Aloe vera is a very popular plant used medicinally in herbal remedies against many diseases all over the world. In India, it is used traditionally as a medicine for constipation, worm infections, skin diseases, and wound healing. In the Western world, it is used as an important ingredient in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. In fact, the use of Aloe vera medicinally dates back to the ancient Egypt. The origin of this important plant is traced to the North Africa, the Canary Islands, and the southern Europe. Today, Aloe vera is grown all over the tropical climates of the world and boosts of one of the largest plant extracts industries in the world.
Properties of Aloe vera
Aloe vera has many significant medical remedies, and this is the reason why it is a beloved plant all over the world. Here in Nigeria, you can hardly count 10 households without finding one. As said earlier, its numerous health benefits attach people’s heart to it, as it contains more than 200 biologically active components, with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, salicylic acids, saponins, sugars, and anthraquinones. In terms of amino acids, it provides the 8 essential amino acids and 20 out of the 22 required amino acids by the human body. Let’s take a glimpse at its active components:
- Aloe vera contains small amounts of sugars in form of monosaccharides and polysaccharides.
- Its leaf is filled with a clear gel-like substance which is composed of approximately 99% water.
- In terms of vitamins, it contains significant amounts of vitamin A, B12, C, E, folic acid, and more.
- It’s filled with laxatives – the anthraquinones. Worth mentioning among them are the aloin and emodin, which show analgesic and antibacterial effects.
- In terms of minerals, copper, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, and calcium are present in significant quantities.
- For fatty acids, 3 plant sterols are present in significant quantities. They include B-sitosterol, campesterol, and HCL cholesterol. Campesterol helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. B-sitosterol also does the same, and may even go further to aid in the treatment of certain cancers. Other fatty acids found in aloe include the linoleic, linolenic, palmitic, myristic, oleic, stearic, and caprylic acids.
Medicinal uses of Aloe vera
Aloe vera has a lot of medicinal values and herbal remedies, mainly due to its rich content, with more than 200 biologically active components. Below is a list of some of the most popular therapeutic uses of this miraculous plant:
- Skin conditions
This is the most popular application of aloe vera – it is used widely for skin care all over the world and one of the primary ingredients used in cosmetics industries. Here is what aloe vera can do to your skin:
- Effective face moisturizer and emollient – helps soothe and soften the skin
- Acts as an analgesic, and thus helps relieve the pain of wounds on the skin
- Acts as an antipruritic – thus relieving or preventing skin itching
- Acts as astringent
- Soothes rashes and skin irritations
- Treats burns
- Moisturizes hair and scalp
- Relieves the discomfort associated with most skin conditions including insect bites, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, and so on.
- Mouthwash alternative
Interestingly, aloe vera has been proven to be a nice substitute to your chemical-based mouthwashes. A study conducted in 2014 by the Ethipian Journal of Health Sciences indicated that the aloe vera extract is safe, and can be used as a mouthwash. Using this miraculous plant as a mouthwash comes with added benefits, as its healthy dose of vitamin C can help prevent the formation of plaques as well as provide relief against swollen gums.
- Treats constipation and aids digestion
The use of aloe vera as a natural remedy against constipation has been proven by many scientific researches. The anthraquinones present in this miraculous plant latex helps create a potent laxative effect in the human body, which helps stimulate the production of mucus, improve peristalsis, and increase intestinal water content.
The laxative effect doesn’t stop there; it also helps with digestion by stabilizing acid-base balance, promoting the growth of digestive bacteria, and reduces yeast formation. A particular study published in the Journal of Research in Medical sciences proved this effect of aloe vera. Just a 30ml of aloe vera juice given twice daily reduced the intensity of discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome in 33 patients.
- Boost the immune system
This is also an important medicinal value of aloe vera – it boosts the immune system thereby supporting the body to fight off infections of any kind. This effect is initiated when complex carbohydrates found in aloe gel stimulate several immune system components. Also, the high level of antioxidants in aloe support this claim, as it fights off the formation of free radicals that contribute to aging.
- Lowers blood sugar level (diabetes)
A study published in the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacy showed how the ingestion of just 2 tablespoons of aloe vera juice daily can lower the blood sugar level in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study conducted on 72 diabetic women who were treated with one tablespoon of aloe vera gel or a placebo for 6 weeks, showed a significant reduction in their blood glucose level in the aloe group.
Apart from the above studies, there are many more scientific researches that have proven the anti-diabetic effect of aloe vera. This simply indicates a possible bright future for aloe as a medicine against diabetes in the future!
- Reduces inflammation
Aloe vera contains a lot of active components that help prevent or reduce inflammation. The fatty acids present in this wonderful plant all provide an anti-inflammatory effect.
Other therapeutic uses of aloe vera worth mentioning include:
- Heart burn relief (see study)
- Fight breast cancer (see study)
- Heal cold sores (see article)
- Treat burns (see study)
- Helps in detoxification
- Acts as a disinfectant, antibiotic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, or anti-fungal
- Alkalizes the body
- Improve cardiovascular health (see article)