April 23, 2021

Earth Keeps Us Healthy: How to Love it Back

Celebrate one of the greatest creations of all time: Planet Earth.

Yesterday we celebrated one of the greatest creations of all time: Planet Earth. Much sentiment filled the air, with people declaring their love for our planet: the place that generously provides food, air, and shelter.
But beyond the apparent comforts, Earth provides us much more than we can measure. Its richness in biodiversity exposes us to different microorganisms, constantly strengthening our immune system. A recent paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health described the necessity of exposure to bacteria found in soil and plants for the health of our skin and gut. Much of the health community agrees with the importance of a healthy happy gut.

The Earth's richness in biodiversity exposes us to different microorganisms, constantly strengthening our immune system.

Without befriending the bacteria, microbes, and fungi surrounding us, our bodies miss out on developing an optimal immune system. Allergies and autoimmune diseases have been linked to a lack of exposure to these beneficial microorganisms. But exposure is becoming a problem because Planet Earth is changing, affecting its biodiversity.
One of the biggest criminals causing allergy season and flare-ups is pollen. Researchers have noticed a rise in people with allergies as well as prolonged allergy seasons. The hotter days are appreciated for beach outings, but this climate is causing an overgrowth of pollen-producing plants. Plants like ragweed are responsible for allergic rhinitis, its pollen causing the sneezing, runny nose, and red, watery, and itchy eyes amid allergy season.
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Hotter days are causing an overgrowth of pollen-producing plants and prolongation of allergy season. Photo Credit.

But it's not all bad. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that over 80% of the plants we use for our food, like fruits and grains, rely on pollination by animals. Our planet provides the necessary means for pollination, allowing a variety of plants to reproduce at scale and make better-tasting food.

Our planet produces historic herbal medicines, the use of some ingrained into cultures.

Like food, our planet produces historic herbal medicines, the use of some ingrained into cultures. Here are a few common ones and what they're often used for:
These, and many other plant species, are threatened by the changing climate. Planta Medica recently published a review on the effects of climate change on the ecosystem of medicinal plants. Heat waves, cold snaps, and droughts threaten the current and future production of these medicines, and at worst, possible extinction. Extreme weather conditions are also altering the potency of these herbals, sometimes diminishing their therapeutic effects.
Some damage has been done, but there are many ways we can contribute to help keep Earth green. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a few ideas to easily get started:

Walk, bike, or use public transport.

Add greenery where you can, especially along streets.

Reduce water and energy use.

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