If the old stories are true, one of Cleopatra’s beauty secret was aloe. The ancient Egyptians recognized the healing properties of this herb and also used it as one of the ingredients in embalming fluid. The plant was introduced into Europe in the tenth century, where over time it became an important ingredient in many herbal medicines. Aloe arrived in the West Indies in the 16th century and is still widely grown there. The fleshy herb is today a component of modern cosmetics and health care products ranging from hand and face creams to shampoo. In cool climates, aloe is often grown in conservatories or as a houseplant. Potted aloe plants are a common sight in many kitchen, where the leaves are within easy reach to apply to minor burns. Freshly snipped aloe leaves are the ultimate homegrown first aid.aloe vera
Usage: They have a soothing effect on minor cuts and burns, dry or chapped skin, sunburn, and insect bites.
Traditional and Current Medicinal Uses
There are more than 300 species of Aloe, but only a few have traditionally been used as herbal medicines. These include Aloe Perryi from northeastern Africa and A. Ferox from South Africa. But it is Aloe Vera that tops the list as the aloe with the widest use. Both the Greeks and the Romans used it for treating wounds. During the Middle Ages, the yellow juice found in the leaf skin, was favored as purgative or cleansing properties. Throughout history, Aloe Vera’s value has largely been divided between these two distinct therapeutic roles–as purgative and as leaf gel to heal wounds.
The clear gel found inside the fleshy leaves is used for treating minor burns, woods and certain skin conditions such as eczema and ringworms. The healing properties of aloe gel were popularized in Western countries in the 1950s, when much was made of the plant’s ability to heal burns–including even radiation burns. The soothing effect of the gel is almost immediate, and it forms a coating over minor wounds that seems to help prevent infection. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, aloe gel is considered an important tonic for excess pitta (meaning “fire”).
The source of aloe’s other major role in herbal medicine is the bitter, yellow liquid that is derived from the outer layer of its leaves. Known as drug aloe, aloe latex, aloe juice, or aloe sap, it has a powerful purgative effect. (It should not be confused with aloe gel-containing product as sold aloe juice.) Because of its intensely bitter taste, the latex was recommended for a time as nail-biting deterrent to be painted on the fingertips of children. Aloe is one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States.
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