Most people are aware of aloe vera’s soothing and healing capacities. Many families keep an aloe plant in the kitchen to use to quickly treat minor burns from cooking, and other minor wounds. Nearly every drug store and health food store sells a post-sun care product containing aloe vera because of its ability to soothe and speed up the healing process of sunburn.
I was already aware that aloe is one of the most commonly used botanical ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products because of these traits, but aloe offers several other benefits to the skin that I was not as aware of.
Aloe is a Humectant
A humectant is one of the primary categories of moisturizers. Humectants work by attracting and drawing water to the skin, and then binding the water to the cells and tissues. This increases hydration, and therefore softens the skin and helps improve the appearance of lines. Aloe is a wonderful humectant, and is possibly the most inexpensive and accessible humectant ingredient.
Aloe is an Emollient
Another primary category of moisturizers is emollients. Emollients work by staying on the surface of the skin to prevent loss of moisture. They also soften and appear to “fill in” fine lines, and have soothing properties. Most emollients are fatty ingredients, which makes them inadvisable for use on oilier skin types. Aloe is one of the few emollients that is not fatty; it is lightweight and is a great way to hydrate and trap in moisture for oily skin to prevent dehydration. It is also non-comedogenic, which means it will not clog pores.
Aloe is Anti-fungal, Antimicrobial, and Anti-inflammatory
This makes it a great treatment not only for minor burns and scrapes, but also for fungal infections like athlete’s foot, and bacterial infections like acne. Not only does it reduce fungus and bacteria, soothe irritation, and heal inflammation; it also forms a film over the area on which it was applied. This seals and protects the area while it heals.
Aloe’s Internal Benefits
Aloe vera is now commonly seen in health food stores as an internal supplement. I have seen bottles of pure aloe vera gel, as well as aloe vera juice you can drink. It is also often used in detoxification formulas and programs. Taken internally, aloe offers countless potential benefits to the entire body.
Some of the health benefits include:
- A bio-available source of several vitamins and minerals that are vital to healthy cell growth
- Contains several antioxidants that protect the body against free radical damage
- Contains multiple enzymes to aid the process of digestion
- Contains plant sterols that prevent over-acidity and help soothe the digestive tract
- Reduces inflammation inside the body
- Prevents Candida overgrowth in the body
- Helps the body’s natural wound healing process function properly
- Aids in detoxification and helps keep the colon clean and regular
Use Aloe in Moderation
As with many other substances and ingredients, aloe is not tolerated by everyone. If it is used too aggressively, side effects and allergic reactions can occur. Although allergic reactions are not common, it is best to do a patch test on the skin to make sure you are not allergic to aloe.
If you are taking aloe internally, it is best to start slowly, with small amounts, to make sure your body can tolerate it. Even if it is initially well tolerated by the body, intolerance can develop if it is taken over long periods of time.
Grow Your Own Aloe Plant
The best thing about aloe, as I mentioned above, is that it is easily accessible and inexpensive; and it is very easy to grow yourself. This way you can be sure you have the correct type and best quality.
Aloe is a succulent that grows in dry climates. It is a member of the Liliaceae (lily) family. According to the Aloe Vera Health Benefits website, “There are over 200 different varieties of Aloe Vera but only a few are known to produce medicinal benefits particularly with reference to internal use. The variety to look for is Aloe Barbadensis Miller.”
If you do not live in a climate that is dry all year round, it is very easy to grow your own aloe indoors. It is best to grow it organically, and re-pot it as needed. It grows quickly on a window sill, and needs very little water. To harvest it, it is best to cut it as close to the base as possible, since the “leaves” will not regenerate.
Aloe is an amazing plant that has multiple purposes and benefits. The Aloe Vera Health Benefits website offers a wealth of information and additional resources about this amazing ingredient.
Written by Rachael Pontillo