While the recent fires in the Amazon Rainforest have the world captivated, it makes me think about the importance of plants. They are key to life on Earth.
I remember sitting in Mr. Hopely’s ninth grade biology class and learning about photosynthesis. In a nutshell, photosynthesis is the process by which plants use the energy from the sun to convert water and carbon dioxide into glucose. This makes plants the primary producers of their own food, energy, and growth.
What does that have to do with us? Plants and living creatures have a cyclical interdependence. In the process of photosynthesis, we get a valuable by-product – oxygen. Plants produce the majority of free oxygen in the air. As we humans inhale oxygen, we exhale carbon dioxide. Therefore, we’re providing an important component to photosynthesis. This helps plants create more food, oxygen, and water. Photosynthesis also helps maintain the balance of carbon dioxide in nature.
That brings me back to the Amazon Rainforest and the ongoing fires. There are roughly 40,000 species of plants living in the forest. Nearly one-third of the land photosynthesis occurs in tropical forests. The largest is in the Amazon Basin.1
When deforestation regulations are relaxed to create more land for farmers, it does more harm than good. If you clear out huge swaths of plants, you decrease their ability to supply necessary nutrients and energy.
Living organisms and fire consume all oxygen.2 Humans and animals are living organisms. All living creatures on earth need plants for life and survival. Bottom line: life cannot exist without plants and photosynthesis.
I recently read the New York Times article, Should Black People Wear Sunscreen? A dermatologist speculates that UV sun exposure is not related to skin cancer. He postulates that if it were the case, there’d be a skin cancer epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. He says sunscreen is not promoted there as it is in America.
I use my SPF 30 mineral sunscreen everyday—rain or shine. When it comes to my skin and health, I don’t want to take any chances. People of color are usually left out of clinical trials regarding sunscreen protection. Therefore, precise recommendations are scarce and/or not specifically tailored to us. Hence, I err on the side of conservancy until more research is gathered.
With that said, I have my own theory as to why we don’t hear about a skin cancer epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. I believe it’s the ingredients in their skincare products. There are over a dozen clues to support my conclusion. Here’s a good list to start.
Mongongo Oil (also called Manketti) contains antioxidant vitamin E and alpha-eleostearic acid. Both protects from UV rays. Mongongo oil is used in Africa for this purpose.
Marula Oil contains fatty antioxidants, which scavenges free radicals. It has essential fatty acids to help build your stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin).
Moringa Oil has antioxidant vitamin C, which fights off free radicals caused by the sun, which leads to wrinkles and cancer. It also has essential fatty acids, which helps build your skin barrier.
Baobab Oil is packed with antioxidant vitamin E for UV protection. The omega fatty acids are building blocks to healthy cell membranes. The polyunsaturated fats help produce skin’s natural oil barrier.