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Did you know that the manufacturing of aloe vera extracts is one of the largest botanical industries in the world? In the U.S., it has found widespread use in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. If you walk down the health and beauty isles of your local grocery store, you’ll likely see multiple products made with aloe vera. But this well-known plant has a long history of medicinal use.
In traditional Indian medicine, aloe vera is used for constipation, skin diseases, worm infestation, infections and as a natural remedy for colic. And in Chinese medicine, it’s often recommended in the treatment of fungal diseases.
In 1820, the U.S. Pharmacopoeia listed a purgative and skin protectant, and in the 1930s, it was used for the treatment of burns to the skin and mucous membranes. A range of products, including makeup, soaps, sunscreens, incense, shaving cream, shampoos, tissues and moisturizers, are commonly added to by cosmetic companies with the addition of sap or other derivatives from aloe Vera. The plant is used as an ingredient in yogurts, beverages and desserts.
Most people know that the plant has some benefits, but may not fully understand its potential as a therapeutic tool for the treatment of issues affecting your skin, digestion, immunity, and more.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is one of approximately 420 species of the genus Aloe. The botanical name of aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis miller, and it belongs to the Liliaceae family. It’s a perennial, xerophytic, succulent plant that’s green and has triangular, fleshy leaves with serrated edges.
The Mediterranean region and most other warm areas of the world, including Africa, Asia, India, Europe and America, are believed to have been where the geographic origin of the plant was.
There is a clear substance found in the inner part of the aloe plant. The latex is yellow in color and comes from under the plant’s skin. Some products made from the whole crushed leaf contain both gel and latex.
Most people use aloe gel as a remedy for skin conditions, including burns, sunburn, frostbite, psoriasis and cold sores, but there’s a host of other aloe vera benefits. And aloe latex is used to improve depression, constipation, asthma and diabetes.
Aloe vera is considered to be the most biologically active of the Aloe species; astonishingly, more than 75 potentially active components have been identified in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, saccharides, amino acids, anthraquinones, enzymes, lignin, saponins and salicylic acids. It provides 20 of the 22 human-required amino acids and eight of the nine essential amino acids.
Aloe vera contains many vitamins and minerals that are vital for proper growth and function of all body systems. Here’s an easy explanation of aloe vera’s active components:
- Aloe vera contains antioxidant vitamins A, C and E — plus vitamin B12, folic acid and choline.
- There are eight enzymes in it, including aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, catalase, cellulase, lipase and peroxidase.
- The minerals present include calcium, copper, selenium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc.
- It gives 12 anthraquinones, which are known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials, and antivirals.
- Four fatty acids are present, including cholesterol, campesterol, beta-sisosterol and lupeol — all providing anti-inflammatory results.
- The hormones auxins and gibberellins help with healing wounds and have anti- inflammatory properties.
- There are sugars in the form of monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides.
1. Soothes Rashes and Skin Irritations
There have been numerous reports that have explored the role of topical aloe vera administration in skin conditions and wound healing management, including the treatment of psoriasis, dermatitis, oral mucositis, surgical wounds and as a home remedy for burn injuries.
In 1935, the first study of this kind was done. Rapid relief from the itching and burning associated with severe radiation dermatitis was reported to be provided by the use of the extract of the Aloe Vera plant.
60 patients with chronic Psoriasis were included in a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of either placebo or aloe Vera in 1996 at the Department of Clinical Physiology in Sweden. The cure rate in the group was 83 percent, compared to 7 percent in the placebo group, and there were no reported relapses at the 12-month follow-up.
In 2009, a systematic review summarized 40 studies that involved using aloe vera for dermatological purposes. The results suggest that oral administration of aloe vera in mice works effectively to heal wounds, can decrease the number and size of papillomas (small growths on the skin), and reduce the incidence of tumors by more than 90 percent in the liver, spleen and bone marrow.
The studies also showed that aloe vera effectively treats genital herpes, psoriasis, dermatitis, frostbite, burns and inflammation. It can be used safely as an antifungal and antimicrobial agent.
2. Soothes Burns
There is a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin with the help of a gel made from a plant. With the threat of nuclear warfare always looming, the U.S. government conducted research on the ability ofAloe Vera to treat thermal and radiation burns with the aim of introducing its use into the military.
By 1959, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of ointments made with aloe vera as an over-the-counter medication for healing burns on the skin. When aloe vera gel is used on burns, it prevents UV-induced suppression so the area can heal at a faster rate.
