This tropical herb, with long, light-green leaves and sagging purple-and-yellow blooms, yields two therapeutic substances. The first, a translucent gel obtained from the inner leaves, works externally to relieve minor burns, skin irritations, and infections; taken internally, aloe gel provides relief from stomach disorders. It is thought to function by inhibiting bradykinin, a pain-producing agent. In addition it is believed to contain magnesium lactate, an effective antihistamine. Among its ingredients are several that reduce inflammation. Aloe gel is used as a beauty aid and moisturizer because it contains polysaccharides, which act as emollients to soothe, soften, and protect the skin. The second remedy contained in the aloe plant is a bitter, yellow juice known as latex, found just beneath the surface of the leaves. Latex acts as a powerful laxative.
Over the counter:
Aloe is available as powder, fluid extract, powdered capsules, bottled gel, or latex tablets.
Eyewash: Dissolve 1/2 tsp powdered aloe gel in 1 cup water. Add 1 tsp boric acid to accelerate the healing process. Pour the solution through a coffee filter before applying to the eyes.
Bath: Add 1 to 2 cups aloe gel to a warm bath to relieve sunburn or skin lesions.
Combinations: Use aloe gel with wheat-germ oil and safflower flower to reduce bruising.