The “empress of medical plants”: Aloe vera is a plant with a tradition of medicinal use for over a thousand years and is a very valuable ingredient in many skin care products. It is used for different inner, but also, outer concerns like skin illnesses, joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, gingival inflammations or sunburns. It is even myth that Cleopatra, the legendary Egyptian queen, had been using aloe vera for her regular skin care.
Characteristics of the aloe vera plant
Aloe vera belongs to a grouping of the oldest studied and most medically revolutionizing plants in our world today. Its appearance resembles that of a cactus, but belongs to the lily family as do onions and garlic. Therefore, it is also called the lily of the desert. Presumably, aloe vera has its origins from the Arabic peninsula, but nowadays it can be found in the Mediterranean, India, and South America. In fact, Mexico contains some of the largest habitations of aloe in the world.
By now, there are hundreds of different aloe types. However, the most established one is the “real” aloe vera. Its inconspicuous appearance deceives many at first, seeming to be a quite ordinary plant. However, in its thick, acanthaceous leaves, aloe vera collects water during rainy seasons and builds essential nutrients for survival. These nutrients are responsible for its habitation in sub-tropic regions and its self-healing properties. If a leave is cut off, one can distinctly observe how that area constringes and seals by itself. An aloe vera leaf is divided in 3 sections: leaf bark, juice and pulp. Leaf juice and pulp differ in their effects.
Aloe Vera leaf juice
The main ingredient of this viscid, lightly yellow, and very bitter tasting liquid is aloin. This substance protects the plant mainly from natural enemies. In former times, it was common to extract aloin to be used as a very strong laxative. Nowadays it is not used as a laxative due to the fact that a high dosage can have harmful effects and there are plenty of other natural alternatives, which are much healthier.
Aloe Vera gel
Aloe vera gel contains over 200 proven agents, among them vitamins, enzymes, minerals, amino acids, essential oils, and salicylic acid. Before processing the gel, the leaf bark and the contained aloin have to be thoroughly removed. The gel can be used for inner, as well as, outer purposes. Specifically the skin absorbs the fresh gel instantly, providing a very moisturizing effect. Additionally, aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and soothing properties which can also benefit the skin.
Especially in the case of sunburns, itchiness, neurodermatitis, psoriasis or eczema, aloe vera can work miracles by just applying the gel and letting it absorb. Through its cooling and wound-healing effect, it also serves immediate relief in case of grazes. Moreover, it can act as first aid against insect bites or herpes. Tired, dry, and aging skin can profit from the moisturizing effects, as well as, acne prone skin. Also with the case of acne prone skin, the antibacterial effects within aloe reduces inflammations and scars when acting as a soothing agent. The extraordinary skin care effects of aloe vera make it nearly impossible not to use in cosmetics.
The gel can also be consumed. Together with yogurt, in your cereal, or as small extra ingredient in your fruit salad: There are almost no limits. Just avoid cooking the gel, as it loses its healing properties when heated to high temperatures. Through its soothing properties, the gel is extremely suitable for bodily discomforts such as acid reflux, a irritable stomach or colon. Regular consumption can even lower blood sugar levels, and so, aloe vera can help with diseases such as diabetes. Additionally the gel can cause increased blood fat levels, thus a high cholesterol level can be lowered.