Aloe is a gel derived from the pulpy leaves of the aloe vera plant. For thousands of years, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), aloe has been used for treating wounds, infections and burns. The aloe vera plant is native to tropical and subtropical climates in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that aloe was one of the most frequently prescribed medications in the 18th and 19th centuries.
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Aloe vera is most popular for its ability to treat skin conditions. Most households have aloe, available over the counter, and commonly use it as a home remedy for dry skin and sunburns. While researchers at the NIH and other respected organizations have acknowledged the benefits of using aloe vera for minor skin problems, it may not suit everyone. Silver sulfadiazine, found in Silvadene, SSD Cream and Thermazene, is an antibacterial agent used topically to prevent and treat infections associated with burns.
The University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that topical aloe vera gel is used to improve the symptoms of genital herpes and psoriasis, a skin condition that causes scaly red patches to appear on all over, including the scalp, ears and genitalia. One-percent hydrocortisone cream can be used in place of aloe. There are dozens of over-the counter products containing hydrocortisone, including CortaGel, Cortaid and Cortizone. The NIH indicates that hydrocortisone provides temporary relief for skin irritations caused by soaps, cosmetics, insect bites and poison ivy, oak and sumac. It can help relieve itchiness in the anal area or on the scalp and can ease mouth-sore pain.
Aloe, when it contains the latex from the skin of the leaves, is known as a strong oral laxative. According to the University of Maryland, however, using aloe to treat constipation may not be for everyone. It is known to cause painful cramping and stomachaches. Instead, cascara and senna, which, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center are two herbs from the same plant family as aloe, are more mild treatments for intestinal problems. Products with cascara or senna include Ex-Lax, Gentle Nature and Dulcolax.
Coconut oil is extracted from the pulp of the coconut. Although it is most popular for its dietary benefits, it has a variety of dermatological benefits. A 2004 trial published in the journal “Dermatitis” studied coconut oil as a skin moisturizer, as a remedy for a condition that causes dry, rough, scaly skin and as an antiseptic. Comparing coconut oil to mineral oil, the researchers treated patients with a skin condition called xerosis twice a day for two weeks. Those treated with coconut oil trended toward better improvement. The authors of the report concluded that coconut oil is a safe and effective treatment for skin conditions.