The origins of the aloe vera plant
Aloe Vera originated in Northern Africa, but is found today in many countries around the Mediterranean, in Asia and South America, because explorers and sailors took the plant with them to their destinations. Through several millennia, thanks to its healing properties, which were already known in ancient Egypt, the plant has built up a reputation as one of the best known plants in the world. The ancient Egyptians discovered the healing and curative properties of aloe vera, and since then the rest of the world has benefited from them too.
There are more than 300 Aloe vera varieties in the Aloe family, but only a few of them have healing capacities. Aloe Barbadensis is one of them. The plant is also known under names such as ‘the burns plant’ or ‘Lily of the Desert’, which refer to its ability to withstand extreme heat in arid areas, where no rain falls for many months.
What does an aloe vera plant look like?
At first glance an aloe vera can look like a cactus. It has numerous long runners, and the green leaves that form a rosette around the stock can grow up to 50 centimetres long. The leaves are thick and linear with a long tip, grey-green with a bluish tinge on both sides. The plant stores water inside the leaves in a gel with a water content of 96 %.
The leaves have a smooth surface and small teeth along the margins. This is what reminds many people of a cactus, but the aloe vera plant is in fact a succulent, and when it blooms, it has tubular flowers with reddish yellow petals. The plant flowers after several years of growth, normally in the summer.
The cosmetic industry’s best friend
Today, the aloe vera plant is one of the cosmetic industry's best friends. The leaves are an absolute treasure chest of active and nourishing plant substances. Aloe vera leaves contain amino acids, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and proteins. In fact the plant consists of more than 200 active enzymes, 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, 18 amino acids and 75 nutrients. Altogether, this combination is good for your skin and boosts health generally.
Skin and body care
Aloe vera gives the skin an extra shot of moisture and helps to maintain a natural level of hydration. Keeping the skin hydrated also improves its elasticity. That is why aloe vera is an effective ingredient in anti-aging skin care. Dry skin is particularly vulnerable to fine lines and wrinkles, and for that reason it is important to apply plenty of moisture if you want to keep wrinkles away.
Besides, well moisturised skin is the best base for even, attractive makeup. Aloe vera is therefore extremely effective in stopping signs of aging in skin, because it moisturises deep down, and also has a high antioxidant content, which renews the skin cells.
Care for sun-damaged skin
Most of us love the sun when it finally emerges from the dark clouds of winter. But the sun is not just a source of vitamin D. It can also cause sunburn. Like many other Scandinavians with fair skin, you have probably felt how the sun can leave the skin red, sore and itching.
Sunburn is damage to the skin, and a signal that it needs lots of care. After too much sunbathing, it is important to restore the skin’s resistance, because the sun’s UV radiation breaks down the structure of the skin and leaves it more vulnerable. It can cause skin irritation in the form of redness, sun rash and premature aging. Aloe vera has unique properties that soothe, cool and restore the skin, and reduce the damage.
Why you should have an aloe vera plant
There are many good reasons for having an aloe vera plant in your home. It is a beautiful plant in its own right, with its long, majestic leaves, so it will look good and liven up your home design. But it is not just decorative. It will also be beneficial to your health in several ways.
Good for problems with sleep
Sleep is important for our health and general wellbeing. Too little sleep means the body lacks energy, and without energy your reserves and quality of life will decrease. If, like many Danes, you have trouble falling asleep, it may have serious consequences. It can lead to stress, depression, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure – all of which are threats to good physical and mental health.
An aloe vera plant could be an help effectively to solve your sleep problems. Studies have shown that the plant effectively cleanses the air of harmful chemicals that endanger your health. At the same time, it also gives off oxygen to the room where it grows. By getting extra fresh oxygen to your brain at night, you will find it easier to feel calm and physically comfortable, which is the best way to encourage a good night’s sleep. So it might be a good idea to have an aloe vera plant in your bedroom, where it can be both decorative and sleep-inducing.
Healing properties for injuries and irritated skin
Spots, burns and skin abrasions. Skin can show damage in many ways, but aloe vera is a unique remedy for soothing and healing skin damage. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can make your own healing gel. Then you do not need to buy creams and gel from the pharmacy or Matas. But how does aloe vera help your skin?
Aloe Vera contains aloe-emodin, which is an organic substance that is effective against bacteria. It gives aloe vera its antiseptic and antibacterial properties – and it helps to cleanse wounds and inflamed conditions like spots, so the skin heals faster. At the same time, the gel from the aloe vera leaves stimulates collagen production in your body. Collagen forms the fibres in connective tissue, which means that the formation of new blood vessels and connective tissue will help to heal the injury.
So if you have a small injury, you can mix your own healing gel from your house plant. In that way you can get 100 % of the plant’s beneficial effects – completely avoiding chemicals and preservatives in a gel you could buy.
Recipe for home-made Aloe Vera gel
Here is what you need: 3 stems of aloe vera, 1 tablespoon wheat-germ oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
- Water your aloe vera plant every day for a week, so that it absorbs lots of water before you make the gel. Give it only small quantities of water at a time, however, to avoid over-watering it.
- Cut off three stems from the plant, and remove the ‘teeth’ on the sides of the leaves.
- Place the leaves in a bowl of cold water for 24 hours, but change the water regularly, preferably about every four hours. While the leaves are in the water, they give off a substance called aloin, which can be poisonous. That is why this step is very important.
- Open each stem with a knife, and remove the gel with a spoon.
- Place the gel in a bowl and add wheat-germ oil and lemon juice. Mix all the ingredients well.
- Finally, place the home-made gel in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator, so that it will keep for longer.
You can apply a small amount of your home-made gel to a cut, burn or a scratch. The gel will feel cooling and soothing on the skin, so it will have the best chances of healing. Apply the gel, preferably every day, to help the skin to heal faster.
You can also buy ready-made gel from Australian Bodycare
How to look after an aloe vera plant
If you get an aloe vera plant, so that you always have first aid handy when you have a graze, burn yourself while cooking or cut yourself, it is good to know how to care for the plant.
First of all, it is not a fussy plant, so it does not require a lot of attention. All it needs is gravelly soil that will not become too wet or heavy. If there is too much fertiliser in the soil, the roots will grow too thin. This means that your aloe vera is a plant that can survive on very little water, thanks to its origins in hot, dry climates. If you are one of those people who often forget to water their plants, then an aloe vera is just the thing for you. It is not a problem if the plant dries out, and in fact it is good for it once in a while.
When you choose a place for the plant in your home, it is no good putting it in a dark passage without natural light. The plant comes from a sunny part of the world, which means, of course, that it must have light – although not direct sunlight.
Where can you buy an aloe vera plant?
You can buy an aloe vera plant from most garden centres, nurseries and builders’ markets if you want a plant that will be highly beneficial to your health close at hand.
When you buy an aloe vera plant, you need not worry about whether you can look after it, because it is incredibly easy to care for, since it does not require much attention, watering or looking after. That way you will have natural help within reach if your knife slips, or a knee is scraped on the asphalt, or if the sun has been hard on your skin.