Amazing Aloe Vera: Ancient Superfood - The Benefits & 7 Tasty Ways to Try It!
Its no secret that aloe vera is good for us. Growing up, my neighbor had an aloe vera plant that she used on everything from minor skin abrasions to burns. I thought she was kinda nuts, for more reasons than this, but when it came to aloe, she was on to something. My brother deemed this green super plant magical when he literally watched a minor burn disappear after applying fresh aloe vera gel to it. Because my big brother was right about everything, even when he was beating me up, I started to think maybe he and my crazy neighbor were right about aloe.
Aloe is nothing short of amazing, and its healing properties can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. Cleopatras well-known beauty and eternal youth is thought to have been attributed to aloe vera being an integral component of her skincare regimen. Further research has discovered that aloes benefits arent limited to treating topical skin imperfections. David Wolfe, a raw foodist and leader in natural health, says it best:
If you want to be beautiful all the days of your life, if you want to be flexible and limber all the days of your life, if you want to have an immune system and nervous system that work well for you all the days of your life, aloe vera is the superfood for you.
Raw aloe vera gel is a plant powerhouse, containing the following vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional goodies:
- Vitamins A, C, and E
- Minerals sulfur, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and chromium
- Amino acids (the building blocks of protein)
- Polysaccharides (carbohydrates that provide long-lasting energy, as well as lubricating effects on the joints, brain, nervous system, and skin. They also help our immune system fight viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.)
Let's examine a few ailments that this wellness warrior has battled (and defeated), as well as some remarkable overall health benefits:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohns disease
To begin with, aloe vera's polysaccharides can be attributed to the calming effects of digestion. It also supports the replication of epithelial cells that line the walls of our digestive system.
- Yeast infections (candida)
Aloe vera doesnt mess around with chronic candida. Because aloe is so good at improving our digestion, this inevitably increases the presence of friendly flora (probiotics) in our digestive tract. This means reduced yeast and better pH levels. Even better, aloe acts as a prebiotic, which enhances the effectiveness of probiotics in our gut.
- Chronic inflammation
- Heart Disease
Clinical studies have demonstrated aloe veras ability to reduce inflammation and arthritis by up to 50%, as well as an ability to stimulate the healing of damaged tissue. In the same study done on rodents, mast cells also decreased by 48%. In another study completed on patients with cancers of the breast, digestive tract, brain, and lungs, aloe vera was able to stabilize the growth of their tumors in 14 of the 24 patients. In a study completed on coronary heart disease patients, consuming aloe vera resulted in decreased cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipids, as well as an increase in healthy HDL. Notably, the heart patients who were also diabetic benefited the most, as consuming aloe also contributed to normalizing their blood sugar.
- Athletes foot
- Brown spots
- Insect bites/stings
- Poison ivy/poison oak
- Skin allergies
- Skin infections
- Stretch marks
- Varicose veins
Aloe is best known for its assistance in healing our skin and has been used topically to treat a wide variety of skin conditions.
Finally, aloe has also been shown to assist in the optimal functioning of our joints, nervous system, immune system, skin, hair, pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
Where to Find It
Aloe vera is best when used from a fresh aloe vera leaf, which can be purchased at many health food stores, some farmers markets, and even at large grocery stores. If you cannot find fresh leaves, then bottled aloe vera gel or dried aloe vera powder are good choices as well. If purchasing bottled gel, just make sure its in a dark glass bottle, as this preserves its freshness.
How to Use It
Fresh aloe vera leaves should be filleted, which can be done in three easy steps:
- Starting from the thickest part of the leaf, cut off a chunk (depending on how much you want to use).
- Cut the prickly edges off each side.
- Fillet the green skin off the top and bottom (The skin will be your guide, you just have to drag your knife between the skin and the gel slowly.)This will reveal the clear gel, which can be used in recipes, such as green juices and smoothies. When adding aloe to freshly prepared juices, simply put your juice and your aloe vera gel in a blender and blend until smooth. I put aloe vera in my morning green smoothie, usually about 1/2-3/4 cup of fresh gel. Work your way up to this amount, as aloe vera gel can taste very bitter to some.
