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Many people are familiar with aloe plants and have likely used it to relieve the pain of burns or to cool a sunburn. However, the benefits of aloe vera go far beyond just these remedies. In fact aloe has commonly been used throughout history for its beauty, health and medicinal properties. Egyptian queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti used it as part of their beauty regimes. Alexander the Great, and Christopher Columbus used it to treat soldiers’ wounds. So as you can see, the uses of aloe are numerous.
Aloe vera juice vs. Aloe gel
Before learning about the benefits of aloe it’s important to know two basic differences between aloe juice and aloe gel. Aloe vera juice can be produced from the entire leaf, meaning the green exterior skin or just the interior gel. The parts that are used should be disclosed on the label. Aloe vera juice is consumed orally as a tonic and can be enjoyed plain or added to smoothies or other juices. The skin of the leaf contains anthraquinones which have potent laxative properties; for this reason many prefer a juice made only from the interior gel or fillet of the plant.
Aloe gel is mainly used for topical applications such as a remedy for burns, frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores. It is the clear gel inside the leaves that is soothing for burns and minor cuts. Although the interior of the plant is 99% water, the gel also contains glycoproteins and polysaccharides. Glycoproteins speed the healing process by stopping pain and inflammation while polysaccharides stimulate skin growth and repair. Which is why it so beneficial for burns and minor cuts.
Aloe vera is available in a variety of forms
Aloe vera is available in numerous forms such as juice, capsules, tablets, powder concentrates, and gels. You can also find aloe in many commercially made products such as shampoos, conditioners, creams, ointments and lotions.
Aloe vera for health
If you have any pre-existing medical condition or are on any medications discuss the use of aloe with your health provider first to avoid any potential health concerns or risks.
- Burns– Applying aloe vera gel to burns allows for quicker healing.
- Cold sores – Aloe has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties that speed healing and can relieve the pain of cold sores.
- Heartburn relief – This review shows that consuming 1 to 3 ounces of pure aloe with meals may help to reduce the severity of GERD. The 2010 review states that aloe vera (aloe) leaf gel can reduce acute symptoms and heal acid-damaged tissues.
- Indigestion– Drinking ¼ cup of aloe vera gel with a half cup of apple juice may help soothe indigestion. ; this is due to B-sitosterol, an anti-inflammatory compound. Don’t drink too much or too fast as this can also act as a potent laxative.
- Laxative– This study shares the positive results of using aloe as a laxative. The anthraquinones help to stimulate mucus secretion and peristalsis.
- Lowers blood sugar-This study in Phytomedicine showed promising results for diabetic patients. Participants consumed one tablespoon of aloe vera juice twice daily for a minimum of two weeks and their blood sugar and triglyceride levels dropped. Results suggest it should be considered as an antidiabetic agent.
- Mouthwash-This 2014 study shares the effectiveness of aloe in stopping plaque build up as well as providing relief for swollen or bleeding gums.
- Periodontal disease– Due to its healing properties, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties aloe vera gel proved successful in faster healing of periodontal disease.
Aloe vera for beauty
Aloe is well known for its versatility in beauty care. Due to its amazing moisturizing properties it is common to find aloe in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, soaps and creams. Be sure to avoid additives, fragrances and dyes; always look for 100% pure aloe vera gel. Here are some great beauty and skin care hints from Prevention:
- Aloe cubes– Fill an ice cube tray with aloe gel. These are great to rub on your skin for bug bites, and burns. Aloe will reduce the redness from burns and sooth the skin.
- Dry cracked feet– The creator of Pixi Beauty, Petra Strand shares this foot mask recipe: Mix ½ cup of oatmeal, ½ cup of corn meal, 4 Tbsp. aloe gel and ½ cup of unscented body lotion. Rub on feet till well exfoliated. Let sit for ten minutes, rinse well and dry.
- Face wash– Mix 1 Tbsp. aloe vera gel with 1 tsp of almond milk and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Wash face and allow to sit on your skin for a few minutes before rinsing.
- Facial– This recipe is from Tammie Umbel, founder of Shea Terra Organics. Blend pure aloe gel with a three inch slice of cucumber and one egg white. Apply evenly to face. Leave on while you watch a movie or enjoy a book. Rinse well and dry. Since aloe improves the elasticity of your skin as well as increasing the water content on your skin this is a great option for younger and smoother looking skin.
- Hand sanitizer– In a spray bottle mix ¼ cup of alcohol, ½ cup of aloe gel and 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake before use. Spray once on hands and rub your hands till dry.
- Hand softener– Mix 1 Tbsp. aloe gel with 1 tsp. organic coconut oil. Massage into hands, wash and rinse.
- Make-up remover– Place a little dab of aloe gel on a cotton ball and wipe away makeup.
- Shaving cream– In her book Bonding over Beauty, Erika Katz shares this great shaving cream recipe: In a clean soap pump dispenser add 1/3 cup aloe gel, ¼ cup castile soap, 1 Tbsp. almond oil, 1 tsp. Vitamin E oil, 5 drops eucalyptus oil and ¼ cup distilled warm water. Shake before each use and refrigerate up to six months.
- Sugar scrub– Mix ½ cup of aloe gel with enough brown sugar to achieve a gritty texture. While in the shower, rub on any area that need softening such as elbows, knees or heels of your feet. Rinse and wash
Grow your own aloe vera
Aloe vera, like cacti is a succulent plant, which does best in dry conditions. These plants will grow best in a cactus potting soil mix or in a regular potting soil that has been amended. A good blend is three parts of cactus potting soil to one part of regular potting soil. Since these plants can’t stand sitting in water or wet soil, the pot will also need to have good drainage.
Aloe plants don’t require fertilizer. They do better in south or west facing windows that offer bright light. The soil should be allowed to dry completely before each watering. When watering the plant it should be soaked well and allowed to drain. A frequent cause of aloe plant death is overwatering.
Splitting an aloe plant
Splitting an aloe plant is very easy, but does require a gentle hand. In general, late winter or early spring are good times to separate baby plants from the parent, as this is a time of relatively inactive growth.
Gently remove the parent plant from a pot. Brush away any soil from the base and root system. Choose a healthy baby plant (called a pup) and gently pull the pup away from the adult plant. In some cases you may need to carefully cut it away from the parent plant with a clean, sharp knife. Lay the pup in a warm, darker room for the end to harden for two days.
When the pup root/end is dry it’s time to plant. Choose a pot slightly larger than the plant. Fill it with a potting mix. Create a small hole in the soil for the plant root and insert in the soil. Don’t water until the roots have taken hold and the plant begins to grow. This can usually take a couple of weeks. Then water as usual.
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