Cleopatra was renowned for her beautiful skin. One of her secrets was to massage aloe gel into her skin to nourish it and to make it shine. But she was not the only one to believe in the restorative powers of aloe.
Her fellow Egyptians was also very fond of the plant and drawings of aloe have been found in Egyptian temples dating to 3000 B.C. Egyptian medical writings from 1500 B.C. recommended it for infections and skin problems and as a laxative, uses that are supported by modern herbologists.
The Bible mentions aloe several times, in passages such as “I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” (Proverbs 7:17). But it is unlikely that biblical aloe was one that we know today. In the ancient world, many bitter, resinous plants were called aloe.
The word ‘aloe’ comes from the Arabic ‘alloeh’ meaning ‘bitter and shiny’ – an apt description of the plant’s wound-healing inner leaf gel.
Michael Castleman, author of The New Healing Herbs reports that Aloe is one of the few non-narcotic plants to cause a war. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 B.C., he heard of a plant with amazing wound-healing powers on an island off Somalia. Intent on healing his soldiers’ wounds – and on denying this healer to his enemies – Alexander sent an army to seize the island and the plant, which turned out to be aloe.
To prepare fresh aloe gel to help soothe superficial (not needing stitches) wounds, including burns, scrapes, sunburn, and to help prevent infection, select a lower (older) leaf and cut off a few centimetres. Then slice it lengthwise and scoop the gel onto the cleaned wound, and let it dry. As for the injured leaf, it quickly closes its own wound.
This fresh aloe gel is also wonderful for enhancing the beauty of your skin. (It is worth noting that the ‘stabilized’ (preserved) gel found in commercial skin care products and shampoos may not provide the fresh herbs skin-enhancing benefits.)
If you don’t mind the bitterness and resulting stomach cramps you can also take the fresh gel internally as a laxative. Cut a 15cm piece of lower leaf. Wash it to remove any dirt, make a few lengthwise cuts, and put it with cut end down in a glass of water. Refrigerate for an hour or so. Remove the aloe leaf and take mouthful doses.
Can’t find an Aloe Vera plant?
Then use our own indigenous Bulbine frutescens. For external use some claim that it even surpasses Aloe Vera.
Please note that if you are pregnant or trying to conceive you should not take aloe internally as its cathartic nature may stimulate uterine contractions and trigger miscarriage. Nor should it be used by nursing mothers. It may cause stomach cramps and violent catharsis in infants. Before embarking on any self medication please consult your doctor.
Extract from the SA Herb Academy