Aloe Vera is my new go-to desert island must-have product. I had no idea there were so many health benefits until reading up on it recently. I was blown away by the long list of amazing benefits of using Aloe Vera for overall health and beautiful skin.
Here is a little bit of history about Aloe Vera, a wonder product used by many, dating back to over 6000 years ago!
Other names for the plant include Lily of the Desert, Plant of Immortality, Healing plant, Fountain of Youth and Burn plant.
Over 6000 years ago, stone carvings of the plant were displayed in tombs of the dead Pharaohs in Egypt. It was described as a plant of immortality.
There are at least 6 mentions of the plant in the Bible and Jesus was said to have been embalmed using aloe vera for preservation when he was buried.
The Indian Ayurvedic book Rigveda has a reference to Aloe Vera dating back to 5000BC.
Cleopatra used it in her famous beauty regime and Alexander the Great used it to treat soldiers wounds.
It is in fact the oldest known and most common medicinal plant.
Grown in Africa, South America, USA, Mexico, India and Australia, it has over 200 active ingredients that work together to provide a huge array of health benefits.
Traditionally it has been used in herbal remedies for its antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
The Aloe Plant –
Looks like a cactus style plant. The gel within the large leaves and also in the rind are used for their medicinal agents.
It grows in hot, dry, tropical and subtropical climates. Can grow between 2 and 3.5 foot on average.
Most Common Aloe Vera Uses –
Skincare. The Aloe vera extract is used for sunscreen, moisturizers, soap, makeup, cleansers and more.
Natural food flavoring and drinks. Aloe juice, tea and yoghurt are all beneficial to your health.
Sunburn relief and healing burns. Aloe vera gel has been reported to have a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin. It is soothing as an after-sun remedy.
Laxative. Anthraquinone in latex are a potent laxative. It increases intestinal water, stimulates mucus secretion and increases intestinal peristalsis.
Hair health. Aloe vera contains something called proteolytic enzymes which repairs dead skin cells on the scalp. It helps condition and soften hair and reduces dandruff. Leaves hair smooth and shiny.
Properties – Taken from the Indian Journal of Dermatology:
Vitamins: It contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, which are antioxidants. It also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline. Antioxidant neutralizes free radicals.
Enzymes: It contains 8 enzymes: aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase. Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically, while others help in the breakdown of sugars and fats.
Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. They are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways and few are antioxidants.
Sugars: It provides monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides: (glucomannans/polymannose). These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant and are known as mucopolysaccharides. The most prominent monosaccharide is mannose-6-phosphate, and the most common polysaccharides are called glucomannans [beta-(1,4)-acetylated mannan]. Acemannan, a prominent glucomannan has also been found. Recently, a glycoprotein with antiallergic properties, called alprogen and novel anti-inflammatory compound, C-glucosyl chromone, has been isolated from Aloe vera gel.
Anthraquinones: It provides 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials and antivirals.
Fatty acids: It provides 4 plant steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol also possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties.
Hormones: Auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.
Others: It provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. It also contains salicylic acid that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Lignin, an inert substance, when included in topical preparations, enhances penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin. Saponins that are the soapy substances form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.
Health Benefits –
There are over 500 varieties of Aloe but only 4 or 5 are used as medicinal. Aloe barbadensis miller is the most commonly used variation. Chock full of vitamins, minerals and glyconutrients it has an astounding number of health benefits.
Applied to wounds, burns or sunburn, the gel seals the wound or burn quickly against dirt and dust. It increases blood flow and protects against infection. Promotes fast healing and when applied to 3rd degree burns it restores the skin and doesn’t scar.
Anti-inflammatory. Reduces pain and inflammation of the joints and arthritis.
Reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Aloe vera makes blood thinner to flow freely and carry more oxygen and nutrients to the tissue and brain cells. This reduces blood pressure and helps reduce the possibility of heart attack and stroke.
Studies show aloe vera reduces kidney disease and decreases the possibility of lukemia, brain tumors and other types of cancer. Sodium nitrate is a carcinogen and often used in food preservation. The shelf life of food can be extended by applying a thin layer of aloe vera and has the same effect.
Slows down Alzheimer’s and improves memory, learning capacity and cognitive function.
Can help when consumed regularly against blood loss in an accident.
Aloe vera gel can cure gum disease when taken with a vitamin D supplement. The gel is swished around in the mouth and applied to the teeth and gums regularly.
Lengthens your life-span and reduces death rate according to a study done on rats.
Reduces cancer tumors when used in conjunction with honey. Aloe vera may reduce tumor mass and metastasis rate while honey may inhibit tumor growth according to cancer control research.
Heals Radiation burns. People who have chemotherapy, radiation, mammography or surgery for cancer should consume aloe vera and also apply it externally to improve their health. It reduces the damage by radiation, damage to germ cells and helps reduce weight loss.
Hair, skin and nails. Repairs collagen and elastin, full of vitamins and minerals, improves blood circulation and hydrates.
Drinking aloe vera helps reduce the effects of heartburn and relieves acid reflux.
Lowers cholesterol in people with high cholesterol.
Relieves digestive issues and disorders. Ulcers, bowel problems, Celiac and Crohn’s disease with regular consumption.
Helps Diabetics. Reduces fasting blood sugar levels and stabilizes overall blood sugar levels. Helps reduce numbness due to increased blood circulation. Can aid wound healing.
Aloe vera juice is great way to consume it as it can be added to juices, smoothies and water. It can also be drank as tea.
I read somewhere recently that it aids in weight loss too so I’m keen to see the results.
Note: I had to stop using Aloe vera juice when I got pregnant so do remember it is not recommended while pregnant as there are not enough studies to prove it is ok to use during pregnancy.
I started using Aloe vera juice a couple of years ago and love it. My skin has improved immensely as I had acne and I no longer see so many spots. Along with drinking the juice, I apply it topically with a cotton pad. It is kept in the fridge, for freshness as stated on the bottle, once opened. It has a lovely cooling effect on tired skin and is a great pick-me-up.
I recently got badly sunburnt on holidays as it didn’t seem sunny so silly me forgot my sunscreen apart from my face. I applied the Aloe vera that night and I’m sure it saved my skin. It was very soothing too so I recommend having the gel handy. Im going to start using it as a moisturizing face mask over the next few weeks so I will follow up as to how I get on.
Let me know if you try it out for yourself and stay tuned for my follow-up on the skincare and how it works for me!
Check out my face mask and eye gel post on Aloe vera