Some experiences with the Remarkable Aloe Vera Plant
[Nyerges is the former editor of Wilderness Way magazine, and the author of 14 books, including “Guide to Wild Foods,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Foraging California,” and others. He leads regular outdoor field trips to identify edible and medicinal wild plants. He can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]
Sometime in late 1978, my mother shared with me an experience she had with the Aloe vera plant. My mother, Marie, was a Registered Nurse who worked at a Pasadena retirement home as the staff nurse. About three months earlier, a housekeeper who lived on-site at the retirement home began to break out in a hive-like rash that caused her to itch constantly. The cause was said to be a nervous condition. The patient’s thighs, back, arms, shoulders, and neck all broke out in this rash, which the patient described as “burning like fire.”
My mother offered to apply the juice of the aloe leaf to the patient’s red spots, but the patient responded, “No, I’ll have the doctor check it.” The doctor came and prescribed Atarax (internally) for the itching and allergies, and cortisone (externally), which was applied as a cream. The doctor also prescribed tranquilizers for sleep.
After about 45 days, the patient, Lucille, told my mother that she still could not sleep at night, and that the rash hadn’t improved. Lucille noted that there was a slight improvement in the rash when she stayed home and didn’t go to work, so Lucille and the doctor assumed this was a nervous condition associated with work.
So my mother, Lucille’s nurse, asked again if she’d like to try some aloe. Lucille responded, “Yes, please, bring me anything!” My mother noted that Lucille’s skin was hot to the touch, and there were big red spots all over.
At 7:30 a.m., my mother took a fresh succulent Aloe vera leaf, slit it open, and rubbed the gel on Lucille’s arms, legs, back, neck – almost her entire body. Lucille said her skin immediately felt better. By 3:30 that afternoon, all the visibly red spots were gone, and Lucille happily told my mother that all of the burning itching was gone. The next day Lucille told my mother that that night was the first night she’d slept in the previous approximately 45 days.
My mother had been somewhat reticent to apply the aloe because she was subservient to the doctor, and could have lost her license by doing something without the approval of the doctor.
When the doctor arrived, Marie told him that Lucille’s rash had cleared up, and she admitted to having applied aloe juice. The doctor was somewhat taciturn as he examined the patient, and, without commenting on the aloe, told my mother, “It’s good that the medicine finally worked.” Really?!
My mother always had a laugh re-telling this story about a doctor who couldn’t see the obvious! Eventually, the other nurses referred to my mother as the “witch-doctor” because she used aloe and various other natural methods of healing, behind the doctor’s back.
Over the years, I had my mother document the many cases where she use aloe to cure various skin condition, on her patients, herself, and even cats.
Marie used aloe for sun burn, burns from hot oil, skin sores, diaper rash, bed sores, even poison oak rash.
In one case, our family cat had a large open ulcer on his thigh – we weren’t sure of the cause, but we presumed that the cat got into a fight. My mother directed me to put some of fresh aloe gel onto the ulcer every day for three day, while also making some of the aloe leaf into a juice which was added to the cat’s water. The wound was completely healed after three days. “It was unbelievable,” expressed Marie, “but it worked!”
My mother’s experiences took place over 35 years ago, and today, Aloe vera is a common household word. You can buy it anywhere, even Trader Joe’s markets. And as the succulent plant was studied and researched all these years, many have come to call it a miracle herb.
The properties of aloe are a broad mix of antibiotic, astringent, pain inhibitor, emollient, moisturizer, antipruritic (reduces itching), as well as a nutrient. It apparently works because of the polysaccharides present, the main one of which is a glucomannan. Others ingredients of the aloe include galactose, uronic acids, and pentoses. The miracle qualities of the aloe is not believed to be the polysaccharides alone, but the synergistic effect of these and other compounds in the leaf.
Obviously, many have tried to create an aloe product that you can buy in the bottle, and some are quite good. I’ve had some good results from the aloe drink that I have purchased at Trader Joe’s market. But please make no mistake about it: the best results come from the gel from the freshly-broken leaf of aloe. And though Aloe vera seems to be the best, any of the juice from any aloe can be used for burns, poison oak, etc.