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Aloe vera: more than décor

close up of aloe vera plant

The gel inside the leaves of an aloe vera plant has been used for healing and softening the skin for thousands of years.

The healthful plant compounds in aloe vera are contained within each leaf, which has a water-filled tissue or gel that many people associate with aloe vera products.  The gel contains powerful antioxidants that inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that can cause infections, which is why it has been popular for treating skin wounds and sunburns for thousands of years.

The fact that aloe vera can help one’s body inside and out is why it is a common ingredient in many cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food products.

Aloe vera gel is considered a great skin cleanser due to its antibacterial agents, such as salicylic acid.  It is often used alongside other treatments for acne, psoriasis and eczema.  Combine aloe vera and lemon juice in an 8-to-1 ratio to make an astringent face mask, or combine aloe vera with cinnamon and honey for a soothing face mask.  A skin scrub made with coconut oil, sugar and aloe vera will make skin soft and smooth.

Aloe vera gel helps the skin retain moisture and boosts the efficacy of skincare products; aloe vera contains lignin, which helps skin soak up other ingredients.  Additional benefits to skin include increasing collagen production, improving skin elasticity and repairing damage from ultraviolet radiation, which is responsible for up to 80 percent of the visible signs of aging.

Just as it moisturizes the skin, aloe vera acts as a conditioner to the hair and scalp.  It helps in hair growth and keeps dandruff at bay.

Aloe vera is an effective component of mouthwash, killing plaque-producing bacteria in the mouth, and can also accelerate the healing of mouth ulcers or canker sores while reducing the pain associated with them.

In the garden, coating plants with aloe vera gel can block the growth of many types of harmful bacteria, thus eliminating the need for chemicals.

An aloe vera plant is handy to have at home for many reasons, but the oral use of it may cause stomach cramps and have laxative effects.  While supplements are used for a variety of ailments including managing diabetes and reducing the symptoms of heartburn, check with a healthcare professional for advice on how to use aloe vera before ingesting it.

aloe vera leaves in the produce section

Aloe vera leaves can be purchased at specialty grocery stores like Trader Joes and Vitamin Cottage (pictured here).

By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo by Terri Wiebold and courtesy photo



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