Egyptian queens used it in their beauty routines, seafarers carried it on board ship as a universal healer and warlords swore by it to cure the wounds of their mercenaries. The talk is of a truly magic plant, Aloe Vera. And the good news is: Mallorca is brimming with it. You might not have to go any further than your garden to reap the benefits of the much-revered natural wonder.
A Bit of History #
Aloe Vera is a succulent plant and one of more than 500 different varieties of the aloe family. Although there are several types among them that have beneficial properties of one kind or another, Aloe Vera – literally "the true Aloe" – is the most powerful healer of them all. Endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, it soon spread to other parts of the world. Cleopatra and Nefertiti loved the plant's gel for its cosmetic benefits, and embalmers covered the skin of their dead with extracts of the plant to fight bacteria and fungus. In Ancient Greece, Alexander the Great used Aloe Vera to heal the wounds of his soldiers, and from nearby Ancient Rome there are also records of physicians experimenting with it as a healer. And in Ancient China and India, the use of Aloe Vera was documented, too.
In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors discovered the plant and its healing potential in South America and brought it back to Spain. After further, Spanish Jesuit priests dedicated themselves to cultivating the plant and studying its medicinal properties harvested and were later responsible for bringing it to North America and other parts of the world. Cristopher Columbus famously carried a few specimen on board ship as a universal healer when he sailed towards the New World.
Spain is one of the countries where Aloe Vera can be found growing in the wild because of the favourable climate conditions. In recent years, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands have established themselves as the regions with the biggest production.
Health Benefits #
Throughout the ages, Aloe Vera has been used by people for its medicinal properties. Today, the juice extracted from the gel core of the spear-shaped leaves is used in beauty products as well as health drinks and foods. Here are some of the known benefits.
- Digestive Health: Aloe Vera has been shown to have a beneficial effect on relieving gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). A recent study showed that ingestion of the gel helped reduce heartburn as much as some regular over the counter medications, but without the side effects.
- Blood Sugar Management: Two tablespoons of Aloe Vera juice a day have been shown to lower blood sugar content. This is an exciting development for patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes. More studies are on the way to see if Aloe Vera can be a sustainable treatment for diabetes-related blood sugar issues. Individuals who take diabetes medication should, however, exercise caution with Aloe Vera as to not reduce their blood sugar levels too drastically.
- Beauty: Being endemic to dryer climates, Aloe Vera leaves are adept at storing water. This makes the plant a great moisturizing option. Various antioxidants, enzymes, vitamin C, and vitamin A aid in skin nourishment and protection. And the plant makes a great hair moisturizer. Incorporating the plant’s gel into a hair mask can provide nourishment and shine for your locks.
- Treatment of Skin Problems: As a natural anti-inflammatory agent, Aloe Vera is an excellent tool for dealing with sunburn and mosquito bites, and it is used in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and inflammatory acne.
- Wound Treatment: Aloe vera can be used on small cuts and abrasions, as well as burns. Its antimicrobial and moisturizing properties make an excellent natural alternative to over the counter remedies. Aloe vera’s molecular structure can speed up the healing process and reduce scarring on by boosting collagen in the skin.
How to Identify and Use Aloe Vera #
There are many different types of aloe, with some being appropriate for external use, others for ingesting and some – like Aloe Vera – for both. So, if gathering your Aloe Vera, it’s essential to know what exactly you are looking for, the clearest identifiers being thick grey-green green leaves growing in a circle, and - in the spring and early summer – the flowers which can be either yellow or orange.
When looking for a leaf to harvest from your aloe plant, chose a bigger one, as it’s had a chance to mature. Using a knife, cut the leaf off close to the base of the plant, hold it in a vertical position for a while to let the yellow sap drip out. Be careful, it can stain your clothes, and make sure not to get any of it on your fingers, or lips or into your eyes. It is very bitter and one of the most powerful laxatives known. Next, trim off the thorns from the leaf's edges and, once that’s done, cut it in half lengthwise (as if you were cutting a baguette for a sandwich), exposing the meaty insides. This is the so-called "gel" or "juice". The easiest way to get it out is to scoop or scrape it out with a spoon. For cosmetic treatments or to cure mosquito bites, sunburn, and cuts, you can also place the cut-open leaf with the gel-side down directly onto the skin.
For internal use, it is best to use clarified Aloe Juice which is guaranteed to be free of the yellow sap described above, so a trip to a local Aloe Vera vendor is your best bet for uses like heartburn and sensitive gums.
A Word of Warning: Some people are allergic to Aloe Vera. So, especially if you have a sensitive skin, apply a small quantity to the inner elbow as a test. If your skin shows no reaction here, you are fine to use it on the rest of your body. As for internal use, some people might react to the juice with diarrhoea. If that is the case, dose down! Start with one teaspoon a day, and then gradually increasing the intake. If problems continue, Aloe Vera is not for you. Don't go on taking it.
Simple Face and Hair Mask Recipe #
The scooped-out gel can be incorporated into face and hair masks. Try an aloe and honey mask for a smoothing and toning face mask. Or mix two teaspoons of Aloe Vera gel, one teaspoon of honey, and three teaspoons of coconut oil for a moisture packed hair mask.
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Por Polina Frantsena
7 noviembre, 2020