There’s no doubt that aloe vera is one of the most powerful and popular medicinal plants. The cacti-like plant has been used medicinally for centuries. Aloe vera, which originated in East Africa and the Mediterranean region, grows in dry climates such as those found in Africa and India. The ancient Egyptians called it the ‘plant of immortality’ and presented it as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. In Sanskrit, Aloe vera is called ‘kumari’ which means ‘princesses.
When ingested, it has been known to aid in weight loss, reinforce the immune system, improve blood circulation, combat constipation and lower cholesterol levels. Aloe vera contains Vitamins A, B12, C and E, all of which are powerful antioxidants that can protect you from free radicals responsible for ageing and causing cancer. Aloe vera gel is packed with minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, chromium, sodium, copper, zinc and selenium. The plant also contains 20 amino acids, including seven out of the eight essential ones.
Aloe vera can also be applied to the skin to treat burns and acne and on hair to keep it lustrously moisturized. You can find Aloe vera extracts in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks.
Despite its plethora of health benefits, there are some concerns that Aloe vera might be toxic. In a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program, rats given whole-leaf Aloe vera extract had “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity”. However, it is not clear if these findings are relevant to humans.
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center warns that drinking Aloe vera can cause adverse effects such as diarrhoea because it contains a substance called anthraquinonoid, which is a laxative. Diarrhoea can lead to a decrease in absorption of minerals, vitamins and drugs.
Natural detox and laxative: Full of amino acids, vitamins and minerals, Aloe vera is one of the nature’s best cleansers. It’s a natural laxative which has been used for centuries to treat constipation. The key compound responsible for the laxative effect of Aloe vera is called aloin.
Aloe For Beauty:
The beauty industry can’t get enough of the wonderful benefits of Aloe vera on the skin. The vitamins in Aloe vera nourish skin and protect it from ageing – both, when taken internally or applied topically. Aloe vera is recommended by dermatologists to remove tan, treat sunburn and acne, and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Aloe has several anti-inflammatory compounds, including salicylic acid, C-glucosyl chromone and an enzyme called bradykinin. Aloe vera also prevents inflammation by reducing the production of acid in the body. A 2004 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that consuming Aloe might be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Another study from the same publication found that Aloe can also be helpful in mild to moderate cases of ulcerative colitis.
Prevents And Treats Diabetes:
Aloe vera has a strong hypoglycemic ability and is beneficial for patients diagnosed with both diabetes type 1 and 2. Various studies have shown that Aloe supplements significantly reduce patient’s glucose levels.
Aids Weight Loss:
Aloe vera is a great weight loss supplement. Thanks to its detoxifying effects, Aloe vera can maximize the effectiveness of your diet. It can also boost metabolism, which in turn helps get rid of excess fat.
Aloe For Hair:
Aloe vera contains proteolytic enzymes which repair dead skin cells on the scalp. It also acts as a great conditioner and leaves hair all smooth and shiny. It promotes hair growth, prevents itchy scalp, reduces dandruff and conditions the hair.
Aloe vera can have adverse interactions with prescription and OTC drugs. For example, it can increase blood-sugar-lowering effects of diabetes medication. If you are on any medication, it’s safer to keep away from Aloe vera. Alternatively, talk with your doctor to find out if you can take it safely.
Aloe Vera And Other Herbs
Aloe combines well with other medicinal herbs like turmeric and ginger (for treating gastrointestinal problems and boosting the immune system), Spirulina and Chlorella (for detoxing), Acai berry and Goji berry (for anti-ageing benefits) and Ginseng and Maca (for stimulating the immune system).
Aloe vera plant gel comes from the innermost layer of the leaf. This is the safe and beneficial part of the plant to consume. Stay away from its skin and the yellow layer beneath it, they might be toxic. Don’t take Aloe vera if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s also not safe for children under 12. You can mix Aloe vera with juices and smoothies to make it more palatable. Aloe vera can make your skin photosensitive; avoid direct exposure to the sun after applying it. Aloe vera is commonly available in the form of juices, gels, creams, or capsules. In juice form, 2-3 tablespoons (about 50 ml) and in capsules 200-300 mg per day, is recommended.