Almost all of us have a pot of aloe vera plant in our balconies as a part of the household decor? But did you know that is succulent has a long history of being using as a medicinal ingredient in Egypt, India and China.
Its potential health benefits range from soothing burns and healing infections to promoting weight loss, curing breast cancer, controlling type 2 diabetes, boosting the immune system and detoxifying the body.
The medicinal properties of aloe vera comes from the clear, jelly-like aloe vera gel that is found in the inner part of the aloe leaf.
It is a potent source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and enzymes that are extremely beneficial for our health.
In this article we have put together some of the most popular benefits of aloe vera along with its possible side effects, recommended dosage and nutritional facts.
Aloe Vera Nutritional Facts:
Aloe vera is the most biologically active of all the Aloe varieties. It contains more than 75 active components including vitamins, minerals, amino acids enzymes, saponins, lignin, etc.
Vitamins – It contains vitamins A, C and E, which are powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radical damage. It also contains vitamin B12, folic acid and choline.
Minerals – Calcium, copper, selenium chromium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, zinc.
Enzymes – It contains eight important enzymes, namely aliiase, alkaline phosphates, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase and peroxidase. These enzymes reduce chronic inflammation and breaks down sugar and fats.
Anthraquinones – It supplies 12 anthraquinones or laxative compounds which help to relieve constipation. Out of the 12, aloin and emodin possess analgesic, antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Fatty Acids – It contains 4 fatty acids – cholesterol, campesterol, beta-sisosterol and lupeol – all of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Hormones – Hormones auxins and gibberellins present in aloe vera promote wound healing and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Sugars – monosaccharides – glucose and fructose and polysaccharides. These sugars have anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties.
10 Useful Health Benefits of Aloe Vera:
1. Aids Weight Loss
Aloe vera juice and gel improves digestion and promotes detoxification of the body and both these actions have a secondary effect of promoting weight loss. Once your digestion improves the body starts eliminating waste more efficiently. The removal of toxic load from the body speeds up metabolism and calorie burn. A preliminary study published in 2013 in Nutrition found out that obese people who had diabetes or prediabetes who took aloe vera gel complex for 8 weeks lost more weight and body fat compared to those who were not given this supplement. In addition, the laxative effect of aloe vera may also result in weight loss to certain extent by cleansing the colon.
2. Improves Digestive Health and Relieves Constipation
Poor digestion is the root cause of various disease. The anti-inflammatory and laxative components of aloe vera promote digestion, normalize the acid-alkaline and pH balance, reduce yeast infection and boost the growth of gut-friendly bacteria in the intestine. A 2010 review shows that consuming 1 to 3 ounces of aloe vera gel at meal time can reduce the severity of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) and heart burn. The latex of aloe vera plant contains compounds aloin which is known for its potent laxative effect that helps to relieve chronic constipation.
3. Lowers Blood Glucose Level in Diabetes
Aloe Vera gel and juice has been used as a traditional remedy for diabetes for years. Several human and animal studies also suggest that aloe vera can alleviate chronic hyperglycemia and perturbed lipid profile which are common in people with diabetes. In a couple of clinical trials 72 diabetic women were administered one tablespoon of aloe vera gel or a placebo for 6 weeks. It was seen that blood glucose level and serum triglycerides level were significantly lower with aloe vera treatment.
4. Improves Oral Health
Tooth decay, bleeding gum and dental plaque are some of the common oral problems faced by adults and elderly people. Using an aloe vera juice mouth rinse can reduce the buildup of plaque or bacterial biofilms on the teeth and prevent tooth decay. A recent mouth rinse study of 300 people found out that pure aloe vera juice was as effective as the standard mouthwash ingredient chlorhexidine in reducing dental plaque. The natural ingredeints of aloe vera along with vitamin C also provides relief from swollen and bleeding gums. You can use aloe vera extract as a safe substitute for chemical-based mouthwashes.
5. Heals Burns
Pure aloe vera gel has protective effect against skin damage caused by burns and radiation. In 1959, the U.S Food and Drug Administration approved the use of aloe vera gel and ointments containing aloe vera as a topical medicine for treating radiation burns and thermal burns. It is also an effective topical treatment for first and second degree burns and sunburns. Aloe vera improves itching, reduces skin picking, reduces wound size and reduces healing time compared to antibiotics. Clean the burn and apply generous amount of raw aloe vera gel or a cream containing aloe to the burnt areas several times a day.
