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Aloe, or Aloe vera, is a succulent plant from Africa widely grown as an ornamental in warm regions. Many people have discovered the healing properties of the clear gel that fills the thick leaves of this plant. It is a superior home remedy for burns, so useful that you ought to keep a potted aloe plant in your kitchen to have available in case of an accident. There are many species of aloes, and many whose leaves are big enough to provide gel, but Aloe vera, the "true" aloe, has the best effect. You can buy the plants at most nurseries. They are easy to grow and will multiply for you as long as they have light and good drainage. To use the fresh plant, cut off a lower leaf near the central stalk, cut off any spines along the edge, split the leaf lengthwise, score the gel with the point of your knife, and apply it directly to the burn. It will soon soak into the skin and provide immediate, soothing relief. Use it on sunburn, thermal burns, and any areas of skin irritation or inflammation. You can also buy aloe products in drugstores and health-food stores. Its moisturizing properties make it a desirable ingredient of skin lotions and creams, but be warned that some cosmetics that boast of their aloe content have too little of it to do your skin much good. Read labels to determine the percentage of aloe gel in the formula. Aloe vera juice, sold in all health-food stores, is intended for internal use. The main use is to help heal ulcers and other irritations of the gastrointestinal tract. In high doses, aloe is an irritant laxative, so if you want it to soothe the lining of your GI tract, you must stay below the laxative dose. A reasonable amount to try is one teaspoon after meals. You can use the fresh gel, mashed up in a little fruit juice, or any commercial product that is pure. A lot of bottled aloe juice tastes nasty; shop around for a brand that is palatable.

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