Aloe vera is the go-to remedy for more than just sunburns. Here’s a guide to its many uses.
Aloe vera’s rise to superfood status has been a long time coming.
Often extolled for its soothing qualities, aloe vera is most commonly used as a topical ointment for burns, sun damage, and skin abrasions, but this ancient plant may offer deeper healing abilities when taken orally. Most of us are familiar with the presence of aloe vera in cosmetics and skin creams; it moisturizes and has anti-aging effects. However, many people who live according to a natural health philosophy have long viewed the plant as a potent superfood.
That’s right. As kale and blueberries quickly ascended to the top of superfood lists, aloe vera has remained a quiet competitor.
Walk into any health food store and you’ll see plenty of aloe vera juices and gels, but what do they really do? Search for aloe vera information on the Internet and you’ll be bombarded with aloe products touting the plant’s virtues, but is it safe to use?
Learn how aloe vera is used as a functional food, ways to incorporate it into your diet and what safety precautions to take. As always, it’s a good idea to consult your physician before starting any complementary medicine regimen.
Keep reading to gain a deeper understanding of the plant’s history, how it’s cultivated and what you might learn about aloe vera in your natural health school.
Did you know? There are two parts to an aloe vera leaf: Gel and leaf juice (not to be confused with aloe juice in stores). The gel is what most people are familiar with. It’s the odorless and clear liquid at the innermost part of the leaf. Aloe latex, or juice, seeps from the leaf when cut. It’s yellow in color and has a bitter taste. When ingesting aloe, the gel is the safest part of the plant. The latex has laxative properties and can cause serious health complications if used too often.
History of Aloe Vera
From Cleopatra to Christopher Columbus, some of history’s most famous figures relied on aloe vera for its healing properties. Sometimes referred to as the “burn plant,” “lily of the desert” or the “wonder plant,” aloe vera likely originated in the Sudan.
Ancient civilizations eventually brought the plant to the Mediterranean region and other warm climates around the world.
|2100 BC||A record of aloe vera’s benefits appear on a Mesopotamian tablet.|
|1550 BC||A description of aloe vera’s medicinal purposes is documented. An Egyptian text details how to use aloe vera for both internal and external symptoms.|
|70 AD||The Greeks use aloe vera to treat wounds, hair loss, and other issues.|
|1655||First mention of aloe vera in the English language; John Goodyew translates Dioscorides’ Medical treatise De Materia Medica.|
|1820||The U.S. Pharmacopeia says aloe vera can be used to protect skin.|
|1930s||Aloe vera is used to treat radiation dermatitis.|
|Today||Aloe vera is commonly used in many countries for topical and internal uses.|
All About Aloe
- Aloe vera is just one of 400 species of Aloe
- Botanical name: Aloe barbadensis miller
- Part of Liliaceae Family
- Aloe comes from the Arabic word “alloeh” (shining, bitter substance) and “vera” means true in Latin
Where Aloe Vera Grows
Although it can be grown indoors just about anywhere, aloe vera can be found thriving in various regions of the world Southwestern U.S. Southeast Asia, the Bahamas, Mexico, Central America, West Indies.
Aloe vera is part of the succulent family, a type of plant with shallow and intricate root systems that allow for quick water absorption. Succulents can store water for an extended period of time making them an easy-to-maintain plant.
Succulents are known for their hardiness and have a unique self-repairing ability. If damaged, succulent leaves seal off the cut or wound using its internal gel. The leaf will continue to grow from the base of the plant despite the damage.
Aloe vera no longer grows in the wild. The ancient plant needs to be cultivated instead; you’ll often find it in terra cotta pots on a kitchen sill or in the front yard of a desert home.
Growing Aloe Vera
Don’t have a green thumb? No problem. Aloe, like other succulents, is easy to keep alive and healthy because it doesn’t need much maintenance.
+ Aloe can grow outside in zones 9-11 or indoors year-round
+ Place potted plants outside after the last frost
+ Soil should be sandy
+ Harvest mature leaves only
Aloe Vera: An Ancient Superfood
With so many so-called superfoods out there, the meaning of the word can become diluted. As more whole foods earn the moniker, consumers tend to get skeptical that it’s just another diet fad. However, it’s safe to say aloe vera is one of the original superfoods.