, has written a study that shows koalas hug trees to stay cool in the brutal Australian heat. Hugging a tree, or simply sitting under its shade, can cool the body’s external temperature, but what about cooling the internal burn?
By now, most people have heard at least a little bit about the benefits of herbs for the human body. Herbs are sometimes generally categorized as being a hot or cold herb. Spicy peppers leave a burn in the throat or on the tongue, and although it may seem counterproductive, eating spicy peppers can actually help lower body temperature. Peppers contain capsaicin, which sends signals to the brain that the body needs cooling. Herbs in the mint family, like peppermint, can leave a cool sensation in the mouth, but the levels of menthol in mint can also leave the internal body feeling cooler.
Though the outward reaction of an herb may be hot or cold, it’s the internal benefits that can keep body temperature balanced—so don’t be fooled by the taste or external sensations of certain herbs and foods. Lemon balm has been used to treat hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland, along with the hypothalamus, regulates body temperature. During the heat of summer, these glands are overworked because they’re trying to keep the body cool. Give a helping hand by adding some lemon balm to a glass of iced tea.
Other cold foods like tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants and mushrooms can be consumed to keep the body feeling cooler. Also, these foods don’t take as much energy from the body to process because they’re easily digested. Watermelon, kiwi, apricots, bananas and strawberries all have a cooling effect on the body as well, which is perhaps why they can always be counted on as a summer staple. Milk, yogurt and cheese are also considered to be cooling—think ice cream. When Mother Nature throws on the heat switch during the summer months, just know that she also provides everything that’s needed to stay cool.

J. Garnet, M.Ed. is a writer, teacher, speaker and healer. Garnet’s passion is helping the public see that nature is medicine. Connect at 520-437-8855 or [email protected].