Many people refer to the active ingredient or extract of Aloe Vera as Aloe. It's the sappy liquid that the succulent plant excretes when its stalks are cut open. A ubiquitous ingredient in countless cosmetics, sunscreen, lotion, burn ointments, and balms, Aloe is a powerful healing ointment, both topically and internally. Many scientific studies have shown that aloe is beneficial in speeding the healing of burns, sunburns, cuts, bites, rashes, and lesions, as well as other conditions like indigestion.
Unlike many purported natural, plant-based medicines or ointments, Aloe's positive health effects have been well-documented and studied. Aloe Vera has an anti-inflammatory chemical called B-sitosterol that effectively treats many skin conditions arising from insect bites, plant rashes like poison oak, allergic eruptions, etc. Along with another ingredient, salicylic acid, Aloe greatly reduces the time it takes for skin to heal from minor or severe burns. It is used as a topical treatment in the burn wards of hospitals across the world.
Aloe comes from the stalks of an entire family of succulents commonly known as Aloe. This cactus is part of the Lily family, so it has been called the "Lily of the Desert." One potent variety grows on the island of Aruba, but other kinds grow in the arid climates of Africa, India, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and Southwestern United States. The medicinal plant is primarily cultivated for harvest to extract the aloe gel. You can probably find a variety that will grow as a house plant in your climate. When the need arises, you merely break off a stalk, strip the sharp points, and press the open leaf to your skin.
Laxatives used to include Aloe as their active ingredient in the days before researchers were able to synthesize the chemicals. However, Aloe is still recommended as a supplement to ease the symptoms of gastrointestinal discomforts such as constipation, peptic ulcers, upset stomach, etc. Of course, it can't be said to "cure" these ongoing conditions, but it lessens the symptoms with few side effects because Aloe has an ingredient that neutralizes the harsh acids found in the stomach. Like any plant material, allergies may arise, so be aware that you may develop a rash or congestion.
Pure Aloe gel can be purchased to use on sunburns, spider bites, bee stings, nettle stings, grass rashes, poison ivy and oak, blisters, small cuts, scrapes, and lesions. Since it is a clean, alcohol-free, mild, non-oily, and soothing balm, many parents keep it around for a pain-free treatment of every day skin irritations. Of course, aloe has been incorporated into almost every product designed for skin, from lip balm to sunscreen, moisturizing tissue to hand lotion, and from shampoo to nail polish remover.