Aloe Vera is a common garden plant with almost miraculous healing properties. DNA testing suggests it probably originated in Sudan and Yemen and records indicate the aloe was used in that area in medicinal preparations for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians called it the ‘plant of immortality’, legend has it that Queen Nefertiti, and Cleopatra relied on Aloe Vera to maintain their youth by drinking and bathing in the juice. Alexander the Great used large amounts of it to heal his soldiers.
The plant was introduced into Europe and China in the 1700’s and has since established itself in every dry arid region in the world. Today it grows wild in the Arab Peninsula, Africa, Australia, US and Asia. In other parts, it requires special care and attention during the winter but still grow well.
Most of us are aware that Aloe Vera is regarded as the best treatment for burns and sunburn. Cut the leaves from the plant, remove the green outer skin to reveal a clear inner gel, which is then applied directly to the burn. For large burns, blend the flesh to produce a smooth gel that is easier to apply.
Researchers at the University of Texas say that Aloe penetrates seven layers of tissue and reaches the deepest parts of the body. They also report that when used externally it absorbs into the skin four times faster than water.
Externally, the gel is good for all skin problems, is safe to use on babies and pregnant mothers, and makes a great nappy rash treatment. Internally, herbalists recommend taking an infusion or juice daily as a general tonic and immunity booster.
To make an infusion, cut 1 or 2 large leaves and allow to stand until the yellow sap to drains. Cut the leaves into 2cm chunks and place the pieces into 500ml jars, filling the jars about one third. Fill the jars with cold water and put them in the refrigerator. Leave too steep for about eight hours. Take ½ glass first thing in the morning, before meals and at bedtime or anytime you feel thirsty. After draining the infusion from a jar, refill the jar with water. Discard after 10-12 days or if fermented.
To prepare a 100% juice you need to stabilise it with vitamin C. Pick large leaves, remove the skin, rinse the yellow sap off with water and place the gel in a blender on low speed. For 3 cups of gel, add 1 teaspoon of vitamin C powder. Store the gel in the refrigerator. Take 2-5 tablespoons daily, mixed with water or fruit juice. The pure juice is the most effective way to obtain the medicinal benefits of aloe.