More than just sculptural décor, the cactus-like aloe vera succulent and its vitamin rich tissue is the healing gift that keeps on giving. This commonly found plant has been applied and consumed to enhance health and address a wide range of issues, making it a highly sought after, multipurpose household plant.
Much more than something that can be applied to sunburn, aloe vera has been used as a primary medicinal herb in various cultures for millennia. Interestingly, iconic figures such as Cleopatra and Nefertiti used it as part of their beauty routines and Christopher Columbus applied it to treat the cuts of his soldiers. Another fun fact – Alexander the Great chose to grow fresh aloe vera succulents in carts in preparation for the return of wounded soldiers from battle.
Today, users incorporate aloe vera as an anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and an anti-viral into a plethora of daily routines. The main health properties come from ingesting or applying the clear, fleshy, oozy gel-like substance found when a leaf is broken – it’s full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, natural sugars and fatty acids. This substance is known to reduce blood sugar levels, inflammation and even dental plaque, and improve memory, cleanse colons and boost immune system functioning. It is commonly applied to help heal small cuts and abrasions, rashes, sunburn, and acne; and ingested to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Preparation and Application
Not all aloes are healing – in fact some are poisonous – so do get to know these plant species before using them medicinally. Fortunately the most commonly found aloe is the healing aloe vera. Also get to know which bit of the aloe vera plant to use especially when ingesting – it’s the clear gel you’re after – found inside the tips of the leaves – not the outer green skin nor the yellow substance (aloe latex) found between the green skin and the clear gel – these substances can be toxic.
Whilst aloe vera gel is known for its natural healing ways when ingested and applied correctly, it is best to read up to check whether this substance is safe for you. You can do that here; alternatively speak to your health practitioner. If you’re an adult and discover that it’s something you’d like to try, one simple way to ingest clear aloe vera gel is to insert 1 or 2 teaspoons in a water bottle and drink the fluid over the course of the day. To obtain the clear gel, a sharp knife can be used to peel away the plant’s green skin and the yellow substance between the green skin and clear gel. The clear aloe gel can be cut into small cubes for your bottle; or crushed to make a liquid that can be consumed alone or in water/food and applied to the surface of the skin.
How and where to plant
Originating from and thriving in the hot and dry climate of the Arabian Peninsula, aloe vera should be grown in full sun (outdoors or indoors) with good drainage and no frosts. With these conditions it is easily grown in the garden or in a pot.
Visit your local plant nursery to buy yourself an aloe vera succulent today!