Sometimes it would be squeezed directly from the plant, and other times the juice would come from a bottle.
Either way, it would soothe your burn quickly. That’s probably the last time you thought about aloe vera.
But today, this ancient substance mentioned as far back as in the Bible is being plugged as a key ingredient in health food stores and even in energy drinks at the corner store.
Its popularity is at an all-time high as consumers are beginning to understand its health benefits.
What is aloe vera?
Most commonly found in Africa and the Caribbean, aloe vera is a plant that belongs to the succulent species — like a cactus, it holds liquid to survive in hot, dry climates. Aloe has a unique appearance: It has little or no stem and its leaves are long spearlike spikes, protected by serrated edges. Aloe vera is the most common of the 400-plus varieties of the aloe species. Aloe vera helps on the outside
Though it’s far from being the type of mystery elixir sold door-to-door by shady businessmen of bygone eras, the variety of uses for aloe vera is impressive.
It’s most famously used to treat burns by reducing inflammation and providing quick cooling relief.
If you have an aloe plant, you can simply cut the end off one of the pointed leaves and smear the gel-like interior onto your wound.
You can also peel the outer layer off a leaf and apply it directly to the skin. If you’re not as creative and want to simply buy the aloe gel or juice, you can dab these substances onto your burn.
Aloe is equally effective at treating precise burns (such as those caused by a hot element on the stove) and general burns (such as sunburn). Its healing properties don’t end there: Any skin contusion such as a scrape, cut or rash can also be treated with aloe. There is also some evidence that shows applying aloe juice or gel to acne will help to bring about a smoother complexion.
Aloe vera helps on the inside While it’s most commonly known as a topical solution for burns and cuts, there’s increasing research showing that consuming aloe juice or gel can have wide-ranging health benefits.
You shouldn’t actually eat an aloe leaf, but adding a couple teaspoons of its juice or gel to your daily diet may improve your digestive system from top to bottom.
Aloe vera is said to promote healthy teeth and gums, improve digestion, repair skin, enhance energy levels and boost the immune system.
Some tests have shown that aloe can help balance the blood glucose levels of diabetics, relieve heartburn and reduce inflammation for those suffering from colitis. Aloe vera is a detoxifier, meaning it will help to cleanse the body — especially the digestive tract — of unwanted bacteria.
It gives users a healthy dose of minerals as it naturally contains such helpful substances as zinc, potassium, calcium, and iron. Because it contains aloin, aloe vera can also be a powerful laxative.
Many producers of aloe vera juice remove the aloin, while processed gel can often contain the laxative.
Make sure to ingest aloe in small doses until you determine how your body reacts to it.
It might be bold to suggest that aloe can extend one’s lifespan, but a University of Texas Health Science Center lab test showed that rats that were fed aloe experienced a 10% longer life span than those that weren’t.
How to use aloe vera
As it surges in popularity, aloe vera juice and gel are becoming more common not only in health food stores, but also in mainstream drug stores.
It’s important to note, however, that some forms of aloe are better than others.
Consuming an energy drink that contains aloe won’t be a huge help if that drink is loaded with sugar and caffeine. Like most health supplements, the purer the better.
Depending on its concentration, the gel can be either tasteless or pungent. If you have trouble choking it down (though that’s doubtful, as even at its most powerful it just tastes somewhere between the juice of a fruit and vegetable), you can mix it with water or apple juice.
For optimum benefits, it’s recommended you drink two to four ounces of aloe each day.
A plant with many benefits Though it’s been around for centuries, aloe vera has only recently become a household name.
You’d be remiss not to keep a plant — or at the very least, a bottle of gel — in your home. It can certainly come in handy when you need quick, natural relief for an ailment such as a burn, and if you work a couple teaspoons of gel into your daily diet, you may be surprised to discover how good you’ll feel.
By Malcolm MacMillan
Malcolm MacMillan is an Ottawa-based journalist with a passion for writing anything relating to sports.
A graduate of Ryerson University’s journalism program and a Baseball Writers’ Association of America award winner, he plays a vast array of sports when he’s not writing about them.