In 4 days, Summer will be officially in full swing here in Florida, but of course, I couldn’t wait. Beach lover that I am, I lost track of time & ended up at the end of one recent beach outing with a NASTY sunburn! Ouch! To the rescue: a fat, juicy Aloe plant. Not necessarily in the category of “weeds”, some of my neighbors and friends find it a bother because they don’t know how to use it, and it can grow to be pretty large with somewhat pointy, sharp edges. Used as an herb in Chinese Medicine, it is known as Lu Hui (dried aloe vera juice), but the leaves of the aloe plant can also be used topically, as I quickly remembered on this sun-burnt day. Way back in the day, it was nicknamed the “immortality plant” as it was buried as a gift with Pharaohs. Legend also has it (according to Heinerman, 1996) that it was 1 of the herbs/spices used to preserve the body of Jesus Christ, and that when Columbus set sail for America, he wrote in his diary “All is well; aloe is on board” (Go Chris! =D)
◦ Heal external wounds & infections due to its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties. I remember when I was growing up, Granny would slice open an aloe leaf, carefully scoop out the gel-like pulp & have us rub it all over our face, arms and legs (“Girl-child!” she‘d say; “you need to stay out that sun; come here – this is good for your skin”), or she’d put handfuls of it in our hair after shampooing as a natural conditioner. Now I will caution you, some people can be sensitive to the aloe latex, so be careful to avoid contact with skin if you are allergic. It is a very good topical for burns, insect bites and stings, and it’s also claimed to stimulate collagen synthesis & rejuvenate skin (check out the section of your sun-tan aisle next time you’re at the store).
◦ Juice of the inner leaf: stimulates insulin production so be careful if you’re on any anti-diabetic meds), and reduces high triglyceride levels. I have seen the liquid form of aloe in the health food store, and I used to take a shot glass of it every morning, but as much as possible, I prefer to go natural so in our household, we again scoop out the gel inside & mix it in our juices or toss in with our blended greens for a great blood cleanser (not too much – it’s a little bitter so you might want to start off with small amounts and avoid the yellow sap – for other reasons as well: see below ;-) A great link for delicious recipes that incorporate aloe can be found right there on social media: just google “aloe vera juice recipes” next time you’re on Facebook and you’ll find a bunch of yummy-licous treats using the gel of the aloe plant.
This isn’t really recommended in pregnancy or lactating women, and you should probably avoid use during menstruation as it is very irritating to the intestines and will act as a strong “downward-draining herb (harsh purgative aka “laxative”). We also have to be careful with heart medicines (like Digoxin) or medicines that predispose you to losing potassium (like the diuretic Lasix). If you have kidney problems & you’re using fresh aloe, you might want to also avoid the yellow pulp-like substance just under the leaves (aloe latex) as it has been reported to contribute to renal problems in high doses. (Vogler & Ernst: British Journal of General Practice; October 1999; 49(447): 823-828. Aloe Vera: A Systematic Review of Its Clinical Effectiveness). Now for my TCM students:
Lu Hui (dried aloe vera juice)
◦ Channel/meridians: Large Intestine, Liver, Stomach
◦ Taste: bitter, cold (kinda has a stinky smell too)
◦ Functions: Drain Fire, guide out accumulations to treat constipation; dizziness, irritability & red eyes; kills parasites & roundworms
◦ Contraindications/Caution: Pregnancy! Deficient Cold of Stomach/Spleen (your TCM doctor will diagnose).
Having your way with Aloe Vera:
Use topically for relief of minor burns, dry or itchy skin, or to refresh & tonify your face. For a refreshing drink, be creative: add gel or juice to your favorite combination of fruits and blend with coconut water for a healthy and tasty treat. My favorite link for aloe recipes is www.aloeverajuicerecipes.com – they have a smorgasbord of creative & yummilicous recipes so you can have aloe ‘your way’. Until next time, happy weeding, happy healing!
Audrey Steele, L.Ac, DOM
* Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.
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