How to use aloe vera to improve your health and wellbeing
From soothing sunburn to helping ease damage caused by stomach ulcers, aloe vera is a must-have addition to your medicine cabinet.
For centuries, the aloe vera plant has been a cornerstone of the natural medicine cabinet.
Ancient records show the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Greeks, Egyptians and Mexicans have long used aloe vera to treat a range of medical problems. Egyptians called aloe vera the plant of immortality.
It grows in tropical regions, such as Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Aloe vera is particularly valued for the gel found inside its leaves.
Used topically, or taken internally as a herbal remedy, we’ve looked at some of the ways aloe vera may improve your health.
Sunburn and burns
“Aloe can assist with wound healing. In the Australian climate where people all too often suffer sunburn, aloe creams can soothe burns, or you can use the gel inside the plant and apply it to the skin,” Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association president Eta Brand says.
In a study to compare healing rates, researchers in Pakistan used either aloe vera gel or silver sulfadiazine cream on patients with second-degree burns.
They found patients treated with aloe vera had greater and quicker pain relief from their injuries.
The skin of the aloe leaf contains a bitter liquid called aloe latex, which has a laxative effect.
“But if it’s used as a laxative, you must be careful that you don’t get nutrient depletion,” Eta says.
And it is not suitable to use during pregnancy.
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, aloe vera is believed to help improve gut health. In particular, it can help repair the gut’s mucus membrane after it has been damaged by ulceration.
“In Ayurvedic medicine, aloe vera has been known for time immemorial as a repair remedy for the digestive tract,” Eta says.
Some early studies are finding that aloe juice may help the many people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It seems to help lower blood sugar levels – a vital step in controlling diabetes and its impacts on the body.
“It helps reduce carbohydrate absorption and so lower blood glucose readings,” Eta explains.
Diabetes UK says aloe has also been linked to reducing blood fats in those with type 2 diabetes and also faster healing of injuries, such as leg wounds and ulcers, which are complications caused by diabetes and usually take longer to heal.
Need to know…
If you have diabetes and use aloe vera, speak to your GP to ensure blood sugar levels don’t drop too low and lead to hypoglycaemia.
Ingesting aloe can reduce potassium levels in the body. It should not be used if you take diuretics or some heart medications.
How to use aloe vera at home
Aloe is antibacterial and moisturising, making it perfect for use as a shaving cream. Apply directly to the area and allow your shaver to glide over the skin.
Ideal for sensitive skin, you can whip up your own face cleansing solution by mixing a tablespoon of aloe gel with a teaspoon of almond milk and a teaspoon of lemon. Apply to your face; allow to sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing with water.
Use as an eye make-up remover. Simply squeeze a small amount of pure aloe gel on to a make-up wipe and gently cleanse eyes to remove all trace of cosmetics.
The soothing properties of aloe vera are well appreciated. Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s Anzac Day postKeep a store of refreshing skin-soothing blocks on hand. Make by filling an ice tray with aloe gel and freezing ready for use next time your skin is suffering from too much sun or an irritating insect bite.
Beautifully hydrating and packed with vitamins and minerals, aloe vera makes an excellent skin moisturiser. It softens without clogging the pores, giving your skin a healthy glow. It can also help reduce redness and inflammation.
Written by Sarah Marinos