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Aloe » Homemade Remedies for Your Health


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Aloe is one of the most versatile kitchen healers around— but please don’t keep this one in your pantry. Instead, you’ll want to grow the spiny succulent plant on your windowsill, because its stalky leaves contain a gel-like substance that healers think of as Mother Nature’s first aid kit. This lily cousin thrives on neglect and is so hardy that you’ll be able to harvest its wound-repairing, skin- moisturizing, ulcer-soothing magic for years to come.


rooted in history

Aloe (Aloe vera and Aloe barbadensis) has been used medicinally for at least 5,500 years. The first documentation of its healing uses is on an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 3500 BC. Legend has it that Aristotle convinced Alexander the Great to invade the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean just for its aloe supply, which healed his warriors’ wounds and got them back on the battlefield faster. In a very different use, Cleopatra—and other gorgeous leading ladies of history—reportedly relied on aloe for beautifying their complexions.

Aloe plants migrated from Africa to America in the 17th and 18th centuries, where they were soon adopted by healers in the New World.

what’s in it?
Though aloe is 99 percent water, the clear gel inside the leaves contains a handy assortment of potent healing compounds. Take glycoproreins and polysaccharides, for example. Glycoproteins speed healing by stopping pain and inflammation. Polysaccharides moisturize skin, stimulate its growth and repair, and enhance wound healing. What’s more, aloe gel contains a pain-relieving substance called bradykininase that helps reduce swelling. The mineral magnesium lactate, another aloe gel component, soothes itching and eases allergic rashes.


what science says
In 2009, Iranian researchers reviewed 40 studies published about aloe’s effectiveness as a skin treatment. They reported that there is scientific evidence to back using aloe gel for treating genital herpes, psoriasis, human papilloma virus, seborrheic dermatitis, frostbite, and burns.

The same year, a different team of Iranian scientists examined aloe’s ability to heal second-degree skin burns. (Second-

degree burns affect both the top and the second layers of the skin, causing painful blisters and inflammation.) The researchers compared aloe to a tried-and-true burn ointment called silver sulfadiazine, which prevents infection of second- and third-degree burns. As it turns out, the burns treated with aloe healed three days faster than those receiving the more standard medicine.

And in Thailand, researchers studying psoriasis treatments published a study that compared aloe to a conventional steroid cream. Eighty people with mild to moderate psoriasis were randomly treated with aloe vera or the steroid cream for eight weeks. The results were about the same, though the aloe treatment had a slight edge over the steroid treatment.


on the horizon
The same compounds that make aloe a smart treatment for skin problems intrigue scientists focused on finding solutions for problems like colitis and ulcers. As their thinking goes, if aloe can heal external wounds, it might just heal internal wounds. Turns out, they could be right. Studies conducted in the mid-1990s suggest that drinking pure aloe gel may help ease ulcerative colitis by reducing inflammation in the GI tract.


In one United Kingdom study, 44 people with ulcerative colitis were either given about 3 ounces of aloe vera gel twice a day or a sham juice for a month. Of the 30 people who took aloe, 9 people experienced symptom relief, compared to 1 person in the group of 14 people who took the fake treatment. The researchers noted that aloe was a safe treatment that needs more study.

Korean researchers put aloe to the test on rats with stomach ulcers and observed that taking aloe seemed to regenerate tissue cells. However, what works on a rat might not work on a human, so these results need confirmation via clinical trials conducted on people.

Finally, back in 2003, leading researchers from Harvard Medical School reviewed 109 studies that tested supplements for helping people control their blood sugar. They concluded that the results for aloe studies were promising but preliminary. Discuss aloe with your doctor if you’re taking medications to lower your blood sugar.


Aloe gel contains a pain-relieving substance that helps reduce swelling.


Good to Know

Aloe plants produce another substance called aloe latex, which comes from the skin of the aloe leaf; it’s a bitter yellow liquid that performs as a powerful laxative. Too powerful, in fact. Classified as a stimulant laxative, it can cause severe cramping and diarrhea and can even affect your electrolyte balance, minerals that play a critical role in the body. Trust us; this is not good medicine for irregularity or constipation.




The best aloe get comes directly from a living plant. Just chop off a nice, thick stalk, slice it lengthwise, and squeeze the gel directly onto your skin. Be sure not to get the goo on your clothes; it will leave an ugly stain. You can find aloe plants at most places live plants are sold. They respond very well to almost no attention and grow nicely on a sunny windowsill. No aloe plant? No problem. You can find pure aloe gel at most health food stores. Just read the label carefully to make sure the product is 100 percent pure aloe gel with no additional ingredients.


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