Homegrown First Aid – Aloe Vera

Aloe | PJ Aun

No matter how careful you are, accidents and incidents and other events requiring some level of medical attention happen. There are aisles and aisles in the drug store hawking products to treat, cure, soothe, and anesthetize everyday injuries and illnesses such as cuts, insect bites, sunburn, sore throat, and acne. Some of these products are quite pricey, and nearly all of them contain questionable chemicals and/or artificial colorants. These products didn’t always exist, and people dealt with their problems without them.

Aloe vera, perhaps the most likely of the succulents to be an impulse purchase, has a multitude of uses, the most common of which being for treatment of sunburn. In more temperate climates, aloe won’t do well outdoors. However, as a houseplant, it can help purify the air in your home and thrive.

If you spend any amount of time outdoors – even on a cloudy day – the sun can burn your skin. Nothing compares to trying to fall asleep with a sunburnt back; even the smallest of movements feels like your skin got caught in an old washing machine. We can’t all be the sort of people who wear sunscreen every day, everywhere it needs to be slathered on (and frankly, life is too short to spend three minutes a day putting on sunscreen – that’s over 18 hours a year!), so we’re bound to get burned from time to time. When that happens, the store-bought option is a fluorescent green-hued goo reminiscent of lime Jell-O that needs just a little more time to set. It’s often labeled as “after sun gel” or “aloe vera gel.” These products do contain some juice from the aloe vera plant, but they contain several other ingredients, too, to make them glide smoothly onto the skin, to be stable on store shelves, and to give them that wacky color.

Keep an aloe vera plant around the house to deal with the occasional sunburn, instead of spending your money on a plastic bottle full of chemicals dyed green. Aloe makes a great houseplant and provides benefits for indoor air.

To use an aloe leaf to make a sunburn a little less painful, just cut it off from the plant with a clean knife. You’ll see the clear, viscous juice (yes, the inside of an aloe vera plant is clear, not green). Just rub some of that juice on your skin, and voila, instant relief. The part where the leaf was removed from the plant will start to dry and harden after a little while; you can continue to reuse the same leaf when you need it again later on, just cut off the dried part to get to the juice. Many caution against using aloe too frequently, as too much can lead to skin irritation. However, for the occasional sunburn, having a plant around can make it much more bearable.

Research has been examining other uses for the plant, including its antimicrobial properties, benefits for digestion, and positive effects on overall health. While I wouldn’t extol the virtues of aloe vera as a miracle superplant, it’s easy to grow and it does a great job in soothing the pain of sunburn.

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