THE HEALING POWER OF ALOE VERA
My love affair with aloe vera, began after my uncle had given me a small plant as a moving in gift for my flat nearly 20 years ago. I placed it near the westerly window where it flourished for many years into a really big plant, producing many off springs, which I would in turn give away as gifts. These days my aloe vera plants are quite a talking point when someone visits me for the first time, as they have taken over the window space in my living room, big, spiky and fierce looking.
The aloe vera plant has been around for over 5000 years. It was reported to have been a favourite of Cleopatra’s beauty regime. Ancient Egyptians also used the aloe vera plant to treat wounds, tuberculosis, burns, reduce fever and as an embalming agent mixed with myrrh - they called it the ‘Plant of Immortality’ and placed it with their burial clothes. Arabs called aloe vera the ‘Desert Lilly’ for its internal and external uses. Many ancient cultures have recorded benefits of the aloe vera plant - the list is quite extensive.
It is said that aloe vera contains over 200 biologically active, naturally-occurring constituents including polysaccharides, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and minerals that promote nutrient absorption, digestive healthy immune system, and a reduction of nitrates. Polysaccharide is the main naturally occurring active constituent in aloe vera that allows all of the benefits to be activated in the body. Polysaccharides are safe in all toxicity studies showing no side effects.
Having lived in the Caribbean where the plant grows naturally, I was well aware of some of the benefits of this wonderful plant and had consumed it, sliced in water after refrigeration, as an internal cleanser and also effectively as a topical remedy for treating burns. Interestingly, after the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, the Japanese applied the aloe gel to the wounds of those who had been exposed to it and reported a faster healing and less scaring experience.
I remember quite vividly, having absentmindedly squeezed my finger in an electric door, going into work one morning and how excruciatingly painful it was. A colleague who was with me didn’t know what to do and I instinctively shouted at her to bring me some aloes, which she did as we had a lot of aloe vera plants in the building. She sliced it open and I rubbed the gel around my disfigured looking finger and miraculously it was not very long before the pain left me and the finger regained its shape, without blood shot and to my amazement I never lost the nail.
My grandson who has had many bumps on the head, cuts and squashed fingers too has been saved by aloe vera. The tears stop very quickly and sometimes, never starts because of the faith he has developed in aloe vera.
Aloe vera is used equally as a health and a beauty aid. Some of the most common health uses are; supports healthy digestion, moisturises and hydrates skin, supports a healthy immune system, reduces harmful toxins, increases absorption of nutrients, enhances antioxidant support, balances stomach acidity and soothes occasional muscle and joint discomfort.
Many beauty products now include aloe vera, however a large number of commercially produced aloe vera products have very little polysaccharides because they are destroyed in the processing by heat and enzymes. Making your own products or using the gel, liquid or skin of the aloe vera can be as beneficial as those found in your expensive beauty products. Here are some of the most common beauty uses; moisturises and hydrates skin, increases the elasticity of skin, promotes weight loss, rejuvenates hair and prevents breakage, personal deodoriser, treatment of sun burn and stretch marks and aids in the healing of acne conditions; in ancient China the juice of aloes were used to wipe out all rashes.
I eat the small baby offshoots at times when I feel the need, they are less bitter than the older plants and to me are actually quite similar to cucumber in taste, texture and delicacy. A word of warning though, some may not like them - the slime can be a little like eating okra for those who find it unpleasant. The polysaccharide content in aloe vera, is said however, to boost the count of white blood cells.
My enthusiasm and excitement for this plant is purely based on my personal use of it and could not now see myself living without it.
HEALTH AND BEAUTY BENEFITS OF
1. It treats sunburn.
Aloe Vera helps with sunburn through its powerful healing activity at the epithelial level of the skin, a layer of cells that cover the body. It acts as a protective layer on the skin and helps replenish its moisture. Because of its nutritional qualities and antioxidant properties, the skin heals quicker.
2. It acts as a moisturizer.
Aloe moisturizes the skin without giving it a greasy feel, so it`s perfect for anyone with an oily skin complexion. For women who use mineral-based make-up, aloe vera acts as a moisturizer and is great for the face prior to the application to prevents skin drying. For men: Aloe vera gel can be used as an aftershave treatment as its healing properties can treat small cuts caused by shaving.
3. It treats acne.
Aloe vera gel contains two hormones: Auxin and Gibberellins. These two hormones provide wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation. Giberellin in aloe vera acts as a growth hormone stimulating the growth of new cells. It allows the skin to heal quickly and naturally with minimal scarring. Aloe is soothing and can reduce skin inflammations, blistering and itchiness, while helping the skin to heal more rapidly. Additionally, in Ayurvedic medicine, Aloe is used to effectively heal chronic skin problems, such as psoriasis, acne and eczema.
4. It fights aging.
As we age, everyone begins to worry about the appearance of fine lines and the loss of elasticity in their skin. Aloe leaves contain a plethora of antioxidants including, beta carotene, vitamin C and E that can help improve the skin's natural firmness and keep the skin hydrated.
5. It lessens the visibility of stretch marks.
The skin is like one big piece of elastic that’ll expand and contract as needed to accommodate growth. But if the skin stretches too far, too fast (due to pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss) the elasticity of the skin can be damaged. That’s what leaves those unsightly stretch marks. These marks appear due to minor tears in the layers of the skin caused by sudden and excessive stretching. Aloe vera gel can help hide these stretch marks by healing these wounds.
6. It is nutrient rich for good health.
This solid material contains over 75 different nutrients including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, sugars, anthraquinones or phenolic compounds, lignin, saponins, sterols, amino acids and salicylic acid.
7. It soothes in periodontal disease.
According to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, it's extremely helpful in the treatment of gum diseases like gingivitis, periodontitis. It reduces bleeding, inflammation and swelling of the gums. It is a powerful antiseptic in pockets where normal cleaning is difficult, and its antifungal properties help greatly in the problem of denture stomatitis, apthous ulcers, cracked and split corners of the mouth.
8. It aids in digestion.
The internal benefits of aloe vera are supposed to be just as amazing. The plant is said to improve the digestion and to relieve ulcers. Some people consider it a laxative, while others attribute that effect to its digestive qualities (which normalize the system and induce regularity). The juice is also prescribed for arthritis and rheumatism. To test any of these claims, steep the cut foliage in water or chew pieces of the fresh leaf.