The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place on planet—there has never been recorded rainfall, and it's getting drier.
Running down sand dunes that are hundreds of feet high can be intimidating, but at least the fall is cushioned. Lisa Oz and Jenna Mack lead the way.
Salt flats in the Atacama Desert of Chile extend one mile into the earth and contain huge salt and lithium reserves. The Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean surround them.
Spanish for "high plain," the Altiplano sits on the shoulder of the Andes Mountains in northern Chile. It is 12,000 feet above sea level and supports some very unique vegetation, including yareta (Azorella compacta), which looks like a surface moss but is actually several feet thick.
Yareta was burned like wood by the Incas and miners in the past. The oily resin from this plant is used as a tea with reputed benefits for asthma and diabetes.
The Altiplano reaches high into the Andes Mountains and boasts remarkably diverse plant and wildlife, many of which have remained untouched since recorded time.
Geysers from volcanic stones and the earth's magma heat mountain water and steam through the high plain floor. The resulting mineral water has been a traditional healing solution for centuries.
As subterranean channels re-emerge into the Atacama Desert, they support lush vegetation. The cooler temperatures (109 degrees) make bathing easier.
Water from the Andes passes underground to create springs in the Atacama Desert. Desert flora must concentrate their chemicals due to lack of water, which results in 25 percent of these plants having medicinal value.
"Bailahuén" (Haplopappus rigidus) is the common name of a medicinal shrub native to Chile, where this resinous herb is widely used for its liver-stimulating properties.
Waynu Picchu ("Young Picchu") overlooks Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes and is located in the cloud forest 5,000 feet above rivers that flow into the Amazon. The clouds in the background are actually transpiring from trees and floating toward the sky (rather than descending from it).
Out of respect, the Incas who built Waynu Picchu would never point to the mountains, which were considered sacred.
Dr. Oz overlooks Machu Picchu, a citadel used by Incas as a religious temple site and agricultural growing center. The Incas focused on the spiritual significance of mountains and being near Mother Earth, but they also had very active lifestyles mandated by the continuous climbing involved in their daily lives and the ability to plant nutritious foods on small plots efficiently enough to sustain their population.
It's the stairway to heaven in Waynu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes! The remarkable range of epiphytes and other unusual plants create the most biodiverse flora on the planet. The trees transpire moisture to the skies after rainfalls to maintain a continuous mist to sustain plant growth on these otherwise inhospitable mountains.
Many of these plants offer remarkable healing properties that people have yet to capture. This may be the richest opportunity for life-changing medicines in the next decade, Dr. Oz says.
Lisa and Dr. Oz overlook the cloud forest in the Peruvian Andes, where it is always moist.