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Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

We all know and love this little succulent. Aloe brings back fond memories of my childhood. A lot of us have probably used its gel to help ease sunburns during our sunny months. I always loved the soothing, cool feeling that aloe gave me after a reckless day in the sun. It turns out that it isn’t just amazing for skincare, but can even be used as an alternative mouthwash! But what else is this magical plant used for?

Photo by Kaitlyn Rigg on Unsplash

The earliest record of human use for Aloe vera comes from the Ebers Papyrus (an Egyptian medical record) from the16th century BC. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, in ancient Egypt, they called Aloe vera “that plant of immortality.” The authors added that the plant has been used therapeutically for many centuries  in China, Japan, India, Greece, Egypt, Mexico, and Japan. Like many other plants, aloe vera can be used in different forms and for different things. Aloe is a very strong digestive agent and is known to help with lowering blood sugar, IBS, aiding in memory functions, heartburn relief, and as a natural laxative. Something I never considered as a child when my mom popped off a leaf and slathered it on my crispy skin.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in the U.S., part of the National Institutes of Health, Aloe latex contains strong laxative compounds. Along with beta-carotenes, vitamins C, E, and B and other minerals, aloe also contains aloin, aloe-emodin, and barbaloin and was once regulated by the FDA as oral OTC laxatives. Because in certain doses, ingesting aloe can be toxic — diarrhea and abdominal cramping — and the lack of safety data, the FDA removed such over the counters back in 2002. I take aloe as a supplement every day, and I know several others that do as well. It has helped with feeling bloated and keeping things moving on a regular schedule. I have found when I forget my aloe for a few days (honestly usually a week) that I don’t feel “quite right”. Not only when it comes to digestion, but I personally have found that it somehow helps with the effects that some other herbs and supplements have on my digestive system.

Don’t let that scare you though. Unfortunately, allopathic (Western medicine) likes to isolate compounds in plants and herbs and then exploit those compounds. Not only does removing one part from anything change how, or if, something functions, so does adding chemicals and preservatives to the isolated compound. Do your intestines work the same without your stomach?

This is just an introduction to this “wonder plant“. Data is still being explored when it comes to aloe vera. There is one thing I know for sure, these succulents are easy to grow and add a lovely shade of green to any home. Plus, the sun is shining, I know you will forget sunscreen at some point during these warm months!

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