Discover the many healing and health benefits of aloe vera
Aloe vera (also called aloe barbadensis) is a popular houseplant grown on windowsills around the world. Cut through the thick, serrated leaf of the aloe and it will immediately ooze clear gel. This gel is used as a treatment for sunburn, minor burns, cuts and skin irritations.
Aloe speeds healing of first-and second-degree burns, too, cutting healing time by nearly nine days, according to a review conducted in Thailand in 2007. It also shows promise for easing the red, scaly skin patches of mild to moderate psoriasis.
Some use aloe directly from the plant itself; others purchase products from the pharmacy that are made with aloe.
How to best use aloe vera
Keep an aloe plant on a sunny windowsill, cut off a piece of a leaf and squeeze the
gel onto minor skin irritations. Or buy an aloe vera skin cream, lotion or ointment—ideally one bearing the International Aloe Science Council’s certification seal.
How aloe vera works
The secret is the gel inside aloe’s spiky leaves. Spread on the skin, it hydrates and protectswhile the body repairs damage—and speeds healing, possibly by improving circulation and encouraging new skin cells to move up into areas that need repairs. In one study from the then Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine, wounds treated with aloe vera decreased in size by 50 percent over seven days, compared to 25 percent for a cream without aloe vera.
Safety tips for using aloe vera
Aloe is not to be taken internally. Studies conducted by the US National Toxicology Program found evidence it may be carcinogenic; it can also cause stomach cramping and diarrhoea, interfere with absorption of medications and even cause liver inflammation.
It should not be used on surgical wounds, because it may get in the way of healing.
It should be noted that aloe will not prevent skin burns from radiation therapy.
Did you know?
Aloe vera has an exotic, aristocratic and ancient pedigree as a skin balm, dating back more than 6000 years. Aloe vera is depicted in stone carvings and papyrus scrolls, was a common burial gift to deceased pharaohs and a widely used remedy for everything from boils and acne to hair loss and hemorrhoids. Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti used it to enhance their legendary beauty, too.