Q. I grew up in South Texas going to the family ranch with my father, who was an excellent self-taught botanist and biologist. He had learned a lot of folk medicine from his father’s Hispanic cowhands.
He taught me the value of aloe vera. During the 1980s oil boom my oldest son roughnecked for his college money. I was drinking coffee on my back porch at 4:30 one morning when my son drove up. He was holding up a bandaged thumb and his face had an ugly gray cast to it.
“Hurt my thumb hanging out a fluorescent light on the rig. It burst and cut me. The doctor gave me two shots for the pain, but I can’t sleep. My thumb is on fire. Can you help, mom?”
I pulled a big leaf off the aloe vera plant beside the porch, split it and applied the gel to the cut. My son looked at me in wonder. “It quit hurting, mom,” he gasped. Then he went straight to bed and slept with the big leaf held around his thumb until 6 that evening. Then he strolled into the kitchen with a fresh leaf on his thumb and asked, “what’s for supper?” He swears to this day that the aloe vera pulp completely stopped the terrible burning pain that the shots hadn’t helped in the least.
A. Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds, burns and other skin problems. Studies have not consistently demonstrated any benefit, but folk healers continue to believe in its value. Your son’s experience may not be scientific, but it certainly is convincing.