Affectionately dubbed the "plant of immortality" by the Egyptians more than 6,000 years ago, the aloe vera plant remains every bit as relevant today as it was in ancient times. The spiky, green gem has a rich history of use in various cultures who employed the plant's moist middle for a wide variety of medicinal and cosmetic uses. Cleopatra applied the gel to her body as part of her beauty regimen, and Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus used it to treat soldiers' wounds.
Their enthusiasm isn't hard to understand. Aloe vera is widely regarded as a medicinal superstar, producing at least six natural antiseptics with the power to kill mold, bacteria, fungi and viruses. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, protects against sun damage, heals wounds and even works as a powerful laxative.
To use it, cut off the spiky top and sides as well as the white part of the leaf at the bottom. Then split the leaves lengthwise down the middle to release the gel inside. Wash the gel to get rid of dirt and the yellow latex you may see clinging to it. You can also buy aloe vera gel commercially — just make sure the one you purchase is pure and not mixed with other ingredients.
For some purposes, you may have to drink the juice instead. If you decide to take it orally, seek out commercial, certified organic juice. Remember, you only need a few sips of pure aloe vera juice to get the medical benefits. Too much can give you diarrhea. And as for both topical and oral applications, it's always recommended to consult your doctor beforehand.
From all-around health elixirs to simple beauty aids, here are 40 ways to put your little plant to maximal use.
40 Ways to Use Aloe Vera
1. Pamper yourself with a soothing body rub. Slice aloe leaves lengthwise and use the inner sides as a biodegradable body scrub in the shower.
2. Treat burns from minor mishaps in the kitchen like from grease splatters or hot utensils. Apply pure aloe vera gel to the affected area.
3. For more major kitchen mishaps like a scald, mix some aloe gel and vitamin E oil into a little jar for a homemade burn healer.
4. Banish black and blue bruises by slapping on the good goo.
5. Got too much sun at the beach? Soothe and heal sunburns with aloe vera gel. It contains cooling properties similar to menthol.
6. Take the sting or itch out of insect bites; aloe also helps them heal faster, thanks to its natural antiseptic properties. Leave the gel in the fridge for 10 minutes so it gets cold before applying.
8. Alleviate the stinging and itching of mysterious rashes, like lichen planus with aloe.
9. Make feet baby soft with an exfoliating foot mask. Mix together 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1/2 cup of cornmeal, 4 tbsp. of aloe vera gel and 1/2 cup of unscented body lotion.
11. Fight athlete's foot, using a mixture of aloe vera and 10 or so drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil.
12. Swab over blisters for quick relief.
13. Use as an antidote to allergic skin reactions. Occasionally, people are sensitive to aloe vera, so test it on a small patch of skin before applying to a larger area.
14. Replace creams and lotions with aloe vera gel as a general moisturizer for dry skin. (Or look for a lotion that contains some aloe.) Aloe is fast-absorbing and a proven skin-hydrator!
15. Prevent pesky pimples and treat acne. Apply twice a day for four weeks to see results.
16. Soothe psoriasis by using aloe vera up to three times daily.
17. Try applying it on stretch marks. There's not a lot of clinical evidence that it heals stretch marks but aloe vera is well-known for skin softening and healing so it can't hurt!
18. Use to get rid of rosacea, a common skin condition that causes redness.
19. Shrink warts. Soak a cotton ball in aloe vera gel and apply to the wart. Do this daily for two weeks or until you see results.
20. Reverse signs of aging skin and wrinkles by rubbing some aloe vera gel on your face or body. It worked for Cleopatra so it might work for you!
21. Help eliminate eczema. Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe this skin condition.
22. Brighten skin. Aloe can decrease pigmentation and dark spots.
23. Get rid of dull flaky skin with an exfoliating organic sugar scrub. Mix together 2 tbsp. of aloe vera gel, 2 tbsp. of organic brown sugar and 1 tsp. of organic lemon juice.
24. For rougher patches make an organic salt skin scrub, using 2 cups of sea salt, 1 cup of aloe vera gel, 1 cup of organic coconut oil and 2 tbsp. of local, organic honey.
25. To lessen hair breakage, massage aloe into your scalp and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then rinse. Aloe vera stimulates blood circulation; however, there isn't scientific proof it improves hair growth, though some people swear it does.
26. Reduce hair dandruff with a homemade aloe vera shampoo. Combine aloe vera juice with coconut milk and wheat germ oil. Massage into the scalp and rinse.
27. Replace your hair conditioner with aloe for silkier, smoother hair, or use a hair conditioner containing aloe.
28. Remove eye makeup with aloe vera gel. Take care not to get it in your eyes.
29. Soothe minor vaginal irritations with aloe vera gel. Apply it around your vaginal area.
30. Drink 2 tablespoons of aloe vera juice to relieve gastrointestinal disorders like indigestion and heartburn.
31. Sip 2 tablespoons of aloe vera juice to aid in elimination, as it's well-known for its laxative effects.
33. Although this has not been scientifically proven, many people swear a drink of aloe vera juice relieves arthritis and rheumatism pain.
34. Boil aloe vera leaves in a pan of water and breathe in the vapor to help prevent asthma attacks. Aloe vera is not a substitute for an inhaler but it can reduce inflammation of the bronchials and therefore reduce asthma attacks.
36. Strengthen gums and promote strong, healthy teeth by taking orally, or use toothpaste with aloe vera ingredients. An aloe vera mouthwash can reduce gingivitis as well.
37. Apply aloe vera gel to your anal area to help ease hemorrhoids. Its anti-inflammatory properties may help here as well.
38. Take orally to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides for a healthy heart. At least one study has shown that taking an aloe vera supplement reduced cholesterol levels.
39. Apply aloe vera gel to minimize inflammation and infection of the eye area and the inner ear. Just don't put aloe vera gel in your eyes as it may burn and sting.
40. Toast to its general detoxifier and health boosting qualities!
Originally Published: Jan 3, 2012