6. Boosts the Immune System
Daily stress, pollution and unhealthy lifestyle increases free radical damage and oxidative stress. The polysaccharides present in aloe vera boost macrophages, the white blood cells of the immune system that destroy viruses. The enzymes present in aloe vera gel breaks down the proteins we consume into amino acids which fuel the cells and enables them to function properly. Bradykinase in aloe vera stimulates the immune system so that it can fight off and destroy infection-causing bacteria and fungus more effectively. Zinc, yet another important component in aloe vera is essential for maintaining immune function. Zinc helps in prevention of diseases, kills bacteria and maintains the function of the cell membranes.
7. Soothes Cold Sores and Mouth Ulcers
Cold sores are painful blisters that occur on the lip and around the mouth due to the herpes simplex virus. Raw aloe vera gel can speed up the healing of cold sores and mouth ulcers and ease the pain and discomfort. Because aloe vera gel is safe for consumption so there is no need to worry about swallowing the gel. The potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera fight off the herpes simplex virus and soothe the redness, swelling and pain of the cold sore. The amino acids along with B-vitamins and vitamin C also act as natural pain killer and produces antibodies that are used by the immune system to fight off infection.
8. Fights Breast Cancer
A recent study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine researched into the therapeutic properties of aloe emodin, a compound present in aloe leaves. The result suggests that the plant shows potential in slowing down the growth of breast cancer. In another study the cytotoxic potential of Aloe vera crude extract was tested alone and in combination with cisplatin in human breast and cervical cancer cells. It was seen that aloe vera inhibits proliferation of breast cancer and cervical cancer cells and acts synergistically in combination with cisplatin which means it can increase the efficacy of conventional drugs.
9. Cures Skin Conditions
The well-known healing properties of aloe vera on skin makes it a widely used compound in skin care products and cosmetics. Topical application of aloe vera to skin helps to treat psoriasis, dermatitis, sunburns, rashes, acne and pimples. A study done in 1935 showed that aloe vera extract had the capacity to provide instant relief from itching and burning associated with radiation dermatitis. Another study in 1996 at the Department of Clinical Physiology in Sweden included 60 patients with chronic psoriasis who were given either aloe vera or a placebo cream. The rate of cure in the aloe vera group was 83% compared to merely 7% in the placebo group. The high water content of aloe vera makes it a great natural moisturizer that can hydrate the skin. Aloe vera repairs collagen and ealstin in skin and reduces wrinkles and fine lines on the face.
10. Detoxifies the Body
The thick gelatinous texture of aloe vera gel makes it a perfect food for detoxifying the system. As the gelatinous gel moves through the intestinal tract, it absorbs the harmful chemicals, toxins and waste and eliminate them through the colon. The proper elimination of waste products from the body helps to detoxify it. The vitamins, minerals and amino acids in aloe vera gel also make it an effective cleanser that strengthens digestion. The soothing, cooling and moisturizing properties of aloe vera heals inflammation and subsides the irritation heat such as in case of menopause.
Side Effects of Aloe Vera:
- Taking aloe latex in high doses can cause side effects such as stomach pain and cramps. Long term use of aloe latex can cause diarrhea, kidney problems low potassium, muscle weakness and heart issues.
- There are certain reports of aloe vera gel and latex causing miscarriage and birth defects in infants. So, it is best not to take aloe vera gel or latex if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Children younger than 12 years might experience stomach pain, cramps and diarrhea after consuming aloe vera gel.
- People suffering from diabetes should keep a track of their blood glucose level while consuming aloe vera gel because it can lower blood sugar drastically.
- People suffering from intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc should not consume aloe latex because the latex is a bowel irritant.
- People suffering from hemorrhoids should not take aloe latex because it can make the condition worse.
- High doses of aloe latex can cause kidney failure and other kidney problems.
What should be the Recommended Dosage of Aloe Vera?
- Constipation – Take 100 to 200 milligrams of aloe vera on a daily basis.
- Wound healing, psoriasis, skin infection – Apply a cream with 0.5% aloe extract 3 times a day.
- Dental plaque and gum disease – Use a toothpaste containing aloe vera extract for 24 weeks.
- High cholesterol – Take 1 capsule of aloe vera containing 300 milligrams 2 times daily for 2 months.
- IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) – Take 100 milliliters of aloe vera 2 times daily for 4 weeks.
- Skin Burn – Apply an ointment with 97.5% aloe vera gel on the burn till it heals completely.
- Dry scalp or dandruff – Add a teaspoon of aloe vera gel to your regular shampoo and use it to wash your scalp and hair.
When using aloe vera for its health benefits, it is best to opt for pure aloe vera gel. Although, a wide variety of commercially produced aloe vera products are available in the market but the processing method damages the number and amount of active ingredeints in aloe vera.