The desert summer is upon us. Our skin dries out and is more susceptible to the ravages of heat and sun. This means extra precaution needs to be taken to treat the skin in caring ways.

The most readily-available natural remedy we have at our fingertips (because it grows abundantly in our desert climate) is aloe vera. Derived from the Arabic word alloeh for “bitter”, the aloe plant produces a bitter liquid that was often ingested in ancient times. From 68 to 30 B.C.  Cleopatra used the gel on her skin as protection from the sun. In modern times, we need more protection from the sun than aloe vera, yet these healing plants are still beneficial in numerous ways.

Known as “lily of the desert”, the aloe plant is 95% water.  The remaining ingredients are amino acids, essential oil, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and glycoproteins.  These ingredients are often what we look for in just one over the counter product… and they are all housed in a plant in our backyard!  The useful part of aloe for topical application is the gel.  This is obtained from the cells in the center of the leaf.  This topical remedy can be used to treat burns, frostbite, psoriasis, cold sores, skin damage caused by cancer radiation and wounds.  There is supporting evidence that aloe is able to affect circulation in the tiny blood vessels in the skin to increase productivity of blood flow and have anti-bacterial qualities.

The wonderful attributes of this resilient plant ensure that regardless of the temperature and climate of our desert, the plant is obtainable.  Aloe can withstand freezing air temperatures and severe drought, so it can weather extreme environmental conditions and emerge unscathed.  In previous issues the benefits of lavender oil were reviewed.  The combination of aloe and lavender oil is an amazing balm for a burn. We tend to forget about the profound healing effects from the simplest, natural resources.

Harvested commercially, aloe is a multi-billion dollar business and a key ingredient in many cosmetics that we purchase.  Aloe is also one of the most widely used substances to treat bruises and burns.  So why not give it a try?   Snip off a juicy aloe leaf and scoop out the meaty center where the healing juice resides.  Your skin will appreciate the benefits of this age old natural remedy!

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