By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
Got a lotta love for aloe vera? You should, because this succulent you tend to ignore is supercharged with skin benefits you will surely love! The use of aloe vera dates back to thousands of years and has been widely known across cultures and generations. It was believed to have originated in Africa, until it eventually spread across the world. The Egyptians used it for beauty, regarded it as a sacred symbol, and even utilized it to gauge someone’s wealth. The Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, believed that aloe vera was an all-in-one cure for diseases. The Japanese even regarded it as an elixir; while the Indians and Chinese used aloe vera as well for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. In short, our ancestors were right: Aloe vera is indeed a “miracle plant,” a “fountain of youth,” and a “plant of immortality,” and now modern science tells us why.
Aloe, or aloe barbadensis, is a genus with around 500 species of succulent plants, including the well-known aloe vera. It thrives in warmer climates such as Central and South America and Southeast Asia, but is very common and can be found almost elsewhere in the world. In the Philippines, aloe vera is known as sabila, sabila-pina, or dilang-halo. When you cut open an aloe vera leaf, it contains a clear gel at the center and a yellowish liquid called aloe latex. The gel is where all of the goodness comes from, as it is packed with vitamins (A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12), minerals (calcium, sodium, iron, magnesium, and potassium), polysaccharides (antiviral properties), and fatty acids (anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties). Internally, the aloe vera gel has been reported to improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, eliminate toxins, improve nutrient absorption, fight infection, lower cholesterol levels, and relieve inflammation.
But what about the skin? Externally, it can do more than soothe and treat burns and wounds. Its excellent nutrient content makes it a good natural skin toner, astringent, antiseptic, moisturizer, skin whitener, and sun protector—all in one! Plus, not only does it heal and moisturize the skin, it has also been found to be an effective anti-wrinkle ingredient, hair conditioning, and anti-dandruff treatment! More recently, studies are even looking at aloe vera to relieve psoriasis symptoms and prevent or treat skin cancer.
To use aloe-vera for the skin, you may cut a leaf open and use the gel immediately (as it can easily spoil with exposure to sunlight and air). Remember to wash the yellowish liquid as it can be a skin irritant. Then, you may apply pure aloe gel on cleansed skin as a nighttime moisturizer, or add other natural ingredients for a variety of purposes. Add brown sugar, for instance, to make a natural face scrub. Mix it with tea tree oil to treat acne. Add a few drops of lemon for a homemade anti-dandruff treatment. Alone, however, aloe vera has many uses. Massage it on the scalp to stimulate hair growth, adjust hair ph levels, strengthen the hair strands, for example, or even consume a tablespoon or two of pure aloe to hydrate the skin.
Because aloe vera is low in maintenance, you can easily cultivate your own plant at home and enjoy its natural medicinal benefits for your skin and body! But before consuming aloe vera orally or topically, consult with your physician and your dermatologist as some individuals may have a reaction to the aloe gel, especially those that have health concerns. A lot of studies have been done about aloe vera, and yet more benefits and uses are being discovered about this mysterious plant. With its antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, aloe vera really is a skin superstar.