Aloe's Skin Benefits
Perennial Succulent Highlight
We're here to remind you about the power of Aloe vera. Not only because it is the best plant to soothe sunburns, inflamed skin etc. but also because it does wonders taken internally. Here are a few notes on the mechanisms of action and some administration tips.
Aloe is absorbed by the skin much more effectively than water. In fact, it is absorbed deep into the skin's layers. This is due to the presence of lignin, a plant phenolic polymer similar to cellulose. And THIS excipient* property is what allows aloe to act as an excellent carrier for the other components (enzymes, phenols...) of aloe vera that bring about the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, collagen-boosting... effects.
*excipient = skin penetration enhancement
Aloe, like many succulents is an internal hydration superhero. In reading about how desert-dwelling communities stay hydrated, it has come to my attention that they don't walk around with plastic bottles, but rather stay hydrated by way of eating mucilaginous plant material: aloe, prickly pear pads & fruit and other cacti gel. Plants also contain minerals and electrolytes which are key to maintaining cellular hydration.
Just like it has been studied transdermally, aloe vera has absorption enhancing effects.
While aloe is readily available as a shelf-stable product I discourage folks from purchasing it this way because of the inevitable preservatives that must be added. The 'cleanest' shelf-stable aloe gel on the market has added potassium sorbate, ascorbic acid, citric acid and xantham gum. Check out our blog post on creams to learn why we stay clear of citric acid! I think we're better off foraging for this succulent or caring for it as a potted plant companion.
IDENTIFYING LANDSCAPE ALOES
As you may know from our Tree I.D. postcard sets, we love to train our inner naturalist's eye. There are many different types of aloe, and if you find something that looks like aloe in a landscape you'll want to make sure it is indeed true aloe— Aloe barbadensis. For instance, Fox Aloe (Aloe Ferox), is very bitter and has 20% more unwanted sticky sap than Aloe barbadensis.
Aloe Ferox can be identified by the spikes located on the inside of the stems (whereas Aloe barbadensis is smooth). So get your hands on a good plant I.D. book.
Harvesting the Aloe
To harvest the aloe, remove the aloe leaf by pulling all the way from the base so that no gel ooses out when you tear the leaf off: it's all contained and has what I like to call its very own 'compostable wrapper'.
When you harvest it like this the aloe leaf will last a week at room temperature and up to a month in the fridge and then it simply starts to get soft and soggy. If you cut off a piece of aloe from the plant with a knife however it will only last about a week in the fridge and then the gel will go bad.
I like to store a piece of aloe in the freezer so I have ice-cold gel when I need it the most: in the event of a burn.
Other Tips & Tricks
Dehydrated aloe does retain its gelling properties, and if you must buy it from the store then select a refrigerated version that uses lemon juice as a preservative. It will last a week refrigerated.
If you're looking for plants to help curb appetite in the summer months for your silhouette – aloe's mucilaginous properties can help you feel satiated. The easiest way to consume it is inside a smoothie, which also gets thickened with aloe. Check out our favorite recipe below! Find more perennial based recipes in our Free Recipe E-book.
Aloe, a true superhero for beauty from the inside/out!
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ReferencesHamman, J. H. (2008). Composition and applications of Aloe vera leaf gel. Molecules, 13(8), 1599-1616.
Zhang, Y., Bao, Z., Ye, X., Xie, Z., He, K., Mergens, B., ... & Zheng, Q. (2018). Chemical investigation of major constituents in Aloe vera leaves and several commercial Aloe juice powders. Journal of AOAC International, 101(6), 1741-1751.
Kumar, R., Singh, A. K., Gupta, A., Bishayee, A., & Pandey, A. K. (2019). Therapeutic potential of Aloe vera—A miracle gift of nature. Phytomedicine, 60, 152996.