Aloe Vera is a plant that looks like a cactus, but is actually a member of the lily family. It grows in Africa, Asia and the warmer parts of America and Europe. The particular kind of Aloe Vera used for natural remedies has the Latin name Aloe barbadensis and its leaves contain a gel that is rich in therapeutic properties.
Aloe Vera has been used medicinally for over 6,000 years. The ancient Egyptians used it to heal battle wounds and cure infections. The early Greeks used it for relieving blisters, burns and leg ulcers as well as healing bowel and stomach disorders.
Today it is found in health products in the form of gels, juices and creams, and also as an ingredient in some cosmetic products.
How it Works
Aloe Vera contains 75 known ingredients including:
· All the vitamins (except Vitamin D).
· Enzymes that aid digestion and reduce inflammation.
· The minerals needed for the enzymes to function.
· Long-chain sugars that help to re-balance the digestive system.
· Saponins, which have an anti-microbial effect against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast.
· Twenty of the 22 amino acids (including seven out of the eight essential amino acids that can’t be produced by the body).
It’s thought that the synergistic effect of these ingredients is what gives Aloe Vera its power.
It is only recently that the scientific establishment has started to carry out proper studies of Aloe Vera but the results so far are encouraging. It appears to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and restorative properties. In one study it was found to have a beneficial effect in lowering the risk factors among patients with heart disease. Another study, started in 2005 at the University of
Strathclyde, is investigating the effects of Aloe Vera against super-bugs such as
MRSA, after finding that it has the ability to destroy bacteria such as
The Benefits of Aloe Vera
Small-scale studies and anecdotal evidence suggests that Aloe Vera may be beneficial in the following cases:
Applied as a cream for:
- Healing small cuts, insect stings, grazes and wounds.
- Healing and repairing skin tissue after burns, including sunburn.
- Healing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, general itching.
- Cosmetic uses such as moisturising and improving the elasticity of the skin.
Ingested as a gel/juice for:
- Digestive conditions such as IBS, peptic ulcers, acid reflux, Chron’s disease, candida etc.
- Musculo-skeletal conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, etc.
- Immune-related conditions such as asthma, hay fever and even ME.
- Overall protection (as an antioxidant) against free radicals.
How to Take Aloe Vera
You can grow your own Aloe Vera plant indoors and use it as a quick remedy for minor burns and grazes. Just break off a leaf and apply the gel directly.
If you are buying an Aloe Vera product, always purchase those made from 100% pure Aloe Vera. Look out for the International Aloe Science Council Seal of Approval as a guide.
Natural fruit flavourings may be added to Aloe Vera drinks to make them more palatable, but avoid those that contain artificial flavours and
colourings. Clear juices should be avoided as it means the pulp (containing much of the benefit) has been strained. Also avoid those products that use the whole plant, as the outer leaf contains a latex that has a strong laxative effect. If you experience side-effects, such as
diarrhoea, you should reduce your dose and consider switching products.
The words ‘gel’ and ‘juice’ are often used interchangeably, so some drinks can be described as gels. If taking Aloe Vera internally you would normally take between 2 fl oz (60ml) and 6 fl oz (180ml) per day depending on the acuteness of your condition. If you start out on a high dose you would expect to reduce to the lower doses by about six weeks.
To experience the full benefits of an Aloe Vera product it is often recommended that it is used regularly for a minimum period of three months.
[Please note that this does not constitute medical advice. If you suffer from a medical condition you should always seek the advice of a doctor or your chosen practitioner.]
Author Info: Penny Williams, DIP ION, MBANT, is a nutritional therapist helping women achieve health through nutrition. Her website is