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Aloe Vera Uses

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This thick-leaved plant, a native of Africa, has long been used to heal and beautify the skin.

The herb's therapeutic ingredients are found in the clear, sticky gel that oozes out when you break open a leaf and squeeze it.

Many people keep a plant handy particularly in the kitchen, where minor burns are common- and use the gel as a soothing salve. Some herbalists also claim the gel can reduce itching and use it to relieve poison ivy.

Scientists studying aloe have found that it breaks down dead tissue in a wound even as it helps regenerate new tissue, speeding the healing of burns. But it also helps repair skin damaged by cold; one study shows that it can greatly reduce the damage caused by frostbite.

Aloe also shows promise as a topical treatment for the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

A study at the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine found a special cream of aloe, #vitamin C#, and other ingredients reduced arthritis inflammation.

Experts say fresh aloe gel is much more potent than gel that has been stored and added to commercial preparations. So the best (and maybe the easiest) way to put this healing herb to work for you is to keep a pot of aloe on a sunny windowsill.

When you need it, break off a leaf, squeeze out the gel, and coat the injured area. Allow the gel to dry on your skin. How often should you apply it? Once a day is probably enough. Researchers who studied the effects of aloe vera preparations on rheumatoid arthritis and burns in experimental animals got great results from applying the gel once each day over a period of weeks. The burn wounds were also covered with a bandage that was changed every day.

Go easy the first time you use it-some people can get a mild skin irritation. If you find that you are sensitive to aloe, you can continue to enjoy it as an attractive house plant-just don't apply it to your skin.

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