Aloe Vera Aloe barbadensis
Most people are quite familiar with good old aloe vera and many astute people keep a plant in or two in their garden for emergency use. There are more than 300 species of aloe plant, but Aloe barbadensis aka aloe vera is best known and most prized in the health and beauty worlds for its internal and topical healing properties. The spiky succulent plant is native to dry regions and tropical climates in Africa, Asia, Europe and the southern and western parts of the United States.
Many centuries ago, people realised the plant had more to offer than its good looks. Today, the two key uses for aloe vera is for skin and digestive issues. Aloe is used topically (applied to the skin) and taken orally for help digestion. These days, aloe has an entire industry behind it. Its juice and leaf gel is used in cosmetics and personal-care products.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera has been known for its healing properties and medicinal uses for at least 6,000 years. In the early days, it was considered a “plant of immortality” and was apparently presented to Egyptian pharaohs as a funeral gift. Over time, groups from many geographical areas have used aloe vera, including people of India, China, Mexico, and North America. Aloe plants, which go by a few common names such as “burn plant,” “lily of the desert,” and “elephant’s gall” have been used traditionally to treat wounds, hair loss, haemorrhoids and digestive issues.
A skin loving succulent
Aloe vera is very useful for topical applications including to treat acne, lichen planus (a very itchy rash on the skin or in the mouth), oral submucous fibrosis, burning mouth syndrome, burns and radiation-induced skin toxicity. It beautifully moisturises the skin, supports efforts to avoid premature ageing and lightens blemishes on the face. Aloe Vera gel has cooling and anti-inflammatory properties with good antibacterial properties and promotes wound healing, which makes it very helpful soothe sunburn. A study found that healing times for patients who applied aloe vera to their burns was significantly shorter than in the control group.
Aloe vera can be used as a facemask for more inflamed or irritated skin, such as psoriasis or eczema. Researchers found that the plant had the ability to inhibit prostaglandin E2 production. These are lipids that not only play a role in the inflammatory process but also are active in the sebaceous glands, possibly contributing to inflammatory skin conditions. Aloe vera gel is safe and soothing for dry and inflamed skin around the sensitive vaginal area.
Straight from the plant
Yes, you can use aloe vera topically straight from the plant, nature has made an instant salve ready for us to use. Simply break off the leaf and squeeze out the gel. The fleshy leaves are filled with a clear gel, which is extracted from the plant and usually used in different aloe vera preparations.
Aloe vera can be useful for individuals with constipation, including those dealing with this symptom in IBS. This is because of aloe vera’s laxative effect and its ability to increase water in the intestinal lumen. This is due to the yellow pulp that’s found just under the outer surface of the plant leaf called aloe latex Aloe latex. It contains aloin, an anthraquinone that gives the plant its laxative properties.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antioxidant and anti-ulcer properties making it an excellent addition to gut blends to protect the stomach lining and treat irritable bowel syndrome. Aloe vera extract has therapeutic benefits for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and studies reveal a decrease in symptoms such as heartburn, belching, and vomiting over a four-week period.
The latest trend is aloe vera beverages that are made simply by extracting the aloe vera gel from the leaves and mixing it with water. Aloe vera on its own has a bitter taste, so some brands will add flavour or sweeteners to the bottle to counteract this. Of course we know better, that the bitter principle is responsible for much of its digestive properties. Take a look at the bottle’s ingredients to make sure it’s not loaded with added sugar and preservatives.
Other interesting prospects for aloe vera
Research has demonstrated how taking aloe vera juice every day for two weeks lowered blood sugar levels among people with type 2 diabetes. Triglyceride levels of the study participants also improved which could be an additional benefit for those with diabetes; who have an increased risk of heart disease, which is linked to triglyceride and cholesterol abnormalities. A more recent study suggests people with prediabetes may see similar effects on their blood sugar and lipids from aloe vera.
There is some research showing that aloe can speed up metabolism, which in turn would help burn more calories throughout the day and potentially lead to weight loss. It is thought this is because aloe increased energy expenditure.
Studies found that people with untreated diabetes or obese prediabetes who took aloe vera gel reduced their body weight, insulin resistance and body fat mass.