Of all the plants in my garden, aloe vera is one of the most versatile and helpful. I love and respect those spiky, juicy leaves that are a treasure trove of medicine.

Aloe vera is a hardy succulent plant that humans have used for thousands of years. It is a member of the lily family, just like garlic and onions. It contains over 20 minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It has 18 amino acids, including all of the 9 essential ones. It also contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12, as well as folic acid.

Because of its open internal structure, the aloe has adapted to be self-repairing. When an aloe leaf is torn or punctured, it forms a seal almost immediately, protecting the rest of the plant from bacterial contamination as it regenerates. This repairing power passes on to us when we use or consume the inner flesh of aloe leaves. Aloe is also anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal.

~ Digestion Support

Aloe is famous for its ability to help our digestion. The leaves are made of mostly polysaccharides complex plant sugars that are bursting with amino acids and adaptogenic compounds. Aloe helps heal the stomach lining and promotes the development of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Aloe can help heal or prevent ulcers, IBS, Crohns, acid reflux, and celiac diseases.

Aloe increases absorption of any supplements that are taken with it, especially vitamins C and E. It also boosts the anti-oxidant activity of accompanying food and supplements.

My favorite way to eat aloe vera is to scrape the inside of a freshly harvested leaf and add it to my morning smoothie. It adds a smooth texture while ensuring I get the most nutrients from the fruit, vegetables, and supplements.

~ Blood Sugar Stabilization

Aloe vera has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar levels, especially in people with diabetes. Aloe also increases blood flow diabetics who took aloe for a while also reported better circulation and less numbness in their hands and feet.

~ Wound Care and Skin Health

As mentioned above, aloe is self-repairing. Placing a little of the fresh leaf on a wound will help it heal faster with reduced scaring and less chance of infection. Aloe helps hydrate the skin, so it makes a great moisturizer for most skin types. And of course, it is well known as an effective treatment for sunburn.

Sometimes I like to mix the liquidy part of the inner leaf with a little jojoba oil for a simple and effective face moisturizer that helps with general skin repair and the hydrating effect reduces the appearance of wrinkles. It also makes a great hair conditioner.

~ Immunity and Cancer

Aloe is incredibly supportive for the immune system. It is anti-inflammatory, and can slow or halt the development of diseases that feed on inflammation. It also fights tumors, and contains nitric oxide an effective anti-cancer compound.

A word of caution: Most aloe vera on the market has been diluted with fillers to make it cheaper. Some brands use toxic preservatives. The safest and surest way is to harvest leaves from your own plants, or get fresh leaves from a health food store. If you must purchase processed aloe, only use high-quality, organic, food-grade, 100% aloe vera.

As with any plant-based medicine, aloe vera works best when consumed daily for several weeks. Try having the insides of one leaf (or the recommended serving if you get processed aloe) every day for a month, and observe how you digestion or condition shifts.

Aloe vera is an ancient succulent with many helpful benefits. It can be eaten or applied topically to support the health of the digestion, blood, skin, and immune system. It amplifies the benefits of nearly any food with which it is combined, and helps us absorb nutrients more effectively. And aloe can be as accessible as your own back yard or potted garden.