If you have a sunburn or any skin irritation the most reliable ointment you can turn to is aloe vera gel. Its cooling moisturizing effect softens the skin and heals it quickly. Though used since the era of Cleopatra, aloe vera is now taking its rightful place of prominence on the medicine and cosmetic shelf.
Botany of the wonder plant
Aloe vera, (Aloe Barbadensis) is a short-stemmed shrub resembling a cactus or a thick-skinned rose. It is tender leaves have sharp jagged edges with a waxy coating on the outside. The tissue of the aloe plant has water-retaining qualities containing more than 90% water. This gives aloe vera the elegant title ‘Lily of the Desert’.
Though widely cultivated, aloe vera is seen to be grown more in North Africa. Also known as a wonder plant, it is a genus that has more than 450 species of flowering plants.
This incredible shrub is rich in more than 70 active compounds which include vitamins A, C, and E and minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium. Potent with antioxidant properties, it affords us protection from free radicals.
Used more as a topical application, the gel of this plant has numerous uses. Hence it is easy to see why many skincare products, body lotions, shaving creams and even facial tissues contain aloe vera gel as an active ingredient to reap its benefits. That’s not all, aloe vera gel’s usage is extended to colour cosmetics too. Therefore you can now get makeup that has aloe in it. The succulent fleshy leaves is full of water which gives aloe vera its intrinsic cooling quality. This attribute is well utilized in Ayurveda medicine as aloe balances the doshas and the intensity of the pitta dosha. (Pitta dosha or Agni is hot and scathing and gets aggravated in summer. As this dosha primarily controls digestion cooling food must be consumed.)
What’s this in your dish?
Aloe gel can be consumed both ways, raw as well as cooked. Peel off the leaf and trim off the spikes and the bottom part. Slice and scoop the gel and wash off the bitter latex. Collect the gel in a jar and store it in the fridge. In the freezer, it will stay for a few weeks. If you are cooking aloe remember, it releases water when cooked.
Take your drink up a notch with aloe
There are many interesting ways you can consume aloe gel for its thanda effect. Kick your smoothie up a notch. When you are making a smoothie drop a spoonful of refreshing aloe gel and blitz it. Now go get energized. Not a fan of drinks? That’s fine, just add aloe gel to your drinking water and guzzle. You can also lace your delicious salad with bite-size pieces of aloe vera. It works best if the salad is slightly spicy as the cool aloe cubes give you a nice fresh burst in the mouth.
Beauty and aloe
- Aloe vera is rich in minerals and antioxidants that accelerate the healing process and reduces inflammation. With low or no risk of causing any skin allergies or any reactions, it can be used on sensitive skin too. So sunburnt….don’t worry aloe gel is there to help. It is a natural remedy to retain moisture and ease the pain.
- Get your mojo back! Apply aloe vera gel to your face to moisturize it. The gel is non-greasy leaving you with soft supple skin. Its protective layer works wonderfully on dry skin too.
- Shaving is harsh and sometimes hurts the skin. Aloe vera gel hydrated the skin and quickly heals razor burns, nicks and cuts.
- Loaded with vitamin E, C and beta-carotene, aloe is your preferred gel to have a younger-looking complexion. It helps increase skin elasticity and collagen synthesis.
- Its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties prevent blemishes and acne leaving you with clear skin. It also has an astringent effect that flushes out excess dirt, microbes and pollutants accelerating the healing of eczema while also reducing psoriasis too.
- Gentle cleaning with aloe gel will give you much-needed relief from those pesky pimples without any reactions. To add that extra glow to your skin, squeeze some lime juice into the gel and voila!
Oh, those lovely tresses
- As aloe vera accelerates new cell growth it benefits in energizing hair growth. The nutrients and proteolytic enzymes restore scalp health. The two compounds, gibberellins and polysaccharides work to synthesize new cells.
- Aloe softens the skin and so the hair! Apply aloe gel to the scalp and maintain the shine and strength of your hair.
- Dandruff troubles are rectified by the antimicrobial properties of aloe gel. It is a natural way to reduce excess oil and prevent any other fungal infection.
Lowers blood sugar levels in diabetics: Aloe is known to lower blood sugar levels in those who have Type 2 diabetes.
Teeth and gums: Aloe latex contains anthraquinones, a compound that has natural anti-inflammatory properties and its anti-bacterial activities act as powerful to weed out the bacteria. Therefore, toothpaste that contains aloe vera is powerful in fighting oral germs and cavities that cause painful swelling. Aloe vera toothpaste naturally improves oral health and in reducing plaque thus promoting oral health.
Antioxidant and possible antimicrobial properties: It has conditioning properties that can alleviate the minor burning sensation and soothe blisters, itchiness and any such skin surface inflammation. The gel also works in second-degree burns. But if the burn is severe, a visit to the doctor is essential before self-medicating with aloe.
Heals other skin disorders: The shrub contains antioxidant properties that afford us protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays and other harmful effects of harsh sunlight like cancer, ageing and so on.
Heals skin after radiation therapy: Aloe cream is also seen to be a potent coolant protecting and soothing the skin after radiation therapy.
Treats anal fissures: If you suffer from anal fissures, applying an aloe vera cream promotes healing. Consuming aloe vera gel is believed to hinder the growth of ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria which is found in the digestive tract. Hence it helps stomach ailments and other digestion-related issues.
- Though aloe vera extract is well tolerated when taken internally, it is always best to consult your physician before consuming it. Look out for any allergic reactions and avoid them if you are allergic to onion or garlic.
- Freshly sliced aloe should be refrigerated and consumed quickly. You can always store aloe vera gel in the freezer to be used later.
- Aloe vera must not be consumed two weeks before any surgery, by pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
- Never use aloe vera or any deep cuts or severe burns.
- Skip taking aloe vera internally if you are suffering from haemorrhoids, kidney and renal issues, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease.
- Besides the above keynote which you have to consider, aloe vera is still a wonderful ingredient that is useful and has many awesome benefits.