For Topical Application: Apply the gel directly to your skin several times a day. For a moisturizing treat, I make my own body lotion out of coconut oil and aloe vera gel. I will never go back to store-bought lotion again after experiencing the beautifying benefits of this simple and inexpensive moisturizer. I store it in a small mason jar, and it will stay fresh for months in the refrigerator.
When I eventually write my New York Times bestselling plant-based health book, there will undoubtedly be a chapter solely dedicated to aloe vera. Though were really just getting back to the basics when we speak of the health benefits of aloe, it truly is amazing. When we think of superfoods, we often envision rare, hard-to-find items that are difficult to pronounce, and when we do finally learn the pronunciation, theres a new superfood, or should I say superword, to learn - acai, goji, cacao, spirulina, camu camu, maca, noni... huh?
Not only is aloe a superfood that has stood the test of time, its one of the few foods in this category of nutritional superstars that is readily available and inexpensive.
A Healthful Salad: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Aloe, Grilled Cherry Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
"AtMiraval,a health and wellness focused destination spa in Tuscon, Arizona, executive Chef Brandon Cathey throws a little aloe into the spas signature blueberry lemonade, a kale salad and shrimp ceviche. So even if you cant make it to the luxe resort for a some mind and body rejuvenationwhich is what were dreaming of right nowyou can make one of these dishes for a taste of the spa experience." Recipe HERE!
Mexican-Style Condiment: Tomatillo & Aloe Salsa
"This is theonly tomatillo salsa you will ever need in your entire life. Once you make this all others will pale in comparison. You will be spoiled and gradually become a tomatillo salsa snob. You will scoff at inferior ones. Your friends and family will make their pilgrimage to your house just to taste it. You will be king, queen, y el maestro de todo. Having spent a significant amount of time in various Latin households I can say this will easily please even the most critical Latin tongue. Have I raised the bar enough? Ok, good, lets go shopping." Recipe HERE!
A Unique Appetizer: Lime & Coconut Aloe Fruit Bite
"Sweet lime soaked Aloe Vera cube, basil infused watermelon, chilled bartlett Pear, sugar marinated coconut flakes." Recipe HERE!
Indian-Style Pickle Recipe: Musabbar Achaar (pickled aloe)
"Yup.. even I exclaimed when my neighbor shared this with me. It was yummy and damn different. Its my kind of a pickle, sweet and delicious :)Go ahead and try it out!! trust me you will love it." Recipe HERE!
Indian-Style Medicinal Recipe for Joint Pain, Stomach Issues, and Immunity: Gwarpatha Ki Subzi
"This is not a normal but a medicinal sabzi. Only 4 to 5 chunks from the sabzi are usually taken with meals...Aloe vera is best for diseases related to stomach and joint pain. It also increases immunity in body. We can make ladoo and halwa from aloe vera but today we are making aloe vera sabzi." Recipe HERE!
Chinese Style Desert Soup Recipe: Lhu Rnshn Tindin
"Sweet soups are often served after a meal as a dessert or eaten as a teatime snack.There is a whole range of sweet soups, many of them using medicinal ingredients which are beneficial for health, such as ginseng and aloe vera." Recipe HERE!
"Rehydrate Like a Goddess": Watermelon Coconut Aloe Juice
"I consider this drink one of the most hydrating, delicious things you can put in your body. It not only rehydrates, but it cools you down. It can even sooth a hyper acidic stomach, and help ease stomach pains in general. I like to drink it after a difficult workout, a run in the sun, or, ya know, if my AC is broken and I just CANT DEAL. And fun fact, coconut naturally emulsifies and froths when whipped. So this has got a head on it. Its frothy, fluffy, sweet, pink foam on top of the easy sipping juice. This + sitting on the front porch + sunset + Fleet Foxes playing on the radio + my man chatting to me about his chocolate experiments = heaven." Recipe HERE!
Now that you know more about the endless benefits of aloe vera, start incorporating it into your diet and self-care regimen. Aloe has helped me overcome chronic inflammation, candida, eczema, acne, and various skin injuries. Its rare that my grocery cart doesnt have a prickly aloe vera leaf sticking out for all to see, and ask, do you eat that?!
Why, yes, I say. I love it!
And I think you will too.
Wolfe, D. (2009). Superfoods. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.