Aloe Vera Summary
- Packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and antimicrobials.
- Can improve many skin issues including acne, psoriasis, and burns, and improves the appearance of wrinkles and aging.
- Consuming it may be beneficial for individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes.
- Studies show it’s a better mouthwash than most commercial brands.
- One of the most important plants for healing inflammation in the gut and improving digestion.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera has been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years with it’s healing properties understood by more than one civilization. Evidence of its use can be found in Ancient Greek culture, amongst the Egyptians, in India, Mexico, Japan, and China (4). The name Aloe comes from the Arabic word Alloeh, which literally means “shining bitter substance”, while vera in Latin means “true”. Its botanical name is Aloe Barbadensis, and the plant belongs to the Aloaceae family (2).Itis a cactus-like plant that stores water in its leaves. It is found growing in hot climates, where it has access to ample sun, and dry, warm conditions. The diversity of this plant has meant its uses have been passed down through generations, and it still holds a steady place in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries today. The aloe vera plant’s outstanding characteristic is its triangular fleshy leaves with serrated edges, each filled with a clear gel and a layer of yellow latex.
The gel and the latex are the most commonly used parts of the plant, although they both have different health benefits. The gel can be taken both orally, or applied to the skin. The gel is 99% water, while the other 1% is made up of glucomannans (water soluble fiber), amino acids (protein), lipids (healthy fats), sterols and vitamins. The variety of scientifically proven benefits of aloe vera has secured its place as one of the leading medicinal plants. We are accustomed to seeing its name on various ointments, gels, creams, juices, lotions and supplements. Aloe vera is an excellent example of the relationship between tradition, science, and nature, as its uses have been explored, tried and tested for millennia all the way up to the present day (1).
Health Benefits Of Aloe
Both the gel and the latex contain a high number of antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals. It has an outer layer that is 15 cells thick, which in many ways is the most crucial part of the plant. This is where the synthesis of all 75 nutrients in the plant happens. The gel inside the leaf contains a variety of vitamins, including; Vitamin A, C, and E. These vitamins are all antioxidants, and work towards keeping the body healthy and strong by defending it against oxidative stress. It also contains many forms of Vitamin B and folic acid, and is one of the only plant sources of B12! In addition, it is a powerhouse of minerals containing calcium, copper, chromium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese. These minerals are used for many important functions such as maintaining a healthy heart rate and pH balance, building strong bones, moderating fluid balance, and sending impulses through nerves (1).
As mentioned before, aloe gel is 99% water, making it a great way to stay hydrated and support the kidneys and liver. Aloe vera consumption can also help to balance pH levels by creating a more alkaline environment. This is very important these days, because many of the foods being overly consumed are leading to too much acidity in the body, and the development of chronic diseases. The gel is also home to many anti-inflammatories, and hormones and enzymes, including the enzyme Bradykinase. This enzyme is known for its ability to actively reduce skin inflammation, and is therefore one of the most important constituents on the plant. The combination of these properties work towards accelerating healing time and increasing overall health. Aloe also possesses antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal actions which help the body defend itself from infection and maintain a healthy gut microbiome (1).
How Aloe Benefits Your Skin
- Research suggests that the application of aloe vera gel twice a day (morning and evening) to the affected area, can improve symptoms of acne in both children and adults.
- Applying aloe gel to burns (from the sun or other forms of heat) improves burning healing time. Some research shows aloe vera gel is just as affective as antibiotics in this area (7).
- Evidence has shown that applying a cream containing an aloe extract three times a day improves healing time of genital herpes (1).
- Aloe vera has beneficial effects for both rashes on the skin and inside the mouth.
- Applying a cream containing aloe vera extract has proven to be more effective at reducing psoriasis than antibiotic creams (10).
- In one study, after the consumption of aloe juice the visible appearance of wrinkles was reduced, and skin elasticity was improved in women over the age of 45. This was due in part to the increase in collagen production (9).
Blood Sugar Regulation
Research shows that taking aloe vera orally can significantly reduce blood sugar and HbA1c in people with type 2 diabetes. This is due to the fact that aloe contains properties that help improve insulin sensitivity. However, more research is needed in this area (6).
