Skin Saver, Aloe Vera

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Aloe
(skin saver)
Aloe is one home remedy I wouldn't want to be without. Keep a potted aloe plant on your windowsill to have a ready supply of clear gel for topical treatment of cooking burns, minor cuts, dermatitis, and even hemorrhoids. I also recommend carrying a bottle of pure aloe gel in a trav­el kit as a sunburn soother. While there are numerous aloe juice products on the market for internal use, however, I'm convinced that the only good they may do is to your gastrointestinal tract. Any multilevel-marketing claims you hear about the miraculous powers of aloe juice to enhance immune function or cure everything from arthritis to AIDS are sheer fantasy—but such beliefs may have helped turn this African succulent into one of today's herbal best-sellers.

lilUUitiiaUXlXUail In ancient times, aloe was so coveted for its wound-healing powers that when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 B.C., he dispatched an army to the island aloe was cultivated on—to seize both
island and plant. Modern studies are confirm­ing aloe's topical benefits, suggesting that it increases blood flow to injured areas (which helps speed healing) and also contains com­pounds that may have pain-relieving and anti­inflammatory effects and help ward off infec­tion. In a 1990 study of patients undergoing dermabrasion—a procedure to remove the top layer of skin—healing was 72 hours faster on the half of the face treated with stabilized aloe, while another study showed that a different aloe product helped promote circulation in skin that was frostbitten.
The internal use of aloe, on the other hand, has little research to back it up, but I've heard many patient testimonials about the juice's ability to help heal digestive dis­orders, from ulcers to diverticulitis. One friend claims that aloe juice was responsible for curing him of an otherwise intractable case of colitis, lead­



HOW TO USE IT
Because aloe is so easy to grow, and because its active compounds can become destabilized during process­ing, my advice is to use the live plant instead of commercial preparations when­ever possible: Just cut off a lower leaf near the central stalk, remove any spines along the edge, split the leaf lengthwise, score the gel with the point of your knife, and apply directly to the injured area. You can also find pure aloe gel in health-food stores, which can be applied topically in the same way. Be aware, however, that many commercial skin-care products that boast aloe on their labels—from sunscreen to moisturizer to tissues—may have too little of the herb in them to offer real therapeutic benefit.
If you're interested in giving aloe;«zce a try, you can mash up some gel in a little fruit juice and drink it, or use any commercial product that is pure. Aloe juice tastes nasty, however, so ask around for a brand that's relatively palatable. And since aloe vera taken internally can be an irritant laxative, don't overdo: A reasonable dose might be a teaspoonful of aloe juice after meals.

CAUTIONS
Aloe products made from the bitter yellow latex—the cells just under the skin of the leaf—have historically been used as laxatives, but I don't recommend aloe for this purpose as it can cause painful cramping and diarrhea.



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