Aloe vera was my first medicinal herb. When I was a child, my mother always kept an aloe vera plant on the window sill and I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to use it. Whenever I had a small scrape or burn I would go to the plant and cut off a small length of a squishy, thick leaf. I slit the leaf to expose the wet gel within and smeared it on the burn or injury. The relief from pain was usually instantaneous, especially with sunburns.
Now I've had many years of experience with aloe vera and seen the mixed evidence from clinical trials. It's clear that aloe vera has some powerful medicinal properties, especially for skin issues and mouth diseases. However, the mixed results point to one important difference when compared to other herbs. Aloe vera loses nearly all of its potency when it is processed and/or stored for more than a day or two. The vast majority of supplements and cosmetics that claim to contain aloe vera are medicinally ineffective and have little impact other than that of their carrier agents.
Aloe vera is the quintessential homecrafter's herb. It works very well fresh from the plant and not at all once processed or stored. Pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies have tried for decades to bottle, can and market the soothing, healing and anti-aging powers of aloe vera. They put it in toothpaste, skin cream, makeup, shampoo and even food and pills because the name alone evokes a sense of healing. But you only need one product to use the power of aloe vera and it will never make anyone rich. You need an aloe vera plant on your window sill. Period.
Fresh aloe vera gel is one of the best treatments for sunburns and it has been shown in controlled studies to improve wrinkles and even reverse the effects of aging skin. But it isn't just a gentle and healthy balm for skin. It can also be effective at healing some of the most difficult-to-treat skin ailments.
One study found that it is effective in the treatment of skin cancer. A 1996 study showed that even a weakened, processed aloe vera extract in a cream was better than a placebo in treating psoriasis. The study also documented the safety of its use. The fresh gel directly fro the plant has many times the healing power of such a cream.
In addition, multiple studies have shown aloe vera to be effective in treating mouth diseases such as oral lichen planus and periodontal disease. Aloe vera is even proving to be useful in dressing wounds, as well as combating some bacterial infections.
I look forward to your comments, stories and ideas about herbs and homecrafting. Drop a line below and join the discussion.