Aloe vera (/aeloui:/ or aelou/) is a succulent Plant species of the genus Aloe. An evergreen perennial, it originates from the Arabian Peninsula, but grows wild in tropical, semi-tropical, and arid climates around the world. It is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses. The species is also used for decorative purposes and grows successfully indoors as a potted plants.
Aloe vera gel is widely known to relieve sunburn and help heal wounds. But did you know that your favorite potted plant can be used for much more than sunburn relief and household decor?
The succulent has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes, dating back to ancient Egypt. The plant is native to North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Canary Islands. Today, aloe vera is grown in tropical climates worldwide. For relieving heartburn to potentially slowing the spread of breast cancer, researchers are just beginning to unlock the benefits of this universal plant and its many byproducts.
Aloe vera has been the subject of much scientific study over the few years, regarding several claimed therapeutic properties. In this article, we will look at some of these claims and investigate the research behind them.
According to Kew Gardens, England’s royal botanical center of excellence, Aloe vera has been used for centuries and is currently more popular than ever. It is cultivated worldwide, primarily as a crop for “Aloe gel,” which comes from the leaf.
Aloe vera is widely used today in:
●Food – it is approved by the FDA as a flavoring
The medicinal claims made about Aloe vera, as with many herbs and plants, are endless. Some are backed by rigorous scientific studies while others are not. This article focuses mainly on those that are backed by research.
● Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that often results in heartburn. A 2010 review suggested that consuming 1 to 3 ounces of aloe vera gel at mealtime can reduce the severity of GERD. It may also ease other digestion-related problems. The plant’s slow toxicity makes it a safe and gentle remedy for heartburn.
● Lowering Your Blood Sugar – ingesting two tablespoon of aloe vera juice per day can cause blood sugar levels to fall in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a study in Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacy. This could mean that aloe vera may have a future in diabetes treatment.
¤ These results were confirmed by another study published in Phytotherapy Research that used pulp extract. But people with diabetes, who take glucose-lowering medications, should use caution when consuming aloe vera . The juice along with diabetes medications could possibly lower your glucose count to dangerous levels.
● A NATURAL LAXATIVE – aloe vera is considered a natural laxative. A handful of studies have looked into the benefits of the succulent to aid digestion. The results appear to be mixed.
¤ A team of Nigerian scientists conducted a study on rats and found that gel made from typical aloe vera houseplants was able to relieve constipation. But another study by the National Institutes of Health looked at the consumption of aloe vera whole-leave extract. Those findings revealed tumor growth in the large intestines of laboratory rats.
¤ In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required that all over-the-counter aloe laxative products be moved from the U.S. market or be reformulated.
¤ The Mayo Clinic recommended that aloe vera can be used to relieve constipation, but sparingly. They advise that a dose of 0.04 to 0.17 grams of dried juice is sufficient.
¤ If you have Crohn’s disease, colitis, or hemorrhoids you shouldn’t consume aloe vera. It can cause severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. You should stop taking aloe vera if you’re taking other medications. It may decrease your body’s ability to absorb the drugs.
● POTENTIAL TO FIGHT BREAST CANCER – A new study published in Evidence – Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at the therapeutic properties of aloe emodin, a compound in the plant’s leaves. The authors suggest that the succulent shows potential in slowing the growth of breast cancer. However, more studies are needed to further advance this theory.
● An Alternative to Mouthwash – in a 2014 study published in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences, researchers found aloe very extract to be a safe and effective alternative to chemical-based mouth washes. The plant’s natural ingredients, which include a healthy dose of vitamin C, can block plaque. It can also provide relief if you have bleeding of swollen gums.
● TEETH AND GUMS – a study published in General Dentistry reported that Aloe vera in tooth gel is an effective as toothpaste in fighting cavities.
¤ The researchers compared the germ-fighting ability of an Aloe vera tooth gel with two popular toothpastes. They found that the gel was just as good, and in some cases even better than the commercial toothpastes at controlling cavity-causing oral bacteria.
¤ The authors explain that Aloe latex contains anthraquinones, compounds that actively heal and reduce pain through natural anti-inflammatory effects.
¤ The scientists warned that not all gels they analyzed contained the proper form of Aloe vera – they must contain the stabilized gel that exist in the center of the plant to be effective.
● CONSTIPATION – Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs – Commission E – approved the use of Aloe vera for the treatment of constipation. Dosages of 50-200 milligrams of Aloe latex are commonly taken in liquid or capsule form once daily for up to 10 days.
¤ The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2002 that there is not enough data on the safety and efficacy of Aloe products; so, in the U.S., they cannot be sold to treat constipation.
● DIABETES-INDUCED FOOT ULCERS -a study carried out at the Sinhgad College of Pharmacy, India, and published in the International Wound Journal looked at Aloe’s ability to treat ulcers.
