Aloe Vera – not just for burns!

Aloe vera plants
Aloe vera plants, thriving in dry conditions. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

One of the issues with living in the city of everlasting summer and also right by the ocean, is the occasional sunburn from over tanning. Luckily, nature has already provided us with a natural solution, called aloe vera. Aloe vera, also known as sábila in Spanish, is one of the most useful medicinal plants to have in the household. It can come in very handy the next time you over-tan at the beach or get a mosquito bite. Aloe vera grows easily and rapidly in Barranquilla as it thrives with the sun. Not only are you easily able to find fresh aloe vera leaves in most grocery stores of Barranquilla, but also you can grow it at your home!

But the merits of aloe vera are much more than just sunburn relief. Let`s go over a few key points:

Amazing skin healing ability:
Having your aloe vera plant handy can really pay off when you have a skin irritation. It can effectively calm down the irritated skin and is also very soothing for burns, eczema, and hives. It can also be used for superficial wounds, mild varicose veins, and recent stretch marks. Just pick a leaf, open it in half and use the gel inside as a skin lotion.1,2 Note: Aloe vera should not be used on deep or infected wounds or on recent surgical wounds.1

Laxative:
Aloe vera is a laxative which means that when taken internally, it can relieve constipation and in high doses it can cause diarrhea. In fact, aloe vera can be used sporadically to treat constipation.1 However, as with most laxatives, chronic use should be avoided as it can cause dependency.

Digestive stimulant:
When one`s digestive system is sluggish, the body may not be producing adequate amounts of digestive enzymes. This may lead to sensations of over-fullness and bloating after meals. Indeed, aloe vera can be used as a digestive stimulant. If taken before meals, aloe vera stimulates digestive enzyme production, helping with food digestion.1

Soothes the digestive system:
Not only is aloe vera soothing to the skin, but it also has the ability to sooth the digestive tract. For this reason, aloe vera juice or gel is taken internally to help with peptic ulcer and anal fissures.1,2

Discourages nail biting:
Aloe vera has been traditionally used on children`s nails to prevent them from nail biting. The secret to its effectiveness is its bitter taste. Minute amounts of the fresh aloe vera gel is rubbed directly onto the nails across a course of several days. Children often give up biting their nails after several times of tasting the bitterness.

Avoid taking aloe vera internally if:

  • You have a known history of allergy to aloe vera
  • You are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome because aloe’s laxative effect may temporarily worsen the IBS`s symptoms
  • You are/may be pregnant
  • You are currently taking medications. If so, consult your physician before consuming aloe vera internally as it may interact with certain pharmaceutical drugs.

Also, aloe vera should not be given to children younger than 12 years old or anyone suffering from intestinal obstruction, kidney disorder, appendicitis or abdominal pain of unknown origin, diarrhea or constipation associated with bowel irritability, hemorrhoids, gastrointestinal irritation, or any condition that prevents you from using laxatives or bitter herbs. 1

How to use aloe vera:

External use:
Split the leaf and apply the gel externally on the affected area. Repeat as needed.

Internal use:
Split the leaf and remove the gel. Place a small portion in a blender with some water or your favourite juice and blend. It is best consumed before meals for its digestive ability. The edible dose should remain one teaspoon or less at a time, as too much aloe vera may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.1

Aloe vera is a medicinal plant:
Remember that Aloe vera is a medicinal plant and should be used only sporadically and only when needed, and never for a prolonged period of time internally.1

How to grow an aloe vera plant at home
Aloe vera can grow both in a flower pot and in a garden. The secret is to allow your plant to receive plenty of direct sun every day. Also, although aloe vera leaves are juicy, the plant itself doesn`t require much water. In fact, over watering aloe vera plants may kill them.

You can buy a new plant or look for the little buds that grow beside parent plants. The buds must be removed from the soil with their roots intact and put immediately in soil again. Once you have your aloe vera plant, place it somewhere with plenty of direct access to sun and water it only sporadically (once a week) and only in a small amount.

Take care of your aloe vera plant as one day it may take care of you!
Be Happy & Healthy,
Dr. Rasa Nikanjam, ND, BSc.

 

Disclaimer:
The above content is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any conditions.

References:
1- Godfrey, Antonio. Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, 2010
2- Hoffmann, David. Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Arts Press Rochester, Vermont, 2003

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