The Properties of This Plant Border on the Miraculous
BY JULIA SWIFT
Let me tell you about a minor miracle. While hurriedly working at a flat top stove recently, I foolishly placed my finger, below the knuckle, on a burner set at medium high. Yeeeooowww, and a few loud four-letter words immediately flew from my mouth as the rice and curry sauce I had been trying to scoop into a bowl spread across the stove’s dark black surface. The burn immediately produced the persistent, intense stinging pain we all know, and within a few seconds I had my finger under cold water at the faucet. I tried that for several minutes. Each time I pulled away from the cold water though, the pain came back, so I gave up and decided to live with it.
After 30 minutes, while helping my teen with homework, the distraction of a burned finger was more than I wanted to deal with, so I finally did what I should have done all along. I took a scissors and cut a small piece from an aloe vera plant near the kitchen window, sliced it open like a filet, and stuck the narrow strip of gooey gel on my finger. Because I did not want to disfigure the plant, I had removed but a tiny leaf, and the thin strip of aloe barely covered the burn. Nevertheless, I applied the aloe and left it there, stuck to my finger, for about half an hour.
The first thing I immediately noticed was that as soon as I applied the aloe, the pain was gone—the cool gel of the plant felt soothing. So I soon forgot all about it and went on with our school work.
As I went to sleep that night though, some of the pain remained, and the next day I saw why. The thin strip of aloe had not covered the entire width of the burn, and that area left untreated by the aloe, to one side of my finger, had bubbled up into a blister, as the body’s natural mechanism did its work. The part of my finger right next to that thin, narrow blister though, which had been burned as badly all the way to the fingernail, looked and felt as if it had not been burned at all. No pain, no burn, no blister. Miraculously, the skin somehow had not even been damaged, or it had regenerated due to the aloe.
I recalled that I had experienced this effect once before, long ago, after having placed the palm of my hand on a hot plate (it’s something I like to do now and then). At that time, I also had an aloe plant handy, and immediately cut a generous portion of it, peeled it open, spread the gel on my hand, and kept the leaf there a while until it fell off. Because I no longer felt the pain after I applied the aloe, I simply forgot about the burn. A few days later, I noticed a bit of skin flaking off the center of my palm where the burn had been, just a tiny patch the size of a pea, when the entire area should have blistered. As a matter of fact, I should not have been able to grip things with my hand. I then recalled the incident, when I absent mindedly placed my hand on the hot plate. The skin on my hand should have been burned through, and scarred after the blister had taken time to heal. But none of that happened as a result of the aloe vera I applied. Somehow the skin cells had regenerated, or at least been saved in the aftermath of the burn.
Now here’s what gets me. Looking online into the availability of research regarding the value of aloe vera, we mostly find reports from lone MDs, here and there from the 1930s and 1940s in the United States, and some from the 1950s related to burns resulting from exposure to radiation. Otherwise, in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (not the Journal of the American Medical Association), we find aloe having been applied to a monkey after an acciden-tal burn with no evidence of injury post burn, or written up in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, and the Indian Journal of Dermatology. But it seems that in the United States the plant has been virtually shunned as an official medical agent. Aloe has been applied at the Arizona Burn Center, in the form of salves produced by a commercial producer to soften scar tissue, but not in a committed clinical way or with research that would determine the full potential of this amazing plant. More tellingly, we read about how modern western medicine scoffs at the idea of aloe vera as medicine, and at other natural remedies.
One wonders though what the full potential of fresh, living aloe vera might be, or even derivatives extracted from the plant, if only healing were the goal in our healthcare system, as opposed to perpetu-ating that system for the benefit of status quo special interests, inclu-ding bureaucrats, Big Pharma and politicians. Should not hospitals, especially burn centers, have greenhouses filled with large mature aloe plants that could be quickly harvested, the gel gathered, and applied to victims suffering from burns? (Subject to clinical trials, of course.) We do not yet know if more serious burns could be healed with aloe, or if aloe merely treats minor burns (as we do not know the full extent of the healing potential due to the lack of interest among “scientific” researchers. But we do know that aloe softens and minimizes scarring, and that many other uses have been claimed throughout time.
Fresh aloe applied promptly seems to be the key. Many non-fresh products are on the market that have questionable therapeutic benefits, because the aloe has been compromised through processing—it’s no longer a living organism with live active enzymes.
According to Elizabeth Burdick, a California microbiologist and skin therapist who treats burn patients, “When the skin is burned or traumatized, within 24 hours the basal cells travel up to the epidermal layer and produce a scab. Under the scab, keratinized tissue forms, which is thick scar tissue created to protect the body from trauma. Burdick says that aloe vera interferes with the process of scar formation. “We don’t know exactly what the mechanism is, but somehow the aloe vera causes skin cells to regenerate so rapidly. The new epidermal skin cells begin closing off the injured area. While the body will still produce a scab-like covering, it doesn’t have a thick, rough texture to it. Underneath the scab is healthy skin tissue, not Keratinized tissue or scar tissue.”
If there is one enduring lesson here, it is that health and healing are as much, or more, a personal responsibility and challenge than that of a self-serving healthcare system that scoffs at natural remedies and the healing potential of a plant such as aloe vera.