By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Aloe vera is an evergreen succulent that has been a popular houseplant for decades.
In addition to its attractive, serrated leaves, the plant also provides practical uses. Aloe vera has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
“It has a lot of benefits,” said physician Az Tahir, who practices holistic medicine at High Point Wellness in Syracuse. “A lot of people use it for burns or skin issues. It’s a very good healer for the skin. It’s very, very safe.”
Simply cutting off a leaf, slitting it lengthwise and directly applying the juice of the plant to skin offers instant relief for minor burns and cuts. Commercially cold aloe vera gel is another way to benefit from its healing properties.
In addition, some people ingest aloe vera juice as a beverage.
“It’s especially helpful for internal healing, such as for constipation,” Tahir said.
He said that people receiving chemotherapy find that consuming aloe vera juice promotes stomach health. The therapy usually causes stomach upset as it attacks healthy cells in the stomach lining.
Jessica Falcone, certified esthetician and owner of Jessica Elizabeth Skin Care in Syracuse, said aloe is an excellent ingredient in cosmetics “because it absorbs easily,” she said. “Some people have extremely oily skin, so I’ll recommend it to them. But it also can treat dry skin, too.”
The balancing nature of aloe helps seal in moisture after bathing, which can support better hydration for skin that tends to otherwise dry out.
For those who like to include a facial mask as part of their skincare routine, Falcone said that aloe may prove beneficial, especially those with conditions such as rosacea or sensitivity.
For injuries like sunburn, she recommends refrigerating aloe vera and then applying it to the skin to soothe and cool it.
Many people interested in using aloe want to do so because it’s a natural product; however, Jeff Cizenski, dermatologist at Empire Dermatology in East Syracuse, cautioned that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “good for you.”
“As a general rule, I don’t advise people to use it as there’s a chance for allergic reaction,” Cizenski said. “People want something natural but we don’t know how it will work for them.”
He said that testing it by applying to the inside of the arm and covering the area with a bandage for 48 hours can help show if irritation will occur.
In general, he advises using prescribed medication to address skin issues and otherwise using only gentle cleansers for daily skincare.