field guide: aloe, the skin soother

Maker + Merchant Field Guide to Aloe vera

the plants are wise. when you learn how to listen and pay attention, they have a lot to share. that’s why we created the maker + merchant field guide. a handy, updated monthly, guide to messages from our favorite plants. because we’re in the heat of summer, we touched base with Aloe first to discover its secrets to soothing, skin relief.  

introduction to aloe

Aloe vera, also known as Aloe barbadensis, is a cooling and moistening plant that has been documented and used in herbalism for thousands of years.  

The plants could be found growing freely along the Nile River and were used by the likes of iconic Egyptian Queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti as a part of their beauty routines. This soothing plant, now beloved in skincare, was first documented in medical texts in 1655, although it can be found referenced in the Papyrus Ebers, an Egyptian document written around 1550 B.C and on Sumerian clay tablets from 2200 B.C.E., so this plant’s wisdom is nothing new. In the 1930s Aloe began to treat skin conditions successfully and widely. 

traditional uses of aloe

Aloe is traditionally loved for its supportive nature. In fact, this plant contains over 75 nutritive and medicinally active compounds, including vitamins, seven out of the eight amino acids needed by the human body, essential enzymes, sought after minerals, and salicylic acid.

Aloe is celebrated in the traditional healing system of Ayurveda, where it is considered to be a Rasayana (simply put: substances that rebuild the body and mind). This succulent is considered a tonic for the liver and spleen, for the blood and for the female reproductive system, and it even tonifies all the agnis (digestive enzymes of the body) while simultaneously cooling hot, agitated conditions like sunburn.

preparation

Aloe can be prepared to support both external and internal healing. 

internal uses of aloe vera

To prepare Aloe to ingest, cut a fresh leaf of Aloe lengthwise and scrape out the inner gelatinous filet. Scrape deeper into the rind for a more laxative effect, otherwise only scrape the clear gooey inner filet. Take 1 tbsp. up to 3x daily or 1-4 oz of Aloe juice daily until desired effects are reached.

external uses of aloe vera 

To prepare Aloe for external use, cut into the Aloe leaf and press out the slippery gel, apply to the affected area three or more times daily until the desired effect is reached.  

medicinal uses of aloe

As a topical application, Aloe gel treats all kinds of first and second-degree burns. This can include burns caused by kitchen or industrial accidents, sunburn, radiation, and chemical burns (this is an incredibly versatile plant!). In these situations, skin damage is best avoided if aloe is applied right away, however, as soon as possible is wonderful. 

Aloe’s effect is cleansing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and immune enhancing. Aloe gel both moistens the skin and speeds healing by promoting the rapid formation of granulation tissue. Additionally, reach for Aloe to soothe scrapes, shallow wounds, age-related wrinkling and dryness, bacterial and fungal infections, dermatitis, psoriasis, genital herpes, skin ulcers, acne, frostbite, Poison Oak, and Poison Ivy.

For internal use, Aloe soothes the oral and gastrointestinal mucosa. Aloe has been known to speed the healing of ulcerations, reduce inflammation, and assist with ulcerative colitis and acid reflux.

Lastly, the internal use of aloe gel is immune enhancing. It acts on the mast cells of the body’s connective tissues and mucous membranes as well as having antiproliferative, immune-stimulating, and antioxidant activities. It has also been employed in anti-cancer regimens and Aloe gel can help heal skin inflammation resulting from radiation.

contraindications and considerations of aloe

Generally, Aloe is considered a safe and gentle plant, although do not reach for Aloe during pregnancy due to its potential laxative effects. Outside of the green outer leaf portion, Aloe is a mild remedy. 

how to source aloe

Sourcing herbs should be done consciously and with awareness. Look for Aloe that is grown and harvested in the U.S., and keep an eye out for concentrated Aloe extract when extra cellular hydration is needed. 

an aloe recipe 

lemon turmeric aloe hydration tonic

This is our take on an Ayurvedic spin on electrolyte drinks, done the all-natural way. Aloe hydrates from the inside out, high quality salt replenishes minerals lost to sweat and sun, and turmeric soothes inflammation. 

Lemon Turmeric Hydration Tonic:

4 cups spring water

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp local, raw honey

1/2 tsp ground turmeric (freshly grated works well here too!)

1/2 tsp mineral salt 

1 aloe filet, chopped (scooped from 6 in aloe leaf)

Measure all ingredients into a large mason jar. With the lid on shake well to combine. Put in the fridge to chill and serve when ready! Bonus point for a fancy glass.  

shop the story

Aloe is featured in the Maker + Merchant Siren Song Mask. Lending a cooling and soothing hand in this blend, an Aloe mask is supportive for dry skin looking for a little refreshment.  

Disclaimer

This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. These materials are purely for historical purposes. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before working with any plant.

Sources: 

Cech, R., & Cech, S. (2014). Making Plant Medicine (3rd ed.). Horizon Herbs LLC.

Easley, T. E., & Horne, S. (2016). The Modern Herbal Dispensary: A Medicine Making Guide. North Atlantic Books.

Frawley, D., & Lad, V. (1986). The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Lotus Press.

Mehta, I. (2017). “History OF Aloe Vera” – (A Magical Plant). IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, Volume 22(Issue 8). https://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol.%2022%20Issue8/Version-16/D2208162124.pdf

Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books.

Tilgner Nd, S. M., & Fratz, T. S. (2020). Herbal Medicine From The Heart Of The Earth (3rd ed.). Wise Acres LLC.