¤ They reported that a “gel formed with carbopol 974p (1Percent) and Aloe vera promotes significant would healing and closure in diabetic rats compared with the commercial product and provides a promising products to be used in diabetes-induced foot ulcers.”
● PROTECTION FROM SKIN DAMAGE AFTER RADIATION THERAPY
¤ A study carried out at the University of Naples, Italy, tested five different topical creams to see how effective they might be in protecting the skin of breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy. One of these creams contained Aloe.
¤ They divided 100 patients into five groups of 20; each was prescribed a different topical treatment. They applied the creams twice daily, starting 15 days before radiation therapy treatment, and carried on for 1 month afterward. During the 6-week period, the participants underwent weekly skin assessments.
¤ In the Journal Radiation Oncology, the scientists reported that the preventive use of the topical hydrating creams reduced the incidence of skin side effects in the women treated with radiation therapy for breast cancer, none performed none performed significantly better.
● DEPRESSION, LEARNING, AND MEMORY – AN ANIMAL EXPERIMENT
¤ A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that Aloe vera reduced depression and improved memory in mice. After carrying out experiments on laboratory mice, they conducted: “Aloe vera enhances learning and memory, and also alleviates depression in mice.
¤ Further studies are needed to established whether humans might also receive the same benefits.
● SKIN CARE – you can use aloe vera to keep your skin clear and hydrated. This may be because the plants thrives in dry, unstable climate. To suvive the harsh conditions, the plant’s leaves store water. These water-dense leaves, combined with special plant compounds called complex carbohydrates, make it an effective face moisturizer and pain reliever.
● ANTIOXIDANT AND POSSIBLE ANTIMICROBIAL PROPERTIES
¤ Researchers at the University of Las Palma’s de Gran Canaria, Spain, published a study in the Journal Molecules. The team set out to determine whether the mathanol extract of leaf skins and flowers of Aloe vera might have beneficial effects on human health. The scientists focused on the extract’s possible antioxidant and antimycoplasmic activities.
¤ Mycoplasma is a type of bacteria that lack a cell wall: they are unaffected by many common antibiotics. Antimycoplasmic substances destroy these bacteria.
¤ They reported that both Aloe vera flower and leaf extracts had antioxidant properties, especially the leat skin extract. The leaf skin extract also exhibited antimycoplasmic properties.
¤ The authors concluded that “A. Vera extracts from leaf skin and flowers can be considered as good natural antioxidant sources.
• PROTECTION FROM ULTRAVIOLET (UV) IRRADIATION
¤ Scientists at Kyung Hee University Global Campus, South Korea, wanted to determine whether baby Aloe shoot extract and adult Aloe shoot extract might have a protective effect on UVB-induced skin photoaging: in other words, whether they could protect the skin from the aging effects of sunlight.
¤ Baby Aloe shoot extract (BAE) comes from 1-month old shoots while adult Aloe shoot extract (AE) comes from 4-months old shoot.
¤ In an article published in Phytotherapy Research, the authors concluded: ” Our results suggest that BAE may potentially protect the skin from UVB-induced damage more than AE.”
● WOUNDS FROM SECOND-DEGREE BURNS
¤ A team of plastic surgeons compared Aloe vera gel to 1 percent silver sulphadiazine cream for the treatment of second-degree burn wounds. They reported in the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association that the burn wounds among the patients treated with Aloe vera healed significantly quicker compared with those treated with 1percent silver sulfadiazine (SSD).
¤ The researchers added that those in the Aloe vera group experience significantly more and earlier pain relief than those in the SSD group.
¤ The authors wrote: “Thermal burns patients dressed with Aloe vera gel showed advantage compared to those dressed with SSD regarding early wound epithelialization, earlier pain relief, and cost-effectiveness.”
● IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
¤ A ramdomized, double-blind human trial carried out at St. George’s Hospital Medical School, London, United Kingdom investigated Aloe and IBS. Their results were published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice. Participants with IBS were given either Aloe vera or a placebo. After 3 months, there were no significant differences in symptoms of diarrhea.
However, the researchers wrote:
“There was no evidence that AV [Aloe vera] benefits patients with IBS. However, we could not rule out the possibility that improvement occured in patients with diarrhea or alternating IBS whilst taking AV. Further investigations are warranted in patients with diarrhea predominant IBS, in a less complex group of patients.”
● THE TAKEAWAY – there are a number of ways to use the aloe vera plant and the various gels and extracts that can made from it. Researchers are continuing to discover new methods to put this succulent to use. Be sure to consult your doctor if you plan to use aloe vera in a medicinal manner, especially if you take medication.
References: wikipedia / healthline.com / medicalNewstoday.com