Common names: Aloe, aloe vera, Barbados aloe
Latin name: Aloe vera (formerly A. barbadensis)
Part used: Leaf gel and juice
Medicinal uses: Aloe is helpful for first-degree burns, cuts and abrasions, poison oak and wound healing when used externally. Taken internally, aloe may improve digestion, stomach ulcers and other ailments.
Forms commonly used: Aloe gel is used in sunscreens, lotions and other personal-care products. The juice is sold in bottles and in bulk at health-food stores.
Side effects: Although the herb is generally safe, external use of the gel may delay wound healing following abdominal surgery. Taking more than the recommended dose of the gel internally may produce a laxative effect.
Notes: Steven Foster calls aloe “America’s number-one folk remedy.” For any skin trauma, just cut an aloe leaf in half lengthwise and apply the gel directly to the skin. This succulent perennial is native to Africa; in the United States, it’s grown commercially in southern Texas. Aloe is a good remedy for poison oak because it’s safe to use around the eye area. Many people like to mix aloe juice with fruit juice before drinking, to improve the flavor.