Herb of the Month - Aloe Vera!
Author: Angela Fleming Date Posted:2 January 2018
This hearty succulent is a well-known favourite for rubbing onto sun kissed skin or applying to minor burns as well as insect bites and stings. It provides the skin with relief due to its cooling sensation. It is packed full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes, making it an ideal substance for all things skin. But did you know this plant can be used for more than external application?
Even Cleopatra used it!
Aloe has a long history of use, dating as far back as the Mesopotamian era 2100BC. Cleopatra used aloe as part of her regular beauty routine, and it was said that Alexander the Great used it to treat soldiers’ wounds. The word spread quickly, and Aloe made its way across the globe, spanning from culture to culture, used by Roman’s, Indian’s, Arabian’s and the Chinese. It is still proving to be just as popular today as it was way back then. It is a popular ingredient used in the cosmetic industry, along with body care products such as moisturisers, toothpastes and shampoos, even sunscreens.
Aloe does wonders for soothing the skin on the outside, but what about our insides? It has been suggested that Aloe vera juice may maintain healthy digestive function by reducing inflammation and improving gastrointestinal motility. The mechanisms by which Aloe vera may act are unclear. It has been proposed that it reduces irritant-induced production of inflammatory mediators as well as oxidative stress.
Certain gastrointestinal conditions can cause irritation and inflammation of the mucosa. The mucosa, or mucus membrane is the inner lining of our digestive tract. It contains specialty cells that specifically secrete mucus for lubrication, moisture and protection. Aloe vera may support the mucus membrane by providing symptomatic relief caused by inflammation.
Super nutrient content
Aloe contains loads of nutrients that have been shown to assist in the maintenance of general wellbeing and digestive function. It has been speculated that certain nutrients in Aloe vera are responsible for providing symptomatic relief within the gastrointestinal tract as well as topically.
Active components include;
- The plant hormones auxin and gibberellins assist in tissue repair and have an anti-inflammatory action.
- Aloe contains a variety of enzymes which are said to reduce excessive inflammation when applied topically, while others assist in the breakdown of sugars and fats.
- Aloe is high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamins C and E. Antioxidants assist in the neutralisation of free radicals caused by inflammation. Vitamin C assists in collagen production which is required for normal growth of skin cells. Vitamin E protects cellular membranes from oxidative stress.
- Aloe contains the minerals calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc which are essential cofactors for various enzyme and protein carriers in the body.
- Mucopolysaccharides are found in the gel part of the plant. They assist in keeping the skin hydrated, increases elasticity and enables epidermal cells to stick together softening the skin.
All of the nutrients in Aloe vera play a role in skin renewal, growth and regeneration. It is important to note that the inner part of the plant, the juice and gel is used to assist with skin healing and symptomatic relief. The outer part of the plant contains anthraquinones, which stimulate bowel movements, providing a laxative effect.
Aloe can be used for a variety of different skin complaints. It can be used for the symptomatic relief of dry skin and may assist in the management of minor burns, including sunburn. Aloe vera fresh from the plant is readily absorbed via the skin, it is not greasy nor does it leave streaks, it goes on completely clear. Other uses include;
- chafing rashes
- minor skin irritations such as bites, stings
- symptomatic relief of mildly inflamed skin
- natural moisturiser and emollient
Try growing your own
The sun is out and so are the mozzies, now is the perfect time to have some Aloe vera on hand. It’s super easy to grow, both in the ground and in pots. All it needs is plenty of sunlight and fast draining soil. If potting, it grows best in succulent potting mix and kept in the sun or on a window sill that receives plenty of light. Aloe stores water it in its leaves so it does not need to be watered daily. In the hotter months, watering once weekly will suffice. During the winter months watering should be less. When the soil is dry, give it a little drink.
It is handy to have the leaves easily accessible when it comes to skin relief. Keep a leaf in the fridge for that extra skin cooling sensation.
|Written by Angela Fleming|
Angela (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who strongly believes in living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Angela believes being active, taking time out for yourself on a regular basis and consuming a balanced healthy diet (with the odd sneaky treat included now and then) is the fundamental key to keeping our minds and bodies in good health.
Angela loves to pass on her knowledge of healthy and happy living to her two young children, who love to experiment in the kitchen with her and train alongside her in Karate.