The Health Benefits of Aloe Vera

You may already know that aloe vera is 'good for the skin'. But the medicinal, almost magical, powers of this natural product stretch far beyond just giving you a soft face. In fact, aloe vera can be a very effective treatment for all kinds of diseases and skin conditions.

Aloe vera is a species of plant, well-known for its healing properties. The spotty white form, Aloe Barbadenis Miller (also known as medicinal aloe, burn aloe and even 'the first aid plant') is the most potent and is generally accepted by experts as the best type of aloe for use in face and body creams.

In ancient Rome, Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician who had served several years in the Roman army, wrote a book entitled De Materia Medica (still considered to be one of the most influential herbal books in history) in which he enthusiastically sang the praises of the aloe vera plant. He claimed that it could effectively heal wounds by speeding up the clotting of blood, heal boils and haemorrhoids, cure eye inflammations and prevent hair loss.

Ancient Egyptian women used aloe as a beauty product, and Cleopatra swore by it as part of her personal skin care regime. This is not surprising as aloe vera boasts very potent skin healing properties – it can rid the face of blemishes and give the user a more radiant and youthful appearance. Cleo is actually said to have bathed in aloe before successfully seducing Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, two of the most powerful men of the time.

The benefits of the aloe vera plant can be found by crushing its inner leaves to extract the juice from inside. This clear liquid contains soothing, moisturising and healing properties. The organic make-up of the aloe vera plant closely resembles that of the human body – a large number of the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids in aloe vera match those found in humans – which could explain why it is so beneficial to us. 

Aloe vera is most widely used in the treatment of wounds and burns, to reduce swelling and soothe pain. Many people also use aloe creams as part of their daily skin care regime to achieve a fresher, more youthful look and reduce the appearance of blemishes. Aloe can also be effective on cuts, grazes, acne, arthritis, athlete's foot, canker sores, chapped lips, dandruff, dry or irritated skin, eczema, genital herpes, inflamed joints, psoriasis, rashes, ringworm, scabies, skin ulcers, sore muscles, stretch marks, sunburn, varicose veins and warts.

Aloe vera products are widely available and can be bought as gels, creams and even drinks. Most are safe to use on children and babies and can ease the symptoms of cradle cap and nappy (diaper) rash. Aloe is also considered harmless for use during pregnancy. However, you should consult your GP or dermatologist before applying it in these situations, and always follow the directions on the pack.