Aloe vera is a succulent plant in the Lily family. Inside its fleshy leaves is a cool, soothing gel-like secretion that has been used as a healing skin salve for centuries.
Aloe vera has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains an enzyme that reduces swelling, treats pain and soothes itching. This wonder-plant also dilates capillaries so that blood can circulate to an injury and facilitate healing.
Applied topically, aloe vera can help heal first and second-degree burns, cuts, insect bites, skin ulcers, welts, frostbite and sunburn. It can relieve the itch of shingles. There is some evidence to suggest it can also treat psoriasis and warts. Taken internally, aloe vera juice has been used to treat digestive disorders such as ulcers and heartburn, although scientific studies are being conducted to verify this efficacy. Aloe latex, a different substance derived from the leaf of the plant, can act as a laxative.
Aloe vera is a common ingredient in skin creams, cosmetics, shampoos and after-sun products. However, extracting fresh gel from a live leaf of an aloe vera plant provides you with the most potent form. Simply cut off several inches of a leaf, slice it lengthwise and spread the salve found inside onto the affected area. Allow it to dry and reapply as needed.