By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Aloe vera is an evergreen succulent that has been a popular houseplant for decades. In addition to its attractive, serrated leaves, the plant also provides practical uses. Aloe vera has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
“It has a lot of benefits,” said physician Az Tahir, who practices holistic medicine in Rochester. “A lot of people use it for burns or skin issues. It’s a very good healer for the skin. It’s very, very safe.”
Simply cutting off a leaf, slitting it lengthwise and directly applying the juice of the plant to skin offers instant relief for minor burns and cuts. Commercially cold aloe vera gel is another way to benefit from its healing properties.
In addition, some people ingest aloe vera juice as a beverage.
“It’s especially helpful for internal healing, such as for constipation,” Tahir said.
He said that people receiving chemotherapy find that consuming aloe vera juice promotes stomach health. The therapy usually causes stomach upset as it attacks healthy cells in the stomach lining.
Kasia Cummings, owner of Buffalo Gal Organic Skincare in Williamsville, said that in the majority of her skincare products, aloe is the first ingredient.
“It’s great at healing the skin and helps retain moisture so we like to use it on a regular basis,” Cummings said.
In addition to using it straight from the leaf for a burn or other injury, she said that it can be used for balancing the oil in the skin, as it’s safe for any skin type.
Cummings likes aloe vera’s natural anti-inflammatory properties, which she said can soothe the skin. She likes to make a mask of it by “filleting” a leaf from the plant, rubbing it on the skin and allowing the goo to dry. Once it dries, rinse it off.
For a sunburn treatment, she said that a mask of aloe, honey and plain, non-sweetened yogurt “really helps the skin to cool down and regenerate,” Cummings said. “It will help it from not peeling after the burn subsides. You can do it at home and you don’t have to buy a product. Then you rinse it off afterwards.”