Would you believe me if I told you that one plant can not only improve your appearance but also your health, as well as act as a medicine?
Aloe vera is good news, period. Read on to find out how it can make your life a little better.
What is aloe vera?
A heartbreaking photo I once saw on social media comes to mind. It showed a dog’s food bowl with a few pieces of aloe in it.
These were dog owners who could not afford proper pet care, but clearly they heard somewhere that aloe comes with benefits of some sort. (It’s not suitable as dog food, don’t try this at home.)
The aloe products you see on shelves are manufactured from the plant. More specifically, gel, found in the inner part of the leaf, and yellow latex from just under the plant’s skin.
Some aloe products are produced by crushing the whole leaf, so they will be a source of both gel and latex.
The aloe plant is a succulent with long, narrow leaves that has spikes on the edges. There are over 300 species of aloe, but Aloe barbadensis is best known for its various uses.
The aloe plant enjoys a dry, tropical climate. Africa is one of the places where it grows naturally.
The value of aloe is actually old news. About 6 000 years old, in fact. Known as the ‘plant of immortality’, it was given to Egyptian pharaohs as a funeral gift.
We don’t see these pharaohs among us today, so I regretfully have to inform you that immortality is out of the question. However, aloe can certainly do more for you than just soothing a nasty sunburn.
|Did you know?|
|The aloe plant tastes bitter. This gel consists of 96% water, a type of protein that contains 18 of the 20 amino acids found in the body, as well as vitamin A, B, C and E.|
Amazing aloe – here is what it can do
For your hair
Ever noticed how a bad hair day can spoil your whole day? And how we tend to rush to the hairdresser in times of emotional turmoil? For women especially, the state of our hair can make or break us.
In Aloe Vera: Nature’s Soothing Healer, Diane Gage writes: “Keratin, the primary protein of hair, consists of amino acids, oxygen, carbon, and small amounts of hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulphur.”
“Aloe vera has a chemical makeup similar to that of keratin and it rejuvenates the hair with its own nutrients, giving it more elasticity and preventing breakage.”
WebMD reports that there haven’t been many studies on the effects of aloe vera on hair, and that the existing ones had mixed results. The following benefits are, however, possible:
- Try aloe for relief from the discomfort and embarrassment of an itchy scalp and dandruff.
- Aloe removes excess oil from your hair, without causing damage while it cleans like some other chemicals in hair products.
- It is said that aloe can promote hair growth, but more research is needed to confirm this. In the meantime, aloe is a great way to get the soft, shiny hair we all want.
To experience the magic of aloe on your own locks you can simply buy an aloe product. Or you can go all out and use raw aloe if you have access to an aloe plant.
Simply collect the gel from an aloe leaf with a spoon and rub it directly into your scalp. Leave it there for about an hour before washing it off with shampoo. Repeat two to three times a week.
For a real treat, hop online and do a quick search for aloe vera hair masks. A myriad of recipes are available, so find one that suits your needs and take some me-time.
|Did you know?|
|The aloe industry is enormous and you can buy aloe products in various forms, including liquids, oils, gels, pills, shampoos, lotions and sprays.|
For your skin
Cool and soothing, aloe vera is known for its ability to come to the rescue when you picked up a nasty sunburn. But, there’s more.
- Have you ever woken up with an enormous pimple on that one day where you need everything to go perfectly? It’s happened to all of us.
Aloe can help you win the battle against acne.
- Aloe stimulates the production of collagen in the skin. Therefore it’s an effective treatment for scars, dark spots, puffy eyes and dark circles.
- You can use aloe as a moisturiser.
- This is a big one: try some aloe to treat your cold sores. This works thanks to the antiviral effects of aloe.
- Small cuts and minor burns can be treated with aloe.
- Aloe vera can help with the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema.
If you have serious skin problems and/or are using medication for a skin condition, play it safe and chat to your doctor before trying an aloe vera product.
As with your hair, you can purchase your aloe skin products or make your own. A handy tip when buying a product is to read the label.
The ingredients that are mentioned first is usually what makes up the largest part of the product. Knowing this enables you to choose a product with a high concentration of aloe.
For your weight
When it comes to aloe there is already plenty to be impressed about. What if it could help you lose weight? You bet it can!
Now I’m sorry to say that it’s no quick fix or miracle cure for being overweight, but, aloe can be part of your weight loss plan. Here’s how:
- A study with rats showed that aloe can speed up these critters’ metabolisms, leading to decreased fat build-up in the body. Further studies are needed to confirm this effect in humans.
- Aloe could help with keeping your blood sugar levels under control. By preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar, you prevent those intense sugar cravings that lead to binging.
You will notice aloe vera as an ingredient in some weight loss products. These products may or may not help you in your weight loss journey, but one thing is certain: a healthy lifestyle is the only way to get rid of your rolls.
If diet products are not your thing, you can always try scooping a spoonful of gel from a fresh aloe plant and adding it to your smoothies. Clean the latex off properly to get rid of the bitter taste.
Aloe is also available in juice and tea form.
For your health
A boost to one’s health is always welcome, not to mention a natural solution to minor issues. These are some health-boosting effects of aloe:
- It is a source of powerful antioxidants.
- Aloe has antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic properties.
- It helps combat plaque and gum disease.
- The latex part of the aloe leaf is effective as a laxative in the treatment of constipation.
- Aloe is packed with vitamins and minerals.
- As it contains a lot of water, aloe can help you to stay hydrated. Proper hydration improves your liver function.
Are there risks you should be aware of?
WebMD states that there is no set dose for taking aloe vera by mouth and that your safest bet is to discuss the dosage with your doctor as there are risks should you overdo it.
Be wary of the following:
- Aloe might cause some people to experience skin irritation.
- It is not recommended for use on deep cuts or major burns.
- Aloe can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
- Chronic use of aloe has been linked to colorectal cancer in rats.
- It is advised that you avoid aloe if you are going for a colonoscopy, as it might interfere with visibility.
- Don’t take aloe without the thumbs up from your doctor if you are on chronic medication. It can interact with your medication or block the absorption of your meds.
|Did you know?|
|Aloe is mentioned six times in the Bible. This miracle plant was even a part of Jesus’ burial.|
How to grow your own aloe vera
You don’t need to be a plant enthusiast to care for an aloe plant, and as an added bonus it makes an attractive indoor plant.
You can propagate aloe using baby plants (offsets) that appear at the base of the adult plant. Carefully remove the whole plant from the pot and separate the baby plants.
Now pot the baby plants in cactus compost or multipurpose compost, water, and allow excess water to drain away.
Aloe needs very little water and does best in a bright spot with occasional direct sunlight. Too much sun will burn the leaves.
Apart from the numerous benefits, aloe vera can even become a creative outlet. Grow it yourself and create your own masks, smoothies and the like, then sit back and enjoy the benefits.
If staying healthy naturally is important to you – and let’s be honest, it should be – aloe is the way to go.