Aloe vera is a plant native to Northern Africa. Praised around the world for its medicinal properties, aloe vera has been in use for over a thousand years, with medical papyri of ancient Egypt (16th century B.C.) describing its use and applications. Now a common ingredient in natural health remedies, homeopathic medicine and even skin-care products, the plant can also be used directly, in its pure form, to treat a variety of health issues.
Aloe vera is the only product in the vegetable world that contains vitamin B12, making it a great supplement for vegetarians. The plant is also high in vitamin C, amino acids, enzymes and the mineral germanium, which supports the immune system. The best way to consume aloe vera internally is in the form of juice, which can be prepared at home by boiling aloe vera in water for about 20 minutes. The juice can also be bought at health food stores bottled and ready to drink.
The juice of the aloe vera plant is a great first-aid solution for burns and can be applied directly over a wound to ease the pain and help with healing. The salve of the plant can also be used directly over older burns, cuts and wounds to help fade scars and accelerate the healing of scabs and the closing of wounds. Because of its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, aloe vera can be used directly on wounds when no antibiotic cream or cleaning supplies are available to care for an injury. Finally, aloe vera contains magnesium lactate, an anti-itching agent, making the plant a good remedy for insect bites and allergies.
Aloe vera juice is good for a variety of digestive problems, including constipation, heartburn and stomachaches. It can also soothe stomach upset due to motion sickness, and it's been known to alleviate the burning and pain of ulcers. For people with nausea and vomiting, drinking aloe vera juice may be difficult because of its strong flavor, in which case capsules or tablets of aloe vera extract may be a better option.
Because of its healing properties, aloe vera has been widely use to stimulate tissue regeneration and help fade skin marks, scars and freckles. It can also be applied to skin to soothe sunburns and rashes, and used to treat dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema. Especially useful when combined with traditional treatments, aloe vera can also help those with dry, flaky skin or those suffering from chaffing due to wind and cold weather.
Because aloe vera is safe to be taken internally, it can be used to treat injuries that occurred on soft tissue, such as mouth ulcers, canker sores, fever blisters and other lesions. It has also been used effectively to treat bleeding gums and to soothe pain and discomfort after oral surgery or extensive dental treatment.