Vitamin Expert
Aloe vera

Aloe Vera

(aloe barbadensis)

Botanical family: Xanthorrhoeaceae
Parts used: Leaves
Main active ingredients: Polysaccharides, lipids.
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, wound and tissue healer
Good for: Wounds, burns, digestive problems
Available forms: Gel, lotion, juice

Aloe vera looks like a cactus but is actually a succulent member of the tree lily family. The plants have whorls of thick fleshy stems usually with a toothed edge. A tall flower spike bearing trumpet-shaped yellow or red flowers appears in the summer. There are more than 300 varieties and although aloe vera is native to the hot dry climates of Africa, some types will grow happily on the windowsill in the UK.

History of Aloe vera

Aloe vera can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. Drawings of the aloe plant have even been found inscribed in the tombs of the pharaohs. And its healing powers did not go unnoticed by Alexander the Great, who conquered an island off Somalia for the sole purpose of harvesting the plant to help his injured soldiers.

The use of aloe vera in skincare was so highly regarded by Native Americans that they referred to it as ‘the wand of heaven’. Cleopatra is also thought to have been fond of aloe vera, calling it her beauty secret.

Current uses of Aloe vera


Aloe vera is valued for the cool soothing gel found in its leaves, which is used mostly to treat burns and minor wounds, putting a protective coat on the affected area and speeding up the rate of healing. It has been used with some success to treat psoriasis and is a popular after-sun soother.


The juice, which is extracted from the base of the leaf, can be taken internally to help inflammatory digestive disorders including ulcers and indigestion. The juice is more palatable when mixed with apple juice or water.

How to take Aloe vera

Aloe Vera products can be purchased in most health food stores as a drink, gel, capsules and even toothpaste. Follow the recommended instructions for use on the pack.


Aloe vera gel is very safe, but before using you should test a small area of skin for an allergic reaction. If it stings or you come up in a rash the gel is best avoided.
The juice is a strong purgative and should be avoided if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.