Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Barbadensis)
1 aloe veraAloe Vera has been used for over 5000 years. It has been well documented as being beneficial to both health and beauty – just ask Cleopatra! Alexander the Great even conquered the island of Socotra off the coast of Africa, in order to find the Aloe growing there as medicine for his wounded soldiers. The living plant was also taken by the support crew to far away battles, as it required little water or care, but provided many medicinal benefits.
Research shows it can speedily heal cuts and contusions, and quickly diminishes bruising. It penetrates the skin easily – and four times faster than water – in order to reach tendons, joints and muscles. It promotes rapid skin healing. It is also well documented as being useful in destroying internal parasites; helping fight harmful fungi, and bacteria in the intestinal tract, thereby promoting ‘normalization or balance’ in the gut.
There was much publicity years ago when it was found that Aloe Vera could be cold stabilized, as prior to that time the juice would quickly deteriorate, which is why so many old fashioned gardens grew it, so that at any time, a part of the leaf could be broken off, and the liquid gel could be used either directly onto a cut or sprain, or could be held in place using a bandage for longer term efficacy.
One of the most important functions of aloe is to aid the digestive system, as poor digestion can be responsible for many diseases. Our food comprises proteins, carbohydrates and fats that must undergo a process of digestion, which consists of breaking down complex substances into simpler ones so they can be absorbed and used by the body. Aloe is able to assist the body by providing the active properties of a large range of amino acids, monosaccharides, fatty acids and enzymes that act as catalysts in breaking down complex foods so the body can assimilate the nutrients more efficiently.
Aloe Vera’s properties have been used to treat many ailments, including abscesses, abrasions, acne, allergies, anaemia, arterial insufficiency, arthritis, athlete’s foot, asthma, bad breath, baldness, blisters, bed sores, bladder infections, blood pressure, bruises, bronchitis, burns, bursitis, bunions, bed wetting, boils, bone fractures, candida, canker sores, cancer, carbuncles, cataracts, cramps, chilblains, chapped skin and lips, coughs, colds and cold sores, colic, constipation, cystitis, conjunctivitis, diabetes, dandruff, dysentery, dry skin, dermatitis, denture sores, detoxifier, duodenal ulcers, earache, fevers, fungus, fluid retention, gastrointestinal problems, gangrene, gingivitis, heat rash, headaches, hives, indigestion, insect bites, inflamed joints, kidney infections, laryngitis, lupus, liver ailments, lacerations, mouth ulcers, menstrual pain, nausea, nappy rash, psoriasis, pimples, problems caused by protozoa (ringworm, fungi, virus), prickly heat, rashes, scar tissue, skin lesions, stings, sties, sprains, sores, scalds, staph infections, sunburn, sore throat, stomach ulcers, sun spots, tonsillitis, tendonitis, tiredness, ulcers, vaginitis, venereal sores, worms, warts, wounds, yeast infections.
It is also widely used in sports medicine to alleviate injuries, to calm down and quickly reduce swelling and sprains. Many horse trainers use as a first line natural medication for leg sprains and cuts.
For stamina and well-being, cut off one large leaf. Clean the outside of dust and dirt with water. Slice off the spikes on the edges of the leaf using a vegetable peeler or small knife, then place the leaf into a bowl to allow the light green centre liquid to drain out. You can assist in the process by running your fingers down both flat sides. When well drained, throw the gel away. Take the leaves and cut them into 1” pieces. Fill a glass jar about one third full with the chunks. Top up the jar with cold water and place in the fridge. Leave overnight. In the morning, pour off half a glass and drink it. Add more water to the chunks and drink two more glasses full at lunch and bed times. This is where it is handy to have several jars in the fridge in order to rotate them as required. Each time the jars are refilled, the infusion will get milder and weaker, but it will still benefit the body. The flavour is mildly bitter during the first few days, but it can be altered to suit by adding a sweetener and lemon or orange juice. As the infusion goes on, the liquid will taste like spring water.
After one week, throw the chunks onto the compost heap and make up a new batch with fresh leaves. If after a few days you do not use the drink, the liquid may ferment. It is time to throw it out and start anew.
Remember that this information only applies to the Aloe Vera Barbadensis plant. Other aloes should not be used, so ensure identification is correct, or buy a new plant from your nursery.
For anyone not in a position to grow Aloe Vera Barbadensis, bottled aloe juice or drink is available. However, even though the label may say 100% aloe juice, the bottle may not contain just aloe. Large doses of aloe at one time are unwise. Overdose can cause irritation to the stomach with diarrhoea and vomiting. As taking aloe may stimulate uterine contractions, it should be avoided during pregnancy. And taken by breastfeeding mothers, aloe can have a laxative effect on the baby.
If taking it causes cramping of the bowels, add a little ginger. The ginger can be in the form of dried powder, fresh or an infusion made with fresh root. For a laxative effect, in some people, just drinking the aloe infusion or the stabilised juice may be sufficient.
It is the clear gel that forms on the inside of the skin that is the beneficial part of the leaf. It can be scraped off using a spoon, being careful not to cut into the green part of the skin. To test for an allergic reaction, place some of the clear gel on the inside of your elbow. The inside of the skin can act as a laxative, so when using it for ingestion do not scrape it. It is however safe to use the inside of the leaf directly onto your skin – provided you have done the elbow test first. Aloe Vera is used extensively in cosmetics, and is safe to use topically for most people.
When ingesting in drink or smoothie form, try a small dose first. Overuse can lead to stomach cramping or diarrhoea. Many have found that by including Aloe Vera Barbadensis in their daily health regimen, stomach problems diminish; the gut is generally healthier; skin is more alive and radiant, and most report fewer general air borne allergenic ailments.