7 Ways to Use Aloe Vera

Black hands holding a piece of aloe vera for health and beauty.

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If you’ve ever seen someone clip a piece of an aloe plant, open it and apply the “juice” to a sunburn, you’ve just watched the magic of this desert succulent in action.

In Chinese medicine, aloe is known as Lu Hui, and it’s used routinely both internally and externally, says Michelle Polk, an acupuncturist and herbalist in Chicago. “The main functions of aloe in Chinese medicine are for constipation and hemorrhoids,” she says.

And that’s just the beginning. Here are five ways to use this multi-purpose plant.

Sunburn

A woman applying aloe vera on a burned hand.

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One popular way to use aloe is as a sunburn treatment. In fact, aloe is known by some as the “burn plant,” says Michael Swann, MD, a dermatologist in Springfield, Missouri. “The mechanism of action is poorly understood, but it appears that there is more to aloe than just being a good moisturizer, as it can even help you avoid the peeling normally associated with sunburn.”

Skin improvements

Not only do studies show that aloe vera helps heal minor wounds days faster than standard dressing, but the plant has antibacterial properties, too, Polk says. “It’s useful for treating psoriasis, eczema or just ordinary dry skin,” she says.

Aloe also can help lighten dark spots on your skin. If you have bruises, dark stretch marks or scars, smooth on aloe gel to encourage them to fade away.

Oral health

Toothbrush with aloe vera paste for brushing.

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Aloe vera is a safe alternative to mouthwash, and aloe vera in tooth gels has been shown to be as effective as toothpaste in fighting cavities, according to a study published in the May/June 2009 issue of General Dentistry, a journal by the Academy of General Dentistry. “A 2014 study also found that aloe vera extract is a safe and effective alternative to chemical-based mouthwashes,” Polk says. “The plant’s ingredients work to block plaque as well as provide relief if you have bleeding or swelling gums.”

Heartburn

Fresh aloe vera cut up and mixed into a healthy drink on wood table.

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Reach for aloe vera juice for heartburn or GERD as it’s believed the plant prompts the same relief in the stomach as it does on skin, Polk says. It works to reduce inflammation in the esophagus, too.

Bug bites

An Indian grandmother and granddaughter touch Aloe Vera.

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Itchy mosquito bite driving you crazy? Put a dab of aloe vera on it. Aloe's natural antiseptic qualities will reduce swelling and itching. And if you have some aloe gel in the fridge, that's a bonus. The coldness will stop the itch in its tracks.

Cleaning the air

Aloe vera plant sitting on a windowsill cleaning air.

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Aloe vera is one of the NASA-approved Clean Air House Plants. It’s renowned for its ability to rid the air of certain toxins, including formaldehyde. “In various studies concerning plants and their ability to create suitable space station habitats, NASA found that there are a variety of different plants you can use to help purify the air and provide cleaner air to breathe for yourself and your family,” Polk says.

Warts

A hand holding a silver spoon scooping aloe vera gel from a leaf.

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Have an unsightly wart on your hand or foot? Several home remedy websites suggest putting aloe on it, covering it with a band-aid or gauze and repeating the process twice a day for a few weeks. Aloe has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the size of the wart.

View Article Sources
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  5. Gupta, Rajendra Kumar et al. “Preliminary Antiplaque Efficacy of Aloe Vera Mouthwash on 4 day Plaque Re-growth Model: Randomized Control Trial.” Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences, vol. 24, no. 2, 2014, pp. 139-44., doi:10.4314/ejhs.v24i2.6

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