What do sunburns, itchy insect bites, and heartburn all have in common?
Totally stumped? (Probably not, since the answer is in the title.) They can all be tackled and soothed by a small dose of aloe vera!
I can’t think of a better time than summer to stock aloe vera juice and aloe vera gel. Our skin, the largest organ we have, takes a constant toll being exposed to sun, insects, heat, and other factors. Summer travel, and even unfamiliar foods at social gatherings, can leave body’s systems screaming for a little help; and aloe vera helps with these and so much more.
Aloe vera is a super plant. It’s antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal; and these benefits are passed along to us when used.
Labeled the “plant of immortality” by ancient Egyptians, aloe vera provides healing benefits whether taken internally, or applied externally.
What to look for
When I refer to aloe vera gel, I’m talking about pure aloe gel – not the green, medicated, chemical-filled stuff. There’s a BIG difference.
Of course, skinning your own aloe plants is the best way to go. The gel collected from skinning leaves can be used right away, or skinned and preserved for a few months. Unfortunately, my aloe plants are tiny, and I use a TON of aloe vera gel, so I purchase mine. (where to buy pure aloe vera gel)
Purchasing a good bottle of aloe vera gel can be difficult. The brilliant marketing of many companies leads you to believe their product are pure, printing things like, “100% Gel.” Guess what? Sure, it’s a gel, all 100% of it, but it’s not 100% pure aloe vera gel. If you’re not careful you’ll pay for 100% chemicals, fillers, and preservatives (and a maybe a little bit of aloe vera).
Always read the ingredients and fine print; the information the company may be trying to distract you from reading (by using attractive fonts and pictures, etc.).
Let’s use an unnamed but popular brand of aloe vera gel (rhymes with Fruit of the Birth) as an example:
- their Aloe Vera 100% gel contains: Aloe Vera Gel, Triethanolamine, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Carbomer 940, Tetrasodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea.
The label claims it’s “PURE.” Ummmm, fail.
They got the aloe vera part right, but Triethanolamine has been reported to have carcinogenic qualities and there’s strong evidence of it being a skin toxicant. DMDM Hydantoin and Diazolidinyl Urea are chemicals that release Formaldehyde into the product to kill microbes. I don’t want microbes swimming in my product, but I also don’t want Formaldehyde on my skin.
You will find that most natural brands include things like citric acid (as a pH balancer), potassium sorbate (mold inhibitor), or carrageenan or xanthan for thickening. (These aren’t all bad, and in small amounts may not be harmful, but I appreciate a company that looks for ways to put out a very pure product.) Carrageenan rates highest on comedogenic rating scales, meaning it is highly likely to clog pores and can cause acne. It has been suggested that potassium sorbate can be a skin irritant.
In terms of aloe vera juice, I have read that you will get the most benefits from juice made from the inner AND outer leaf of the plant. Look for aloe juice that’s labeled “whole leaf” in order to maximize health benefits when taking it internally.
The answer is to check the ingredients, educate yourself about individual ingredients, and look for the most natural aloe vera gel or juice you can find. Health food stores are your best bet for finding some good options.
Now that we know a little more let’s get on to the good stuff, shall we?
10 Uses for Aloe Vera Gel or Juice
1. Itch relief: Apply directly to the site of insect bites or stings for relief.
2. Burn relief: Slather pure aloe vera gel on a sunburn, or use to treat minor burns in the kitchen. It can also be effectively used as a gentle aftershave.
3. Leave in conditioner/scalp soother: I mix aloe vera gel with a little rosemary essential oil and a few drops of Vitamin E oil, squirt tiny bits on my scalp and ends of hair. I do not rinse, and this mixture soothes an itchy scalp and softens hair.
4. Hair styling: Aloe vera gel fights frizz in my hair and has been a great replacement for expensive styling products.
5. Mouthwash: If drinking aloe vera juice, you can simply swish it around in your mouth for a while to benefit gums. You can also make a homemade aloe mouthwash by mixing 1 cup aloe vera juice, ½ cup distilled water, 2 teaspoons baking soda, and 10-20 drops of peppermint essential oil.
6. Hand sanitizer: I make an aloe-based natural hand sanitizer that travels with me almost everywhere. The aloe vera gel in it moisturizes my hands instead of drying like most commercial hand sanitizers.
7. Moisturizer: Skin absorbs it quickly and it’s non-greasy. I find it to be the perfect summer facial moisturizer when other moisturizers just seem too heavy and oily.
9. Vitamin absorption: A recent study from the University of California, Davis, showed that aloe vera may help your body absorb vitamins more effectively. Drinking 2 ounces of aloe vera juice along with your daily vitamins can increase absorption rates.
10. Drink to lower cholesterol: I’m not suggesting anyone ignore the advice of their medical professional, or stop taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, this one is definitely worth a look. Studies have shown that drinking aloe vera juice can safely lower cholesterol over time.
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. Keep in mind this information is based on my personal opinion and research. Use these recommendations at your own risk. I recommend consulting with your health practitioner prior to taking aloe vera internally.
Aloe Vera for so much more
This only scratches the surface for ways aloe can be used. Its smooth, cool texture, healing abilities, and uses for hair, skin, and body make it a staple in our household.
What are your favorite ways to use aloe vera?
Join in the discussion and share your experience below.
Resources and References
- The aloe vera miracle: A natural medicine for cancer, cholesterol, diabetes, inflammation, IBS, and other health conditions, on NaturalNews.com
- The Many Health Benefits of Aloe Vera, from Underground Health Reporter
- Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database from Environmental Working Group
- Quick Tip: Aloe for Vitamin Absorption, in Delicious Living, April 2012