This Houseplant Has Healing Powers – and It’s Worth Every Cent

That aloe vera plant you have? Who needs a pharmacy when you can have a plant with healing properties at home. Here’s what you should know.

Aloe Vera, plantphoto credit: shutterstock

It’s official: Aloe vera is a miracle plant

Aloe vera (also called aloe barbadensis) is a popular houseplant grown on windowsills around the world, but did you know that it has healing powers?

Cut through the thick, serrated leaf of the aloe and it will immediately ooze clear gel. This gel is used as a treatment for sunburn, minor burns, cuts and skin irritations. Aloe speeds up healing of first and second-degree burns and also shows promise for easing the red, scaly skin patches of mild to moderate psoriasis. (Here are a few more surprising health benefits of aloe.)

The best way to use aloe vera

Keep an aloe plant on a sunny windowsill, cut off a piece of a leaf and squeeze the gel on to minor skin irritations. Or buy an aloe vera skin cream, lotion or ointment – ideally one bearing the International Aloe Science Council’s certification seal. (For those of you who suffer from acne, aloe is the perfect remedy.)

How does aloe vera work?

The secret is the gel inside aloe’s spiky leaves. Spread on the skin, it hydrates and protects while the body repairs damage – and speeds healing, possibly by improving circulation and encouraging new skin cells to move up into areas that need repairs. In one study from the then Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine, wounds treated with aloe vera decreased in size by 50 per cent over seven days, compared to 25 per cent when using a cream without aloe vera.

Safety tips you should know when using aloe vera

Studies conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program found evidence it may be carcinogenic; it can also cause stomach cramping and diarrhoea, interfere with absorption of medications and even cause liver inflammation. Although aloe is said not be taken internally, its gel has recently started to be incorporated into recipes like this chocolate chia seed pudding.

Keep in mind that aloe will not prevent skin burns from radiation therapy and should not be used on surgical wounds, because it may get in the way of healing.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest