CHENNAI: In the past decade, aloe vera has become the go-to word when it comes to health, skin and therapeutic purposes. The awareness about its consumption is on the rise. The succulent finds a spot in most of our home gardens due to its availability and ability to thrive in south Indian climatic conditions. This green, short-stemmed plant is said to have been used by people, predominantly in Asia, for more than 1,000 years. The kings and queens used it as a beauty product and soldiers during wars to heal wounds and injuries.
Gels, scrubs, creams, face wash, masks, and body mist — name it and you will find aloe vera in all of them. “The sticky white gel from the leaves has anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s known for moisturising and anti-ageing effect because of the increase in collagen production in the skin. This further helps with psoriasis, itching, burns, and healing injuries,” said Dr Shwetha Rahul, consultant dermatologist at Kauvery hospital.But, there are a quite a few myths associated with the plant. Aloe vera can aggravate allergy if used without a doctor’s prescription. People mistake it as a sunscreen for its anti-tan properties, but it does not do the job of a sunscreen. It might not be able to protect you from the heat. However, the gel leaves a cooling effect.
The extracted gel is prescribed for kids with dry skin and rashes. “It’s an important ingredient to prevent dryness from spreading all over the body. Kids are prone to dryness because of environmental factors and genetic predisposition resulting in white spotting on the skin. This gel can help get rid of them,” said Dr N Suresh, paediatrics and paediatrics allergy, Rainbow hospital.
Juice it up
The liquid extracted from the leaves consists 75 compounds rich in essential vitamins and enzymes. Some of the minerals include zinc, manganese, lignin, and polyphenol. “The plant is identified by the Food and Drug Administration for its health remedies. It has laxatives that help improve bowel movements, gastric disorders, and constipation. The juice plays a big role to reduce irritable bowel syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Most of us experience a burning sensation due to acidity, skipping meals and ulcer. It’s good to consume 30 ml of freshly extracted juice with 15 ml water early morning in an empty stomach for best results,” said Yamini Prakash, a dietician at Kauvery Hospital. Considering laxatives frequent stools, pregnant and feeding mothers should not be given the juice.
The extracted juice is a low calorie drink consumed to keep your body hydrated during summer. “The high content of vitamin C helps boost immunity in the body. It contains natural anti-oxidants. The anti-inflammatory properties fight against swelling in gums. It can be used as a mouth wash to increase oral hygiene. It also brings the sugar level down in diabetic patients. It’s important to note that aloin concentration on the outer layers of the leaf is harmful. Only the inner portion that is fleshy and moist should be consumed,” she added.
How to choose a plant and extract the gel
Aloe vera plants are easily available and do not require maintenance.
They can thrive in any condition with minimal water and sunlight.
Only the gel portion is edible.
A mature healthy plant is recognisable by its large green leaves of about eight inches.
One must be careful with the amount of water used on the plant daily.
Aloe grows from centre outward, making the outermost leaves the oldest, largest, and richest to use.
The first step is to cut off the leaves.
Rinse them in water.
A yellow substance will ooze. Keep the leaves vertical for it to drop down.
Cut the top third of the leaves.
Remove the spine. Slice the skin.
You will notice the fleshy, gel layer.
Remove and store it in a jar.
The extracted gel can be kept at home for immediate burns in the kitchen.
It can also be used to get rid of prickly heat by rubbing against the area before taking a bath.
The same gel can be used for acne, scars, heat burns, and insect bites.