Ah, aloe vera. It’s not only an eye-catching plant that can brighten up a sunny spot in your home, but it also packs quite the healing punch. (You’ve experienced it first-hand if you’ve ever slathered on a cooling gel after getting a painful sunburn.) The best part? You can use the gel straight out of the plant—no store-bought products necessary.
The main healing power of aloe vera is that it can soothe certain skin issues thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. “It can be used for conditions that cause inflammation in your skin, from rosacea and irritant contact dermatitis to windburn and eczema,” says Ted Lain, MD, a dermatologist and chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. The aloe vera doesn’t cure the underlying issue, but it helps reduce symptoms. In other words, it won’t make your sunburn go away faster, but it will help you feel better in the meantime.
It’s super easy to use, too. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can just cut one of the leaves and get the gel directly from there. But Dr. Lain cautions you to try it on a small patch of skin before slathering it all over your body. “Direct secretion from the plant has a high concentration of chemicals, so you want to make sure you don’t have a reaction—especially if you have sensitive skin,” says Dr. Lain.
Don’t have a plant at home or worried about a reaction? You can find aloe vera as an ingredient in cooling gels and creams sold at stores, which will have a lower potency.
Aloe vera doesn’t just come in creams and lotions, it’s also sold in drinkable forms (you might have seen aloe vera juice or water in stores). But don’t be so quick to stock up on them. While the medicinal powers of aloe vera on external issues have been well-researched, the same isn’t quite true for its ability to heal internal health issues. There are some promising studies—one review found it can bring relief to IBS sufferers while another showed it can help people with pre-diabetes improve their blood glucose levels—but there is still a lot more research to be done before those kinds of benefits can be proven.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.