Aloe vera is a bona fide superstar ingredient. There’s a myriad of health benefits attributed to the plant. As well as being a potent antioxidant, aloe vera is said to boost immune function, reduce high blood pressure and aid digestion. It’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the “plant of immortality,” aloe was presented as a funeral gift to pharaohs. Cleopatra used the plant in her beauty regime, selecting it to treat everything from burns to infections and parasites.
Jennifer Aniston, a self-confessed sun-worshipper, is also a huge fan. The Hollywood star grows it in her back garden in California and applies it after a session in the sun to cool down her skin and calm any sunburn.
Why? The jelly-like substance found inside the thick spiky leaves of the aloe vera cactus is laden with an impressive list of nutrients, including 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, 18 amino acids and 200 active plant compounds or phytonutrients. Two substances from aloe vera, the clear gel and the yellow latex, are used in health products today. Aloe gel is primarily used topically (applied to the skin) as a remedy for skin conditions such as burns, frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores, but it may also be taken orally (by mouth) for conditions including osteoarthritis, bowel diseases, and fever. The high water content of the aloe gel (99.5 per cent) means it’s very hydrating, soothing and cooling (that’s why it’s a common ingredient in after sun products). It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory and makes a very effective make-up remover. Aloe latex is taken orally, usually for constipation
Other ways to benefit
Aloe vera has a slightly bitter flavour so is not the most pleasant tasting plant. However, blended into a smoothie with other ingredients such as berries, coconut milk and green vegetables like cucumber and spinach, it provides a nutrient-rich super drink that will cleanse your system and benefit your skin.
When using fresh aloe vera leaves, allow them to drain before cutting out the gel-like flesh from skin. Stand the leaf in a glass leaving the cut end down. A yellow substance should leak out after a while. This is a latex found just beneath the skin and is what gives the aloe vera its bitter taste. It’s also a common ingredient in laxatives.
So whether you’re ingesting it or applying it to your skin, harvesting it from a plant or buying it in products, this natural plant ingredient will soothe, hydrate and repair stressed skin, for a newly radiant look.