Skin care and aloe vera

One could almost equate aloe vera to a "good fairy" among all the natural ingredients we find in skin care products today.

The aloe plant with its fleshy leaves belongs to the lily family (Liliaceae) despite the fact that it looks much more like a cactus with its spiny, long succulent leaves. Over 200 species grow in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe; and with Russia leading, many of these plants have been scientifically studied. One seems to have been more effective than all the rest: ALOE BARBADENSIS, or as we know it, aloe vera. "Vera" is a Latin word, meaning "true". Aloe vera, the true healing plant was known in folk medicine for countless centuries. It is now cultured in many countries to satisfy the demand for the precious aloe gel all over the world. It is used as an active ingredient in thousands of medicinal remedies including skin care products.

Aloe vera is an ancient plant: European documents prove its use back in 1500 B.C., while Egyptian papers mention its incredible healing powers even many centuries before that. It was used internally for stomach and digestive disorders, kidney and gallbladder problems, hemorrhoids, itching, gum and skin disease, burns and blisters. It was and still is good for everything under the sun.

The anatomy of the incredible plant is very fascinating: as a member of the Xeroids group of plants, it has the ability to close its stomata completely to avoid loss of water. Therefore it can withstand long periods of drought. After an injury, like a cut or a break in the leaf, it will close the wound instantly without any "bleeding" and/or damage to the growth of the plant. It forms an invisible "band aid" over the cut preventing leakage or the invasion of bacteria. This unique property is of great importance and interest.

There was a man named Rodney M. Stockton, a chemical engineer, who experienced a speedy recovery from a severe sunburn in Florida during the 1940's. Intrigued by the dramatic healing power, Stockton succeeded in the stabilization of aloe vera gel contained in the long leaves, after a few years of experimentation. Test results showed that even deep thermal burns would change to minor second degree wounds within 48 hours through rapid regeneration of cell tissue. What was absolutely amazing was that in most cases the healing took place with hardly any scars. This stabilized gel caused a multitude of new aloe vera companies in the market place, many of which were connected to the hippie movement. Today, aloe vera has become a common listing on cosmetic, hair, skin care, shaving and even deodorant preparations.

What is it that makes this plant uniquely powerful? Dr. Albert T. Lenn, Ph.D., stated in the Drugs & Cosmetics Journal (June 1977), "...it is commonly believed that the moisturizing emollient and healing properties of aloe gel are due to the polysaccarides present. The major polysaccaride present has been determined to be a glucomannan. Other polysaccarides containing galactose and uronic acids as well as pentoses are also present. It is probable that the gel's beneficial properties are not due to the polysaccarides alone but rather from a synergistic effect of these compounds with other substances present in the gel."

An aloe vera plant or a bottle of its gel should be in every household apothecary. It is the best first aid for scratches, scrapes, cuts, bruises, burns, mosquito and bee stings, poison ivy, poison oak and similar calamities. It will reduce the pain and, most importantly, the natural "antibiotic effect" kills germs on contact. The coagulating properties will help to stop bleeding and seals the wound. Pimples, acne and overly oily skin can be treated with aloe vera because of its astringent effect. It is slightly drying, so be careful if you have dry skin.

I do have an aloe vera plant and have used it for a variety of things on family members, myself and close friends. Successfully in every case, skin blemishes, wrinkles, sunburn, cuts, bruises, scalds, scratches, excema, psoriasis--but also on hemorrhoids, vaginitis, vaginal dryness and rectal bleeding. It's good for the rough dry skin on the upper arms and mens shaving cuts. It is non-allergic and nontoxic.
HOW TO USE THE PLANT:

Break or cut off the lowest (which is also the oldest) leaf at the bottom of the plant or cut a 2-3 inch piece from the lowest leaf when you need it. As mentioned before, the plant will instantly "close" the cut without any damage. Should you have the whole leaf, you will have to keep it in the refrigerator and just cut off what you need, starting at the tip. Wash the leaf under the running water to get the dust off. Make sure your hands are clean. With a very sharp knife slice the piece you want to use, lengthwise. The gel is now exposed. Quickly rub or move it over the wound to be treated. It will form the invisible band aid over the wound.
Wrinkle treatment:

Cut and use a piece approx. 2 inches long every night. Slice it and use all the gel contained inside over your face and neck, let it "dry in" for 4-6 minutes and then massage your ordinary night cream into the skin on top of it. Follow this routine for 2-3 weeks. To increase the effect, do it mornings and evenings. Mind you, it is a bit messy, but it's well worth it. The compliments will reward you because you'll look years younger. Repeat every couple of months.
Psoriasis and excema:

Daily application of the gel is necessary. I saw the quickest results in connection with real or artificial sun exposure. For hygiene take a 10 minute bath in not too hot water with lots of seasalt added to it. Dry with a fresh towel each time and apply the gel.
Hemorrhoids and rectal bleeding:

Do not just use plain toilet paper to clean yourself after a bowel movement --use baby oil or baby cream on the paper. Repeat until the paper stays clean. Put some aloe vera gel on the paper and apply carefully. Or, if very sensitive, use your fingers. Wash hands thoroughly after.
Everyday skin care:

Because of its astringent effect, the natural gel can be used pure on oily skin. On dry and sensitive skin, use sparingly and massage your day or night cream on top of it. Or get one of the many moisturizing creams with a lower percentage of aloe gel listed.
Aloe vera products:

Up to now I have told you about the plant and the use of it. As a folk remedy, it should not replace medical consultation in severe cases. In the skin care business aloe vera gel has replaced a number of animal ingredients. Depending on the percentages used in skin creams and lotions, you would have the added benefit of vitamins, moisturizers and certain rejuvenating extracts from other plants. Cleansers, lotions creams and masks can all have aloe vera as a base or an ingredient. Read the labels. Hair care products with aloe vera are plentiful and the new sun care lines are superior to those sold years ago. Aloe vera has a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and is therefore added even to make-up preparations and day creams that list a built-in SPF. With the advance of skin cancer we have to become much more aware of the products we put on your face, actually the only really exposed skin and products with aloe vera will help to moisturize, protect and prevent us from aging too rapidly.

PHOTOS (BLACK & WHITE): Aloe Vera

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By Giselle Roeder

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