The healing properties of aloe vera are more than skin deep
by Sarah Senter Luikart & Elizabeth Bentley
Photographs by Hayden Spears
Illustrations by Madison Weakley
Editor’s note: Sarah Senter Luikart is a licensed acupuncturist, the founder of Medicine Kitchen and an all-around advocate for holistic health practices. Elizabeth Bentley is a certified health coach, licensed holistic esthetician and the founder of Neu Skin, where she practices organic skin care. The two specialists and friends have begun working together on a series called “Inside Out,” where they share their expertise in a fun and accessible way. I am delighted we can share one of their collaborations with all of you.
As many of us can attest, good health starts from within. What you put into your body really acts as the fuel to either drive your body forward in a balanced, sustainable way or create obstacles your body has to constantly adapt to and overcome. Our body doesn’t speak to us in words, so signs and symptoms act as our guide to understanding and unlocking its needs. In addition to general health complaints like pain, digestive trouble or fatigue, your skin can be a huge vehicle for signs and symptoms, painting the landscape of your body. With our combined experience in Eastern medicine, nutrition and holistic skin care, we know the most effective methods to help you achieve optimal wellness, naturally. It is our honor and goal to help you learn to care for your body from the inside out and see the many connections between inner health and outer beauty. You don’t have to empty your pockets to implement healthy practices at home. Some of the world’s best health tools are growing naturally around us. This month we want to highlight the benefits of aloe vera and how you can use this generous plant for healing, inside and out.
Sarah Senter Luikart: I’ve been practicing Chinese medicine for over 10 years now, and even more than acupuncture or herbs, nutritional therapy has changed my life most drastically — first when I was in my 20s as an acupuncture student and then again when I was adjusting to my postpartum body as a mom. Using foods that support my constitution and knowing what produce and plants I can use to create inner balance has been transformative for me personally, and it’s also something I now use for all my patients. Aloe is a great example of such a plant — you can eat it, use it topically and grow it at home. In Chinese medicine, aloe is called “lu hui,” and we use it as an herbal remedy. I love when you can access a powerful herb like this and use it so easily at home.
Elizabeth Bentley: Yes, exactly. Aloe is usually available in the produce section of most natural-food stores for around $2. I love using something this simple and affordable for all types of skin ailments, as well as an internal supplement. Through my own struggles with cystic acne, dermatitis, hives, along with the Epstein-Barr virus, poor gut health and a compromised immune system, I’ve found that health begins when you know the root cause and how to treat your body with healing ingredients. In my 10-plus years of working with clients, I understand first-hand how we all respond to gentle and healing remedies like aloe vera.
SSL: According to food energetics, aloe is bitter, cooling, lubricating and yin nourishing, and it’s superb at balancing inflammation of the skin and gut lining. Trials have shown that taking aloe gel internally can help with colitis and constipation and even reduce blood-sugar levels in those with diabetes. It’s phytochemicals are also antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial, making it very immune-enhancing. I like to take fresh aloe gel, making sure it’s perfectly clear with no yellow, and add it to juices or green smoothies by the tablespoon. It’s quite bitter, so adding something with sweetness to it really helps the medicine go down … literally and figuratively. If you have any digestive problems at all — especially anything inflammatory like ulcerative colitis, heartburn, IBD or leaky gut — this is one plant you want to utilize regularly to soothe and heal your stomach lining.
EB: We associate aloe with treating burns, and indeed, it’s great for them. But there are many more benefits to using this plant’s cooling gel topically. Because it’s loaded with antioxidants like vitamins A and C, enzymes and its two growth hormones, auxin and gibberellin, it’s excellent for healing acne, wounds, minor infections, cysts, eczema and even dandruff. It can also minimize scarring, as it stimulates cell growth. Aloe is anti-inflammatory, soothing, healing and hydrating and can even gently exfoliate your skin with its natural enzymes. The Egyptians referred to aloe as the plant of immortality, which seems accurate and relevant as I describe all of its generous qualities.
In the spirit of helping cultivate inner and outer health, we hope you’ll try making and using these DIY aloe recipes at home!
Aloe Face Mist
1 tablespoon fresh aloe gel
Juice of 1/4 organic lemon
3 bags green tea, steeped in 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes, allowing the water to cool
Add the aloe to an amber glass mist bottle (you’ll find that using a funnel to transfer the ingredients into the glass bottle is helpful). Pour the lemon juice over the aloe, then add the green tea. Shake well and refrigerate. Mist your face after cleansing. The mixture will keep for up to 3 days in your refrigerator.
Pear + Aloe Gut Tonic
1 whole pear, peeled
1-inch knob fresh ginger root, peeled
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1 spoonful fresh aloe gel
1 tablespoon collagen powder (optional, for extra gut support)
1/2 cup filtered water, if needed to blend
Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth and drink immediately. The collagen powder will make it extra-frothy and smooth.