Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 Reasons Why You Should Have an Aloe Vera Plant

I swear I put sunblock on my shoulders. I mean, I'm the one always reminding (okay, nagging) everyone in the family about sunblock. How, then, did I manage to get the most painful sunburn I've had since the blistery awfulness I experienced back in the summer of 2001?  Luckily, this most recent sunburn was only on my left shoulder. Still, it was pretty painful. So, of course, I turned to my reliable aloe vera plant.

Since I was slathering on the aloe vera goo on my shoulder for days, I couldn't help but think that I should write a post about this amazing, dare I say magical, plant. It is so beneficial and so useful. As my husband put it, it's one of those things from nature where God comes close to giving Himself away, a big hint that He exists -- a plant that awesome couldn't happen by accident. (Kevin also maintains that ripe watermelon is also one of those kinds of creations. Mmmmm...watermelon...) 

Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years, the earliest mention of it from a Sumerian tablet dating back to 2100 BC.  References to the plant have been found in the early writings of various cultures -- from India and China to Greece and the Roman Empire. It's a plant full of vitamins and minerals, making it not only useful but great for your health.

But why mention aloe vera plants on this blog? Because this ever-useful plant doesn't cost much. And since it's a living thing, your plant justs keeps on giving and giving.

Here are a few of the reasons I love having aloe vera plants around the house:

{Note: While I may be explaining some health benefits of this amazing plant, I have to just say up front that I'm no doctor (surprise!) and that all of these remedies are things I've found that work for me or that I've learned through my own research. Basically, follow all of this at your own discretion, with your own needs and history in mind.}

1.  Sunburn relief
There are a bunch of different kinds of creams, gels, and sprays on the market for sunburn relief. They work  well (Solarcaine got me through the infamous, aforementioned sunburn from my college days) and do their jobs, but I've found that using the gel from an aloe vera leaf works just as well -- in some cases, even better. You simply clip off a piece of the leaf (I usually just snap a section off with my hands), open it up, and rub the gel over the affected area. Instant relief.

From the limited research I did for this post, I learned that aloe has over 200 naturally occurring nutritional substances, along with seven of the eight essential amino acids the body needs but can't produce. In terms of skin repair, it hydrates the skin and actually accelerates the repair due the vitamins, zinc, and polysaccharides (full disclosure: I have no idea what polysaccharides are) that reduce inflammation and stimulate epidermal growth. In fact, I even read that aloe vera has been used on skin cancer patients with pretty impressive results.

One great tip for using aloe vera on sunburns: clip off a big section of the leaf and stick it in the fridge. When you're ready to use it, it's delightfully cold on your skin. Ahhhhh. Sweet relief.

2. First-aid in the kitchen
Just yesterday I burned myself making lo mein.  The second I put the onions into the hot canola oil, a few drops splattered up. Burns in the kitchen are common enough for me that I keep one of my aloe vera plants in the kitchen. So, whenever I burn myself, I just snap off the tip off a leaf, squish out the gel onto the burn, and feel better in seconds.

3.  Enhance your natural beauty
It's said that the beautiful Egyptian queen Cleopatra used aloe vera on her skin daily. Aloe vera can be used in a variety of ways in your personal hygiene and beauty regimen. It's a great skin refresher and moisturizer. You can use the gel straight from the plant onto your skin or you mix up a homemade moisturizer with it.

To make an aloe vera moisturizer, mix 1/2 tsp or so of the gel with 1 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil. Spread an even layer on your face in the morning and/or at night. Leftover moisturizer can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for about five days.

For more beautiful ways to use aloe vera in your personal hygiene routine, check out this helpful link that I found.

4. It's edible!
I've seen bottles and even jugs of aloe vera juice sold at the health food store and I've wondered how it's used. Turns out, taking aloe vera internally is really beneficial. It's said to help with a whole host of health issues, ranging from arthritis to gastrointestinal problems to kidney stone prevention to hair loss and dandruff to diabetes to even cancer (some believe it actually stops tumor growth). I read that Ghandi credited aloe vera juice as one of the main reasons his body could withstand long periods of fasting. I've never tried taking aloe vera as a health supplement, but I'm intrigued. You can find lots of information about the benefits of taking this herb internally here and here.

5. Purify the air in your home
A while back I came across an interesting book called How to Grow Fresh Air. Using the research found by NASA scientists (in their efforts to figure out how to keep air clean on moon bases in the future), the author compiled a list of fifty houseplants that are ideal for air purification. As you can probably guess, aloe vera is one of those plants. One of the reasons it's such a good air purifying plant is that, unlike most plants, it actually releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide at night. For this reason, the author of the book recommends keeping an aloe vera plant in every bedroom (which we do).  So not only does it clean the air while we sleep, but we have plenty of aloe vera on hand whenever the need for it arises.

One other note about aloe vera: it's a really easy plant to grow. While I'm a pretty good gardener, I'm a notorious houseplant killer. I haven't killed an aloe vera plant yet. All three of our plants have survived numerous clippings and long periods of neglect (read: me forgetting to water them). To take care of your aloe vera plant, keep it in a sunny (or even semi-sunny) area, watering moderately in the spring, summer, and fall; water sparingly in the winter.

So buy an aloe vera plant of your own -- you can find them at nurseries, health food stores, and even the supermarket.  I get mine at Ikea for three bucks. With a little bit of water and hardly any work, you can reap the benefits from one of nature's amazing botanical gifts.


BB said...

Hello! I love your blog, thank you for writing it.
Okay so I took your advice and bought two aloe vera plants at Ikea tonight, but when I got home I looked at them more closely and they say on the plastic container: decorative only, not for consumption, so I wondered if I bought the wrong ones?

Heather said...

Hmmmmm...I don't know. That's where I got my plants. I haven't eaten them, but I've used the gel from the leaves a lot over the years. So maybe only use it topically?

Thanks for the nice words about my blog. I really appreciate it! :)

Sachin Babu said...

hi.. thanks for this good blog :-) does aloe vera always take in carbon di oxide & give out oxygen in the day time too ?

Unknown said...

I would like to know this too.

jade said...

I have various succulents in pots in our conservatory & they seem to thrive there. visit

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but I thought that all plants released oxygen and absorbed carbon dioxide (at all times,not just at night). Can you explain?

Michael said...

Hi, I really enjoyed your post on aloe vera. I had no idea this plant released oxygen. I am going to go buy a couple of plants this weekend. On taking aloe vera internally, you might be interested to know that there is a product called Body Balance that is made from 9 varieties of sea vegetation, organic aloe vera, honey and black cherry. It contains over 120 bio-available nutrients that your body needs every day and tastes great! You can learn more about it on my website, www.sick-n-tired.com. Thanks again for your great post.

Bullfinchie said...

Im wondering if ALL the aloe species are GREAT for the Air?
Or is it just this medicional one?

Bullfinchie said...

Im wondering if ALL the aloe species are GREAT for the Air?
Or is it just this medicional one?

Bullfinchie said...

Im wondering if ALL the aloe species are GREAT for the Air?
Or is it just this medicional one?

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