What Is Aloe Vera?
This naturally occurring plant has polysaccharides, amino acids, vitamins and lipids in a gel that's 99 percent water. In all, aloe vera contains over 75 ingredients, including vitamin B-12, folic acid, enzymes, minerals, sugars and fatty acids. These ingredients are the active agents that give the plant its healing properties. A green succulent shrub, aloe vera has fleshy spikes with serrated edges, yellow flowers and fruits that are full of seeds. The spikes, or leaves, of the plant are the part that's used for medicinal purposes.
Method of Use
Most aloe vera remedies use the gel inside the spiky leaves, but some products are made by crushing the entire leaf. All of those vitamins, minerals, lipids and enzymes are the active ingredients that provide relief from various ailments. Most people use aloe vera gel for relief from sunburn by spreading it over the skin. The best form of aloe gel is the actual gel inside the leaves, and you can keep a healthy aloe vera plant around for that purpose. If you use a prepared gel, just do the research, and make sure enough of the plant is used to provide the compounds that do the healing.
These are some of the uses of aloe vera that have been supported by scientific studies:
- Relieves skin irritation, including sunburn pain.
- Speeds healing of burns.
- Reduces inflammation of cold sores.
- Relieves constipation and helps digestion.
- Regulates blood sugar.
Aloe vera alleviates pain and promotes healing in skin rashes, burns and scrapes because it's full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Free radicals can do damage to the body, and antioxidants halt the inflammation they cause. The vitamins and minerals in the gel give the body what it needs to promote healing, and aloe's antiseptic properties fight bacteria and viruses. Having all of these healing properties in a gel that soothes as it clings to the affected skin is truly a gift from nature.
Taking aloe vera internally can help with constipation and digestive inflammation. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it also helps relieve pain in the joints and muscles. Inflammation is one of the chief causes of illness, so taking aloe vera by mouth can theoretically help with many more health issues than these. Some diabetics believe it helps regulate their blood sugar, and there's evidence to bolster that claim.
For internal applications of aloe vera, the two options are taking aloe vera extracts or drinking the juice. The juice of the plant is used to treat asthma, arthritis pain, ulcers and intestinal inflammation, and as a general health tonic. These conditions are treated with juice made from the gel inside the leaves, and constipation is treated with juice made from the entire spike. The latex in the skin of the leaves is the active ingredient that helps with the latter.
Aloe vera extracts are added to cosmetics and beverages as a selling point. However, using them is not as beneficial as applying or ingesting gel directly from the leaves of the plant. Aloe vera powder is made by freeze-drying the leaves and grinding them into powder. The main safety issue is making sure that only the inner gel is used in products that you ingest, since regularly imbibing the latex from the outer part of the leaf can deplete your potassium stores. Cold pressing of the aloe vera plant leaves the most vitamins and minerals intact. Some products pasteurize the gel, but the extent of vitamin and mineral loss due to heat is unknown.
Home Recipes for Aloe Vera
- 2 tbsp. gel from inner aloe vera leaf
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1 drop lavender essential oil
Blend the ingredients together until they form a paste, then rub gently in a circular motion all over your face and throat. Rinse with warm water.
- 1/4 cup fresh aloe vera gel
- 1 1/2 cups frozen fruit
- 1 tbsp. honey
- Sprig of mint
Blend on high speed just until smooth, then pour into a tall glass.
A Proven Health Booster
Aloe vera gel is a natural substance that can provide relief for a variety of skin ailments from sunburn to psoriasis, and it helps burns heal as well. Not everyone is aware of the internal benefits you get from drinking the juice of the gel inside the spiky leaves, though. Drinking aloe vera juice occasionally is like taking a health tonic, and the juice is known to have a positive effect on the digestive system. The best thing about this natural health aid is that you can grow it in your own home!