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Ahhh…beautiful, radiant skin! It’s something we all treasure.
Many of us spend hours tracking down the best skin care products, and regularly Google answers to questions about how to prevent forehead wrinkles, banish blemishes, and repair sun damage or stretch marks.
Skin (especially facial skin) is right out there where we and everyone else can see it. Maybe that’s why we are inclined to treat it cosmetically, always on the lookout for the perfect moisturizers, cleansers, and creams.
Yet, both our mental and physical health have a profound impact on our skin as well.
Remember the times you were stressed out, anxious, and short on sleep? Your skin lost its luster and the bags and dark circles under your eyes added to your stress.
And then there were the times you suffered from digestive challenges like gas, bloating, and acid reflux because you drank too much coffee, ate fast food, or skipped meals. Skin eruptions like unexplained rashes, blemishes, psoriasis, or eczema symptoms you thought you’d seen the last of followed, although you may not have made the connection.
While there is no one remedy for skin concerns, aloe vera stands as a powerful option we can use both externally and internally for a myriad of issues.
Used externally, aloe vera is a cooling remedy for burns— including sunburn—and skin infections and can help speed the healing of wounds and reduce inflammation. Taken internally, it helps detoxify our systems and improve our digestion, both essential for maintaining skin that glows.
Aloe’s Fascinating History
Aloe’s history as a plant beneficial for healing goes back thousands of years. According to legend, both Cleopatra and Nefertiti used it as part of their skin care routines in ancient Egypt. Alexander the Great is said to have secured an abundant source of aloe by capturing an island off Africa’s coast. The reason? He wanted the aloe to treat his soldiers’ wounds.
Aloe is known to have regenerative properties, hence its Sanskrit name, Ghrita-kumari, which means young girl. Ayurveda has used aloe for centuries to treat everything from skin eruptions and digestive issues (like bloating, gas, and constipation) to diabetes and heart disease.
It is also recommended for clearing out toxins that build up in our digestive tracts. For example, it is one of several herbs used during an Ayurvedic cleanse (or Panchakarma) as part of a process called Virechana in which toxins are gathered for expulsion from the small intestine.
While aloe vera is over 98 percent water, it also contains a variety of active ingredients from vitamins, minerals, and fat, to hormones, anthraquinones (laxatives), enzymes, and amino acids, all of which add to its effectiveness.
Your Skin Soaks It Up
With skin it’s often the red inflamed areas that get our attention. Acne, rashes like poison ivy, hives, wounds, eczema, burns (including sunburn) or insect bites are all examples.
Aloe is a cooling antidote for inflamed skin. It helps speed healing and promote the production of collagen essential for maintaining the elasticity your skin needs to keep you looking young.
Apply it by cutting an aloe stalk and rubbing the cut end directly on your skin.
Alternatively, buy aloe gel in a tube. (If you do so, read the ingredient list carefully to make sure it is a pure product made from organic aloe with no toxic ingredients.)
Aloe applied externally dilates your pores and allows your skin to suck up the healing goodness four times faster than it does water. Since it has antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties, it is an excellent treatment for red inflamed conditions typical of Pitta imbalances in Ayurveda.
On the other hand, if you suffer from dry skin, dandruff, or the rough, bumpy look of dry eczema, it may be vata that is out of balance. Aloe’s moisturizing properties can work on these dry conditions as well.
And it is also helpful when kapha’s heavy, slow elements of earth and water promote itchy areas and skin conditions (such as psoriasis) caused by a buildup of toxins.
Research shows aloe not only speeds the healing of wounds but strengthens resulting scar tissue. And its benefits extend to your gums where it may be more effective than conventional antibiotics for the treatment of periodontal disease.
Does your scalp itch? Is dandruff a problem, especially during the winter months of vata season? A double-blind study of 44 adults with dandruff found aloe significantly reduced scaliness and itching among those who applied it to their scalp. Try it for yourself by massaging a mixture of equal parts aloe and coconut oil into your scalp at least twice a month. Leave it on for a while before you wash it out. You may find this aloe treatment also helps prevent hair loss and leaves your tresses stronger and shinier.
Aloe Vera Juice Benefits
Glowing skin is a reflection of your overall health, and especially that of your digestive and detox organs. It’s not possible to have healthy skin if your body is clogged up with toxin buildup or your liver is sluggish.
Your skin is, of course, your largest detox organ and often handles toxin overloads when the others are backed up. The result can be anything from eczema to acne to some kind of unidentifiable but itchy rash. Drinking aloe vera juice can help in a number of ways.
It helps clear ama (buildup of undigested food) from your digestive tract. Aloe has a laxative effect that increases the water and mucus content in your intestines and promotes peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move food along.
Just as aloe’s anti-inflammatory properties soothe your skin, they also calm the lining of your intestines, essential for proper absorption of nutrients into your system.
Ayurveda categorizes foods into six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Like other bitter foods, aloe helps stimulate the flow of bile essential for fat digestion and supports good liver function, both essential for beautiful skin.
While aloe vera is sometimes classified as tri-doshic, it’s bitter taste has a cooling and drying impact best used by those with pitta or kapha imbalances. Vata imbalanced folks should use it more sparingly. (Read an overview of the three doshas and tips for recognizing your imbalances here.)
Aloe is not recommended for use by pregnant or lactating women.
Enjoy Beautiful Skin, and More
When it comes to maintaining beautiful skin, aloe vera is a powerful tool used by Ayurvedic practitioners for generations.
Not only does it soothe inflamed, fiery skin but it promotes good health overall by helping to detox and heal your digestive tract so you can enjoy benefits that extend well beyond glowing skin.