3. Heals Cold Sores
Research published in the Journal of Dentistry shows that when aloe vera gel is applied to a cold sore a few times a day, it helps to ease the discomfort and speed up the healing process. It’s also safe when consumed by mouth, so there is no need to worry about swallowing this natural treatment.
Cold sores and any sores on the mouth can be healed with the help of the antiviral and anti- inflammatory properties of theAloe Vera.
The amino acids and vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin C are also extremely helpful. One of the vitamin B6 benefits, for example, is its ability to act as a natural pain treatment and create antibodies that our immune system uses to protect us.
4. Moisturizes Hair and Scalp
Aloe vera is a great natural treatment for dry hair or an itchy scalp. It has nourishing properties, and the vitamins and minerals that are present in the plant keep your hair strong and healthy. Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, it also helps with dandruff, and the gel’s enzymes can rid the scalp of dead cells and promote the regeneration of skin tissue around the hair follicles.
It’s possible to stop the itching associated with a dried scalp with the help of a bit of a miracle. Too many shampoos and conditioners are full of chemicals that damage hair and can cause inflammation and skin irritations, and adding the anti-bacteria and anti-itching properties of aloe Vera is an effective way to keep your skin and hair free of irritations.
5. Treats Constipation
The use of latex as a laxative is well-researched. The anthraquinones present in the latex create a potent laxative that increases the amount of water in the chyme, stimulates mucus production, and increases the number of peristalsis, which are contractions that break down food and mix the chyme.
In a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial of 28 healthy adults, aloe vera latex was reported to have a laxative effect compared to a placebo that was stronger than the stimulant laxative phenolphthalein — making aloe vera a natural constipation relief remedy.
6. Helps with Digestion
Because of its anti-inflammatory and laxative components, another aloe vera benefit is its ability to help with digestion. Juice from the plant helps digestion, normalizes acid/alkaline and pH balance, lessens yeast formation, encourages digestive bacteria and regularizes bowel processing.
One study reported in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that 30 milliliters of aloe vera juice twice a day decreased the level of discomfort in 33 patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Flatulence also decreased for the participants, but stool consistence, urgency and frequency remained the same. Although the study suggests that the juice can be beneficial to people with IBS, more data is needed to conclude that it can be used as an effective treatment.
Another study from the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine tested aloe vera on a group of rats with gastrointestinal problems. The gastric acid levels were significantly decreased in rats treated with the plant. The study also measured the gut-brain connection and reported data on the water content found in the brains of the rats with aloe vera treatment. The water content in the treated rats was reduced, which suggests that the brain influences the gut and gastrointestinal problems.
Aloe vera juice has also been used to soothe and heal stomach ulcers because it has antibacterial agents and natural healing properties that can restore the stomach lining back to health.
Related: Aloe Vera Juice: The Gut-Friendly, Detoxifying Drink
7. Boosts the Immune System
The enzymes present in aloe vera break down the proteins that we eat into amino acids and turn the enzymes into fuel for every cell in the body, which enables the cells to function properly. The bradykinase in aloe vera stimulates the immune system and kills infections. Zinc is also an important component in this beneficial plant — making it a great natural tool for combating zinc deficiency.
The immune function is dependent on zinc. It helps us ward off diseases, killbacteria, and protect the function of our cell membranes.
A 2014 report points out that aloe vera is being studied for its uses in dentistry; this is because it has proved to be be an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal plant, and it’s very good in building up the immune system without causing allergic reactions or side effects. It’s gaining popularity because it’s completely natural — and it’s being called a miracle plant.
8. Provides Antioxidants and Reduces Inflammation
We know that inflammation is at the root of most diseases. Aloe vera provides an amazing number of vitamins and minerals that help reduce inflammation and fight free radical damage.
Vitamin A, for instance, plays a critical role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function and healthy skin because it’s an antioxidant that reduces inflammation. Vitamin C is another important component found in aloe vera; it protects the body from cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease and even skin wrinkling. Vitamin E benefits include being a powerful antioxidant that reduces free radical damage, fights inflammation and helps naturally slow the aging of cells.
These antioxidant properties are also helpful when you’re exposed to cigarette smoke or UV rays from sunlight — they protect the skin from skin cancer and fight skin inflammation after exposure to the sun. Aloe vera can also naturally treat acne and eczema since it helps the healing process in the skin. Bradykinase, also present in aloe vera, helps reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically.
