Herbal Remedies: Aloe Vera Gel and Latex
A Brief Description of Aloe Vera
If you've never heard of Aloe Vera, then I'd like to come live under that rock too. The world is a scary place.
Aloe Vera is a short, waxy plant that you can commonly find growing in pots or gardens. If you want to try and find a wild version in America, you may want to look closer to South America. The Aloe Vera plant is native to tropical biomes, so you're not going to find this in everyone's back-yard. Unless you're in Florida. Then again, even in Florida, the plant has some difficulty growing.
Primarily, the Aloe Vera plant is a biological ornament. The green, cacti-like leaves of the Aloe Vera seek your attention. It's small, so you can fit it almost anywhere. As long as you keep it well-watered, the plant can maintain itself. Aloe Vera is resistant to a lot of plant-borne diseases, so you don't have to worry about it catching anything. It's just a very effective and efficient biological ornament.
The Grandma Poll
Did your grandparents or parents keep an Aloe Vera plant in the household?
How to Use Aloe Vera
My favorite use for this herb is acne. Both my high school self and my current self can thank Aloe Vera gel for turning the bumps on my face to barely noticeable rough patches. It doesn't work for everybody, but when it works, you'll never need another acne product again! That's a lot of money saved if you're growing the herb in your home.
You can also use Aloe Vera on minor burns. When I was young, my grandmother applied this when I got a bit too careless with a match. I learned a valuable lesson about flames, but I didn't need to weather a painful sore for weeks to do it. The effects can vary, but I've used it to heal a minor burn in a couple days compared to a week.
I can't personally attest to this, I've been saying that a lot in this series, but apparently Aloe Vera can soothe Psoriasis. A friend of mine in college used the herb to reduce the redness around her shoulders and neck. It took a few weeks, but I noticed immediately when the gel started to work. She tried everything before this, but the herb truly seemed to help. She was a lot more confident after that as well, though that probably wasn't a direct result of applying Aloe Vera. Again, I only have the one example, but give it a try.
Now, I don't really recommend this one. However, you can consume the Aloe Vera latex as a laxative. My father used it to counter the effects of the opioids he was on after surgery. Do not take it if you're healthy unless you want a semi-painful colon-cleanse!
On a safer note, consuming the Aloe Vera gel may help reduce blood sugar. This can be useful if you're a diabetic and have trouble keeping your blood glucose down. However, monitor your blood sugar carefully during this. You won't know exactly how effective it is until it hits you.
Aloe Vera Consumption Poll
Did you know that Aloe Vera is actually consumed as a regular part of some cultural diets?
How to Prepare Aloe Vera for Medicinal Use
If you have the plant at home, your preparation is pretty simple. Just break off a leaf and extract the gel within. If you don't, you may need to buy a cream or extract. I'd stick to the cream as the extract will require additional mixing before application.
If using an extract topically, mix the Aloe Vera extract with olive oil or honey. It's not anywhere near as good as the gel, but it can help a little bit. I'd estimate it to be about half or a third as effective as the raw plant. Then again, I don't exactly have the metrics backing that up.
For acne, apply the gel to your face in the morning and the evening after washing your face or taking a shower. You should notice some significant reduction within a week, if not after a couple days. There may be some weird rough patches on your skin after application, but this isn't a problem. Those patches should start to go away after a while or after you stop using the Aloe Vera gel. If they persist, then you need to talk to a dermatologist.
For minor burns, apply the Aloe Vera gel to the damaged area and bandage it up. You'll have to keep changing the bandages out during the day, so keep a supply of the gel on hand. You should notice a significant reduction in pain and swelling within a couple days. Try not to use this for more serious burns where the skin has broken. This can cause a problem due to the toxin present in Aloe Vera gel.
For Psoriasis, apply the gel three times a day to the reddened areas of your skin. This will take some time, so be patient with the herb. You should notice a reduction in your symptoms after a few weeks, but it can take two months. Remember that this is the herb fighting your body itself, not a foreign invader. Don't be hasty.
Now, if you're going to ignore my advice and try to use this for constipation, take about 50 mg or a tenth of a teaspoon of the Aloe Vera latex by mouth. The best way I know of is to finely chop the latex for easier swallowing. I remember reading a recommendation that you eat the latex whole, without carving, but I don't recommend that. Some people recommend drying it out to reduce the toxin within the plant, but I haven't found any evidence of that helping.
Back to the safer note, for blood glucose consume about 100 mg or 1/5th of a teaspoon of the Aloe Vera gel by mouth. The effects can happen within a day so keep an eye on your blood sugar while using this remedy. You don't want to be caught unaware or off-guard.
Aloe Vera Toxicity
Did you think Aloe Vera is a safe little plant? That this herb couldn't possibly contain a deadly poison? Didn't you know? All medicines are just poisons being used correctly.
The Aloe Vera gel and latex contains a toxic substance called Aloin. When taken in larger quantities, this poison can cause severe colon contractions and interrupt absorption in your intestines. At best this can lead to stomach pain and cramps. At worst, and with extended use, this can lead to kidney and heart problems.
One of the side effects is weight loss. I didn't include that as a potential use for good reason. This isn't the healthy type of weight loss. This is the looking like a cancer patient type of weight loss. Do not use this plant to try and lose weight. You'll probably die from the other side effects before it can help. Just stick to basic low-sugar diets and moderate exercise if you're concerned about your weight. Stop poisoning yourselves for ridiculous reasons people!
Taking one gram of Aloe Vera latex for even a few days can ultimately be fatal. Your organs won't be able to sustain the damage, and you'll suffer through painful and blood-filled diarrhea. The upper limit of Aloe Vera gel isn't known, but it's significantly higher than the latex. Still, not known means there may be other side effects at lower but prolonged exposure. That's why I said it wouldn't be bright to apply this to open wounds. You don't want this anywhere you can't control exactly how much you're getting.
To be safe, I just wouldn't ingest the plant at all. There are too many potential risks and side effects. I'm including them for completeness, not as a recommendation. Take at your own risk if you want.
- Herbalism and Common Medicinal Herbs
Herbs were used long before prescription medicine was ever conceived. While some herbs were used in silly ways many herbal remedies were discovered through trial and error.
© 2018 Michael Ward