Improving The Health Of Teeth & Gums
Recently, aloe vera has gained popularity as an active aid in tooth and gum health. Some research suggests that is as effective as fight cavities as popular toothpaste brands. Aloe vera tooth gel has also been proven to be effective in controlling bacteria and removing harmful microorganisms. This is due to compounds called anthraquinones, which are highly anti-inflammatory. Aloe Vera gel also does not include the harsh abrasives found in most well-known brand toothpastes, making it less harsh on teeth, and a better option for those with sensitivity. You can even make your own natural mouthwash using aloe vera gel and coconut oil!
In addition, there are a few research studies that have shown that an aloe vera mouthwash was just as effective at fighting plaque as commercial mouthwash brands. It is believed that it accomplishes this in part by its ability to kill the plaque-inducing bacteria Streptococcus mutans, and the Candida albicans yeast (8). Supporting the health of the mouth is very crucial in supporting the health of the gut. The mouth is the start of the digestive system, and imbalances seen in the gums can result in infections in the intestines.
Aloe vera juice has made its way onto the shelves of most health food stores. It is increasingly appearing in smoothies, juices and supplements. The juice is made by crushing or grinding the entire leaf of the aloe plant, and then purifying and filtering the liquid. Aloe as an edible/drinkable snack is very beneficial for the gut. When applied to the skin, aloe vera has a healing, soothing effect, and the same goes for internal irritation. Aloe can benefit a range of digestive disorders, including leaky gut syndrome, IBS, acid reflux, constipation, and IBD.
- Constipation– The oral consumption of aloe latex can reduce constipation, but must be used with caution because it is a very potent laxative. Too much will cause digestive distress, cramping, and severe diarrhea.
- Healthy Digestion– All the enzymes in aloe vera make it excellent in aiding the breakdown of sugars and fats, keeping the digestion running smoothly. Aloe vera also helps to decrease irritation in the stomach and intestines, even reducing symptoms of IBS.
- Heartburn– In the botanical world, Aloe is considered a demulcent. A demulcent is a mucilaginous (thick and slimy) herb used to soothe and heal irritated, raw, inflamed tissues. When you are suffering from heartburn or acid reflux then you likely experience a sensation of hot burning pain. This usually sends most people to their cabinet for TUMS, or to the doctor for an acid-blocking medication. Most physicians scare patients into believing that their heartburn can lead to esophageal cancer if left untreated thus convincing them that medications are the best answer. What they don’t tell you is that the side effects of these acid-blocking medications include malnutrition due to poor digestion and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Therefore, if you suffer from heartburn, you should always make sure that you have some aloe in your fridge. Lily of the Desert is an excellent brand of therapeutic aloe juice that is organic. Drinking a couple of ounces of it when you experience heartburn will provide a cooling soothing sensation. Just make sure you look for aloe that is the inner filet only. This way you are just getting the demulcent effects of the inner leaf, and not the laxative effects of the latex.
Where To Get Aloe Vera
When you are considering buying an aloe vera product, make sure you always opt for the organic option. Aloe vera gels and creams can be found in most alternative medicine stores, as well as in well-known pharmacies. The best places to purchase are local, healthy food stores such as Whole Foods, Jimbos, Sprouts, and Frazier Farms. Amazon is another way of finding many options as well.
The great thing about aloe vera is that it can also be easily grown at home. Aloes prefer warm, dry conditions, just like a cactus. If you live in a warmer climate, you can plant the aloe vera outside in an area of the garden that gets a lot of sunlight. If you live in colder environments, you can easily grow an aloe indoors. A potted aloe needs to be placed in cactus potting soil mix, or regular potting soil amended with building sand. The pot needs to have plenty of drainage as your aloe will not thrive in standing water; when the plant is watered the soil should be fully drenched but able to drain easily. The aloe needs lots of bright light, so choose an area of your house that gets the most natural light. Aloes do not usually need to be fertilized, and only need to be watered about once every three weeks, or even longer during colder weather. Looking after an aloe is easy, and will provide you and your family with natural remedies for both external and internal ailments.
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