9. Treats Diabetes
There is evidence that shows that the chronic hyperglycemia and perturbedlipid profile that are common among people with diabetes and are major risk factors for cardiovascular complications can be alleviated with the use of the plant, known as aloe Vera.
In two related clinical trials, 72 diabetic women without drug therapy were administered one tablespoon of aloe vera gel or a placebo for six weeks. Blood glucose and serum triglyceride levels were significantly decreased with aloe vera treatment.
In the second trial, the effects of placebo and glibenclamide in combination resulted in significant reductions in blood sugar and triglyceride concentrations in the aloe vera group.
Aloe Vera Products and How to Find
It is easy to find the products you are looking for in your local health food store. You will want to choose a product that is made by a company that has a track record of producing high quality products that don’t affect the plant’s therapeutic properties.
The number and amount of active ingredients in a product can be affected by the processing method. The commercial production process ofAloe Vera products typically involves crushing, grinding, pressing, and drying the whole leaf to produce juice, followed by various steps of purification and stabilization to achieve the desired extract. It can result in a product with little or no active ingredients, even if it is easier for the manufacturers.
In order to stop the misrepresentations in the industry, and the false idea that all aloe vera products produce the same benefits, the International Aloe Science Council developed a new method. Look for the important certification on the labels when you are looking to purchase the product.
If you buy a potted plant, keep it in a window that gets a good amount of sun, and the pot can even be moved outdoors during the summer.
It needs to be watered at least two or three times a month, because it stores a lot of water within its leaves. During the winter time, you should water the plant very little because it becomes dormant. Having your own plant is an easy and inexpensive way to experience all of the amazing benefits of the plant.
The recommended doses are based on scientific research and publications. Before using a product, make sure to read the label and inform your doctor if you experience any side effects.
- Take 100–200 milligrams of the plant daily for snoozing.
- Three times daily is enough for wound healing and other skin infections with 0.25 percent aloe extract cream.
- For dental plaque and gum disease, use a toothpaste that contains aloe vera for 24 weeks, or add a teaspoon of aloe vera gel to this Homemade Mineralizing Toothpaste.
- For high cholesterol, take one capsule of aloe vera twice a day for two months.
- If you have inflammatory bowel disease, take 100 liters of juice or drink twice a day for four weeks.
- If you have a skin burn, use a 97.5 percent aloe gel.
- For dry scalp or dandruff, add a teaspoon of aloe gel to this Homemade Honey Citrus Shampoo.
- To protect your skin from infection and bacteria, add a teaspoon of aloe gel to this Homemade Body Butter Lotion.
Risks and Side Effects
Aloe latex should not be taken in high doses because it may cause adverse side effects, such as stomach pain and cramps. Long-term use of large amounts of aloe latex might also cause diarrhea, kidney problems, blood in the urine, low potassium, muscle weakness, weight loss and heart issues.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding, don’t take the gel or latex. Children younger than 12 years old may experience abdominal pain, and I don’t recommend using it for child use.
- If you have diabetes, some research suggests that if you take it by mouth, it might lower your blood sugar.
- If you have any of the following conditions, don’t take the latex because it’s a irritant.
- If you have hemorrhoids, don’t take latex if you have it.
- If you have a serious problem with your kidneys, don’t take high amounts of the latex.
- During and after surgery, a lot of blood sugar levels can be affected by the presence of a substance called a lyme. It’s best to stop taking it at least two weeks before the surgery.
- If you take digoxin, don’t use aloe latex because it can increase the risk of side effects, and it works as a senhancer and decreases the amount of potassium in the body.
If you take any of the following medications, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.
- Diabetes medications
- Sevoflurane (Ultane)
- Stimulant laxatives
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Water pills are dehydration medications.
- The Liliaceae family includes the perennial plant, Aloe Vera.
- The latex is obtained from the cells just beneath the leaf’s skin, while the gel is obtained from the cells in the center of the leaf.
- There are more than 75 potentially active components in the juice of Aloe Vera. The components that give aloe’s therapeutic potential are those that are made of sugar. The plant can be used for burns, wounds, scuplture, skin and hair health, and inflammatory issues.
- Many grocery and health food stores have a variety of products with the word “alae” in them. It is important to choose a product that is made by a company that knows how to extract and process plants to ensure that their beneficial properties are not reduced.
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