aloe plant leaves

Photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio/​Unsplash

From the outside, the aloe plant looks anything but nurturing: it’s a succulent with thick, long leaves dotted in spikes and a penchant for unforgiving, arid environments.

But like that tough friend who is actually a total teddy bear, look beneath the surface and you’ll find a soft center — literally, as a cooling slimy tissue lines the center of the leaves.

And from the ancient Egyptians (who used aloe to treat wounds, burns, and infections) to modern-day spring breakers who may have gotten a bit too much sun, the plant has proven to be a century-spanning healing powerhouse.

aloe leaf with aloe slices and lemon and sliced lemon on plates

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So what makes this plant literally ooze healthy benefits? First things first: what you think of as aloe vera is actually the mucus that forms within the plant’s leaves — that’s where it stores water (this is a succulent that thrives in the desert, after all). In addition, it’s packed with a range of vitamins — such as B, C, and E — and important minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

But what really makes the magic happen are a few lesser-known compounds: glycoprotein, which is a superstar when it comes to preventing inflammation and pain, as well as glucomannan, which helps jump-start the skin’s healing process by boosting collagen production. (That wellness buzzword, collagen, is what helps make our skin soft and supple, FYI.)

It’s also packed with antioxidants and is incredibly antibacterial and antifungal. Add to that the instant aaaah” feeling you get when the gel-like insides from this cooling plant hit your body and it’s no wonder why aloe vera is a sunburn staple.

The benefits go beyond recuperating post-beach vacation. Studies have found aloe vera to also help reduce mouth ulcers and canker sores (and as a major bonus, it also reduces the pain both oral conditions cause), minimize dental plaque, and get fungal infections (like alopecia) under control.

You don’t need to be dealing with medical drama, however, to take advantage of the plant. Not only is aloe vera incredibly moisturizing, but the very compounds that make it such an anti-inflammatory wound whisperer also help tame breakouts and plump up skin.

And of course, aloe vera is particularly useful if you’ve got a sunny corner in your apartment that needs a bit of green. Yup, the plant can thrive beyond the desert if you’re careful about how often you water it.

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.