An aloe plant in the home is an excellent first-aid kit. The gel in the leaf can be applied directly to any burns, grazes or sunburn.
The Aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant with thick and fleshy leaves and grows 60 to100cm tall.
Common names include aloe, burn plant, lily of the desert, elephant's gall, true aloe and first aid plant.
Soothes sunburn, wounds and scalds
Acts as a laxative (aloe latex)
Relieves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation
Stimulates bile secretion
Preliminary research shows that extract from aloe vera in a hydrophilic cream may be an effective treatment of genital herpes in men.
Some studies have also shown that aloe may help in the treatment of dandruff and psoriasis, but more research is needed to make a firm recommendation.
The aloe vera plant’s long history of healing power can be traced back to Ancient Egypt when Cleopatra considered the plant's soothing and moisturising properties her personal beauty secret.
Known as the “Plant of Immortality”, the aloe vera was also presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.
The modern use of aloe vera was first recognised in the 1930s to heal radiation burns. Since then, it has been a common ingredient in ointments that heal sunburn, minor cuts, skin irritation, and many other ailments.
Recently, aloe vera has gained some popularity as an active ingredient in tooth gel. Similar to its use on skin, the aloe vera in tooth gels is used to cleanse and soothe teeth and gums, and is as effective as toothpaste to fight cavities.
Pure aloe vera gel is often used liberally on the skin three to four times per day for the treatment of sunburn and other minor burns. For severe burns, consult a doctor immediately.
Don't use bitter aloes on the skin, avoid use during pregnancy and don't use aloe if you suffer from haemorrhoids, kidney disease, heart disease or arrhythmia.
Avoid aloe if you're allergic to onions, garlic or tulips.
Aloe taken by mouth may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when taken with medications that may also lower blood sugar.
Also note that, although there are more than 300 species of the plant, only a few are used for medicinal purposes. (Aloe Barbadensis Miller is a good example.)
(Information sources: HealthDay News; MedlinePlus.gov)
(Updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, January 2010)