Queen of the Succulents: Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is an incredible healer. I remember when I was younger and my mother had a tiny aloe plant growing inside our house, she would break a piece off and rub the cooling gel on our skin if my siblings or I got a cut or burn. There is a deep-seated wisdom and knowing with this plant, used by generations of people (as far back at the first century) for various ailments including wound-healing, skin regenerating, and anti-aging.
The aloe vera plant creates its own nutrients needed for survival, and stores them in the gel-like substance that is found inside the leaves. Inside the gel you will find over 200 active compounds and enzymes, including vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. Some of the vitamins that aloe vera gel contains: pro-vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), Vitamin C, E, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folate), B12, and choline. The minerals it contains include: calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Talk about nutrient dense! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/)
There is also a special compound called acemannan this is found in the inner leaf gel of the aloe plant and is found nowhere else in nature, it is a complex polysaccharide composed of mannose, glucose, and galactose (sugar monomers). “Acemannan has various medicinal properties like osteogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, which accelerate healing of lesions. Also, acemannan is known to have antiviral and antitumor activities in vivo through activation of immune responses.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25233608)
If you are harvesting your own fresh aloe gel for consumption, make sure to only take the clear inner leaf gel, as the middle layer (in between the gel and the outer leaf) is a yellow sap called latex that is made up of anthraquinones and glycosides. This sap can cause severe digestive discomfort and health complications if used regularly, but has been used short-term to induce diarrhea and relieve constipation due to its laxative properties. To avoid ingesting the latex: cut off a piece of aloe, rinse it under cool water, then let it sit with the cut side down so that the latex will drain out. Fresh aloe vera will only keep for a couple of days in the fridge, so use up fast and trim often! Pro-tip: the aloe plant will actually be happier and healthier the more frequently you trim the leaves, it will grow and regenerate very quickly, so don’t be shy when taking cuttings.
Used externally or internally, aloe vera can be a great addition to your anti-aging and wellness routine. Do you have a favorite use for the Queen of the Succulents?