When you think about aloe vera, you probably automatically think ‘post-sunburn remedy.’ But, is that all that it is good for? Nope, not even close.
Aloe vera has been used for medicinal and skin treatment purposes dating back to the 16th century BC according to the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus.
There is also a lot of current research to suggest that aloe vera is useful for a variety of health conditions.
What is aloe vera and where does it come from?
Aloe vera is actually a succulent plant which originates from the Arabian Peninsula but is found in tropical climates around the world.
Each leaf of the aloe vera plant is full of a slimy tissue that stores water and keeps the leaves full and thick. This stuff is the ‘gel’ that we associate with aloe vera products.
The gel contains lots of good stuff like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants.
Here is a list of some of the awesome healing benefits of aloe vera that you might not have known about.
Reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity
Good news! You might not have to drop hundreds of dollars for fancy anti-wrinkle cream
In one study, two groups of healthy women over age 45 received either a high or low-dose of supplemental aloe vera.
After 90 days, facial wrinkles improved significantly in both groups and skin elasticity improved in the lower-dose group.
However, it is not known how aloe vera exerts its anti-aging effects.
Further research is needed to determine the best dose of dietary aloe vera for skin health. But none of you out there are interested in that, right?
There are tons of beauty and skin products that contain aloe marketed for their skin soothing and hydration properties. Lotion, face masks, shampoo, cleansers, you name it.
As mentioned, aloe vera contains powerful antioxidants which belong to a larger class of substances called polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds found in natural plant sources that have antioxidant properties.
These polyphenols, along with other compounds in aloe vera, have been found to prevent the growth of some bacteria that cause infections in our bodies.
For example, one study showed that aloe vera exhibited antibacterial properties against strains of Helicobacter pylori. H. pylori is a gastrointestinal infection and is often the cause of gastric ulcers.
This is especially important because of many strains of harmful bacteria becoming resistant to traditional antibiotics. Aloe vera may prove to be a good natural agent used in combination with antibiotics
Relief from heartburn
Aloe vera might be a natural alternative to the many heartburn remedies out there. And who doesn’t suffer from heartburn every now and then?
One study compared the use of aloe vera syrup, Prilosec, and Zantac in regards to symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms like heartburn, nausea, vomiting, acid regurgitation, flatulence, and belching were assessed at 2 and 4 weeks.
Aloe vera was found to be safe and effective at decreasing all of the assessed symptoms. Even better, there were no side effects.
Improved wound and burn healing
We all are well aware that aloe vera has been used for a long time for various skin ailments. That is, when you put it directly onto your skin rather than ingesting it.
Did you know?
The FDA approved the first aloe vera ointment as an over-the-counter medication for burns back in 1959. It is thought to be pretty effective against first and second-degree burns, which includes your typical sunburn.
Research also suggests that aloe vera is effective in helping wounds heal.
In one study, researchers split women who had undergone C-section delivery into two groups. After 24 hours post-op, the women who used a dressing with aloe vera had significantly better wound healing scores compared to those who had a simple dressing.
Who knew something so simple could make so much difference?
Get rid of dental plaque
You might be able to swap out your Listerine for some aloe vera mouthwash.
Tooth decay and gum diseases such as gingivitis are common health problems that are a result of a buildup of dental plaque.
If you do have gingivitis, your dentist may give you a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate, which has antibacterial properties.
One study compared the effectiveness of chlorhexidine, aloe vera, and normal saline placebo in removing plaque.
Results showed that aloe vera was just as effective as chlorhexidine when compared to placebo in removing dental plaque
Lower blood sugar levels
Aloe vera has been used for quite some time as an alternative treatment for diabetes (namely, prediabetes or type 2 diabetes) because of its metabolic effects.
One study looked at individuals with prediabetes or early type 2 diabetes not on medications and split them into an intervention (dietary aloe vera gel complex) and a control group.
The intervention group experienced lower body weight, body fat mass, serum insulin levels, and fasting blood sugar levels.
This suggests a favorable effect on insulin resistance which is a major contributor to type 2 diabetes.
Now, don’t go stop taking your meds for diabetes just yet. Losing weight and improving your diet will be 100 times more effective against prediabetes and type 2 diabetes than any medication or supplement.
Interested in making a change in your routine to include aloe? Talk with your doctor about aloe supplements and whether they are the right choice for you.
Help fight breast cancer?
Bet you didn’t see this one coming.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine assessed the effects of aloe-emodin, which is a compound found in the aloe plant’s leaves.
The researchers found that treating incubated cancer cells with aloe-emodin helps to target regulation of estrogen receptor alpha proteins through their own distinct mechanisms. This suggests that aloe-emodin can slow down the growth of breast cancer cells.
The aloe plant
An aloe vera plant is a stemless or very short-stemmed plant which can grow 2-3 feet tall.
The leaves are thick and fleshy with green to grey-green coloring. Some varieties show white flecks on their upper and lower stem surfaces. The edge of the leaf is serrated with small white ‘teeth.’
Be careful, there are some plants that look similar to aloe such as agave and yucca.
Generally, it is perfectly safe to break open and aloe plant’s leaves and use the gel on top of your skin.
However, I would not recommend just going ahead and eating the gel or leaves as not all aloe plants are edible. Sometimes, ingestion can cause belly cramping and diarrhea. It would be best to talk with your doctor about a supplement.
Power of plants
Aloe vera is a unique plant with many different healing properties.
It will be fascinating to see what research brings in the future regarding its effectiveness against disease.
As for us, we really like aloe vera because of its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Aloe vera creates its own natural steroids called sterols. These compounds fight against inflammation to reduce swelling.