Aloe vera is an ingredient in many natural remedies, from soothing gels for sunburn to face masks to internal supplements. It has been used to treat skin issues, digestive problems and even to promote hair growth! What is an aloe vera plant, where does it come from, and what makes it so popular?
What is an Aloe Vera Plant?
Aloe vera (botanically known as Aloe barbadensis) is a spiky succulent plant that grows naturally in many tropical, dry climates throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Southern and Western portion of the United States. Although it thrives in desert climates, the aloe vera plant can easily be grown and taken care of right in your own home!
Aloe vera has been referred to as the ‘plant of immortality’, and its medicinal uses have been known for over 6,000 years. In Ancient Egypt, the aloe plant was given to pharaohs as a funeral gift. Throughout history, aloe has been used for many different uses including treatment for hair loss, wounds, hemorrhoids and as a laxative.1
Aloe gel, Aloe Juice, and Aloe Latex
Two different parts of the aloe plant are used for medicinal purposes: aloe gel and aloe latex. Aloe gel comes from the inside of the leaves of the aloe plant and is often used topically to treat burns and other skin conditions such as cuts, scrapes, dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and more.
Aloe juice can come from either the whole leaf or just the inner portion but is specifically processed to remove any compounds that could irritate the digestive system. Aloe juice is often taken internally and is used to reduce inflammation, relieve indigestion, balance acid in the stomach, and generally promote proper digestion. When taking aloe juice, many people look for juice that is derived from the inside of the leaf only, since the outer part of the leaf contains a bitter liquid that is a potent laxative. Aloe-based drinks are usually mixed with either juice or water to create a more liquid consistency.
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Aloe latex is the name of the sticky yellow substance that is found right under the skin of the leaf. This is the part of the aloe plant that is a potent laxative (due to the presence of aloin), and should only be taken orally to treat constipation.2
Healing Properties of Aloe
Aloe can be used both topically and internally to treat a variety of conditions. There are over 300 different species of the aloe vera plant, but only Aloe barbadensis is known for its healing properties. If you’re growing your own aloe for medicinal use, be sure you’re growing the correct species!
Boosts the Immune System
Aloe vera contains long-chain polysaccharide sugars, which are a beneficial type of sugar that help white blood cells function more efficiently. These sugars are the same ones that are present in medicinal mushrooms! White blood cell function is essential for the immune system and can help our body fight off many different types of infections.
Aloe also contains glutathione, which is a potent antioxidant that can help keep energy levels high. Glutathione also aids in the development of white blood cells and can prevent cellular damage.3
Heals Skin Problems
Aloe vera is a common ingredient in many beauty and skin care products, and for good reason. Do you remember being slathered with aloe vera gel after a long day in the sun as a child? The soothing, cooling effects of aloe are wonderful to use on broken, cut, or burned skin, and can also help heal difficult skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Aloe’s antibacterial and astringent properties make it especially effective against acne when used topically.
Aloe vera gel is gentle enough that it can be rubbed directly on problem skin without fear of irritation. It can help reduce redness, heal skin issues and reduce inflammation, which is why it is commonly found in many natural toners, moisturizers, masks, and cleansers.
A review of studies conducted on the efficacy of aloe vera used for burn wound healing was conducted in 2007. The meta-analysis of four different studies (consisting of 371 volunteers) found that those who used aloe vera on burn wounds healed approximately 9 days faster than those who didn’t.4
Soothes Digestive Issues
When taken internally, aloe vera can help reduce inflammation and treat constipation. Because aloe latex is a potent laxative, it should only be taken moderately and with caution. Aloe-based drinks, however, don’t contain aloe latex, so they can be ingested without cause for alarm.
Aloe is also thought to be effective as a diuretic. In traditional Chinese medicine, aloe is used internally to treat parasitic infections such as ringworm.
Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Since it has the ability to lower blood sugar levels, aloe vera has been used as a traditional remedy for diabetes. In a 1996 study published in Phytomedicine, a two-week study tested the effects of aloe vera juice on diabetic patients. In the study, volunteers were given one tablespoon of aloe vera juice a day. The results showed that those who were treated with aloe vera showed lower levels of both blood sugar and triglycerides.5
Aloe vera is a soothing natural remedy for many skin disorders and can be used without fear of irritation on sensitive skin. Allergic reactions have been known to happen in those who are allergic to anthraquinones (such as aloin), so it is recommended to conduct a patch test before widespread use. Aloe-based drinks are safe for daily use, but aloe latex supplements should only be used in cases of constipation. Since aloe is known to decrease blood sugar levels, it should not be taken internally by those who are taking medication for diabetes.6
Aloe vera is a very easy plant to grow and take care of in your own home. The best aloe gel is fresh from the plant! To treat minor scrapes and burns or moisturize your skin, simply break off a leaf of the plant as close to the stem as possible. Trim off the end, and slide a knife between the layer of skin and the gel to open. You can then apply the gel directly to any problem areas on your skin, or add to a juice or smoothie for internal benefits!
Aloe vera presents these widespread natural remedies for a variety of conditions from health to simple comfort. You can pair the benefits of this powerful herb to those of essential oils that also provide numerous natural remedies to the mind and body. Try out our Healthy blend for a breath of natural wellness.
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