The miracle plant

Tricia Wanjala explores the properties of the wonder plant – Aloe Vera

AloeVeraThe ancient Egyptians revered it as ‘the plant of immortality.’ The Mayans, Incas, American Indians and Chinese cherished it for its medicinal, cosmetic and health properties. Now modern science has confirmed at least some of the hype surrounding Aloe Vera. Here are five reasons why you would benefit from acquiring and using this hardy plant.

1 Hair
Aloe Vera is highly moisturising and has an alkaline pH. This makes it ideal for rejuvenating hair. It is soothing, non-greasy and easily absorbed. It also has antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and thus helps alleviate dermatitis, dandruff,
and scalp psoriasis.

2 Air purifier
In How to Grow Fresh Air, B.C Wolverton recommends keeping an Aloe plant in each bedroom. This is because it is one of the few plants that absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, even at night.

3 Health tonic
The plant steroids in Aloe Vera naturally reduce inflammation. Dr Andrew Weil, New York Times bestselling medical author, writes that fresh Aloe juice can be taken orally to soothe ulcers and other irritations of the gastrointestinal tract. It aids digestion, alkalises the system and has a detoxifying effect. The juice and gel help regulate bowel movements, but in high doses the sap has a strong laxative effect. Aloe Vera is touted by regular users
as a tonic for a wide spectrum of chronic conditions.

4 Remedy for burns
According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, a study of 27 patients treated with Aloe Vera gel for burns showed that they healed up to eight days faster than those treated with the standard medical ointment.  The World Health Organisation also concluded that Aloe Vera accelerates wound healing, promoting rapid tissue repair and preventing further damage to the skin tissues from burns, frostbite, and electrical injury. Aloe Vera gel has been shown to reduce burns by up to one degree when applied rapidly as first aid. To illustrate: after you turn off your stove, food continues to cook for some time. Similarly, in accidental burns, tissues continue to experience progressive heat damage after the heat source is removed. Aloe Vera halts this process. Thus, several physicians recommend keeping this plant in your kitchen. It also soothes sunburn, scrapes, eczema and minor cuts.

5 Beauty
Thanks to its high water content and rich antioxidant profile, Aloe Vera is a popular ingredient in cosmetics. Use the clear Aloe gel as a DIY shaving cream, hydrating face mask, eye make-up remover and night treatment. Use the juice as a toner.

Make your own
To use the fresh plant, cut a thick leaf and remove the spines, then fillet it with a sharp knife to remove the green outer layer. Apply the clear gel directly to the burn. Use it on sunburn, thermal burns and any skin irritation or inflammation. Commercial aloe sprays and gels often have too low a concentration of Aloe Vera to provide significant relief. This fresh gel is also taken orally in water or mixed in juices and smoothies.

What’s in it?
Aloe Vera contains over 75 nutrients, 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, 18 amino acids and 200 active enzymes including Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and B12, Vitamin C and E, Folic acid and Niacin. Minerals found in Aloe Vera include sulphur, copper, iron, sodium, calcium, zinc, potassium, chromium, magnesium and manganese.