(NaturalHealth365) Aloe vera, a spiky-looking plant in the succulent family, has gained an impressive reputation over the last few decades as the “go-to” herb for natural, drug-free soothing of minor burns and rashes.
But aloe aficionados aren’t the first to extol this plant’s healing qualities, only the latest. In fact, the use of aloe vera gel to treat sunburn, wounds and skin rashes dates back thousands of years. Contemporary researchers have found that this ancient herbal remedy has scientific merit: the gel in aloe leaves is rich in phytochemicals that can ease pain, reduce inflammation and promote healing.
And — because this versatile member of the lily family doubles as an attractive houseplant — relief for a mild burn can be as close as your windowsill.
How did aloe become the plant of ‘immortality’?
The aloe plant, scientifically known as aloe vera L. and aloe barbadensis, is indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Currently, cultivated in subtropical and tropical zones worldwide, aloe plants are popular choices as warm-weather ornamental garden plants; in colder regions, they can thrive on sunny windowsills. Aloe vera has been found in the Egyptian Book of Remedies, which predates Christ’s birth by 1500 years; it was referred to, with reverence, as the “Plant of Immortality.”
Today, aloe has both medicinal and cosmetic uses, and is a common ingredient in commercial body lotions, makeup and shampoos.
What are the healing properties of aloe?
The gel from the aloe vera plant brings an entire team of beneficial substances to bear on the pain, swelling and itching of burns and skin irritations. It contains substances called glycoproteins— which have analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities – along with polysaccharides, which have emollient, or soothing, effects.
Aloe’s polysaccharides also give the gel its humectant, or skin-hydrating, powers, which can increase the moisture content in skin and speed healing. Bradykinase, a natural pain reliever, is also found in aloe vera gel, along with magnesium lactate, which reduces itching and promotes skin growth and repair. Finally, aloe’s antibacterial qualities may help prevent infection.
What does research tell us about the power of aloe?
Actually, there are several clinical studies that support aloe’s healing properties. In a study published in 2009 in Surgery Today, researchers described aloe’s anti-inflammatory effects as superior to that of 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, and reported that burns treated with aloe vera healed almost 15 percent faster than burns treated with silver sulfadiazine – a common pharmaceutical medication.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in 1999 and published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, applications of aloe vera extracts significantly reduced scaling and itching of seborrheic dermatitis.
How do I use aloe for best results?
If you are lucky enough to have an aloe plant in your home or garden, obtaining and applying the gel is a snap. Simply use a clean, sharp scissors to harvest one of the plant’s fleshy leaves near the base. But, remember, avoid stressing the aloe by using only thriving, well-grown plants.
Slit the leaf down the middle, squeeze out the clear, sticky gel, and apply it three times a day to treat minor burns, mild sunburn and itchy, inflamed skin.
If you don’t have access to fresh aloe gel, commercial aloe ointments, creams and lotions are available.
Are there any precautions?
Some experts suggest not using aloe gel on moderate or severe burns or on open, deep or infected wounds. Allergies to aloe have been reported; if the gel causes a rash or hives, discontinue use immediately. And, if you are allergic to garlic, onions, tulips or any other member of the lily family, avoiding the use of aloe vera may be a good idea.
Aloe gel is not to be confused with aloe latex or resin — which is manufactured from the skin of the leaf — or with aloe vera juice, sometimes used to treat diabetes and boost the immune system. Naturally, like anything else, for serious health conditions – always consult a trusted healthcare provider. Bottom line – you can heal most health issues naturally – given the proper information.
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