Aloe vera has been glorified in folklores as the ‘silent healer’, the ‘miracle worker,’ the ‘wand of heaven’ and the ‘plant of immortality’. Since the ancient times, this wonder plant is valued for its healing properties. Aloe vera is a perennial succulent of the Aloaceae family. Among the 350 members of the aloe family, aloe vera is best known for its health benefits. It is also referred to as the ‘true aloe’. Though aloe vera is more popular for its cosmetic uses, a number of scientific studies have validated the use of this remarkable plant for a number of health disorders.(1)
The aloe vera plant grows in the dry regions of Asia, Africa, Europe and America. Its use is well-documented in the histories of different cultures, especially in Egypt, Greece, India, China, Japan and Mexico. It was an essential ingredient in the beauty regimen of the queens of Egypt. It is said that Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus used aloe gel for healing the wounds of soldiers. Between 50 and 70 AD, the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides had written about the uses of aloe vera in his medical treatise, De Materia Medica. Since the mid 1920s, use of aloe vera for dermatological purpose had been recognized worldwide.
There are three layers in the aloe vera leaf. The outer thick layer is the rind. The middle layer comprises of the bitter yellow sap or latex and the inner layer comprises of the clear gel. Aloe vera gel is made of 99% water and the remaining 1% is a mixture of vitamins, amino acids, lipids, sterols and glucomannans. Researchers have identified 75 bioactive constituents in aloe vera.(2)
Benefits Of Aloe Vera?
The clear gel obtained from the aloe vera leaf is used as an ointment. It is widely used in the cosmetic industry and is a key ingredient in hundreds of skin care products. The green outer layer of the aloe vera leaf is used for producing aloe vera juice. Aloe vera has been approved as a natural food flavoring agent by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (3) Topical application of aloe vera is known to provide relief from an array of skin conditions.
1. Clears Acne
To get rid of the zits that pop up regularly on your face, use aloe vera gel on your face. The watery gel, rich in enzymes with healing properties, soothes the irritated skin. When the skin breaks out, the anti-inflammatory property of aloe vera gel helps in reducing the redness and swelling of the skin. The antibacterial aloe compounds minimize the population of the acne-causing bacteria. Regular use of aloe vera gel clears up the skin. The polysaccharides in the gel assist in repairing the acne wounds and minimize scarring. You can use aloe vera gel as a moisturizer or only for spot treatment. (4)
2. Lightens The Skin
Aloesin, a phenolic compound found in aloe vera, is known for its skin whitening property. In an experimental study, researchers found that this aloe derivative inhibits the activity of tyrosinase, the key enzyme involved in melanin production. (5) By suppressing melanin synthesis, aloe vera helps in lightening the complexion that helps fade suntan and blemishes.
3. Soothes Sunburn
To soothe the sunburned skin, gently apply aloe vera to the affected area. A thin layer of moist aloe vera gel on top of the burn helps cool the skin. Unlike moisturizing creams and emollients, aloe vera does not trap the heat inside the skin. Dissipating the heat from the skin helps in reducing inflammation that causes irritation and pain and helps in healing the damaged skin. (6)
4. Heals Burn Injuries
The use of aloe vera ointment as an over-the-counter medication for burn injuries is approved by FDA. Studies suggest that topical use of aloe vera gel helps in speeding up healing of burn injuries. It seems to work for both thermal and radiation burns. Though there is no standardized amount for administration, nevertheless, it has been found that regardless of the type of preparation, aloe vera products are capable of reducing the healing time of the burn injury. (7)
5. Relieves Cold Sores And Shingles
Aloe vera is known to possess antiviral property that helps in providing faster relief from cold sores. While the Herpes simplex virus is responsible for cold sores, Herpes zoster causes shingles. Aloe vera gel can also help in alleviating the irritation and pain of shingles breakouts. (8) To speed up healing, apply aloe vera gel or ointment to the affected area three times a day. (9) The severity of cold sores can be decreased by applying a blend of aloe vera gel and essential oils. To 10 ml aloe vera gel, add a drop of lavender essential oil, 3 drops of tea tree oil, 4 drops of geranium essential oil and 2 drops of chamomile essential oil. (10)
6. Soothes BugBites
The saliva injected by the insect into the skin when it bites or stings triggers an allergic reaction leading to itching and irritation. The anti-inflammatory activity of aloe vera helps in calming the irritated skin. Furthermore, its antimicrobial property helps in minimizing risk of secondary infection that may occur when the skin is damaged due to excessive scratching. Make a soothing preparation by mixing ¼ cup of aloe vera gel with ¼ cup of unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. With the help of a cotton ball apply the solution to the area of bug bite several times a day. (11)
7. Psoriasis Management
The overactive immune system causes psoriasis. In people afflicted by psoriasis, rapid turnover of the skin cells causes the excess cells to pile up on the skin, leading to red scaly itchy and sometimes painful patches. Applying aloe vera cream to the affected area thrice on a daily basis can help in managing this chronic skin condition. It helps in soothing the symptoms and reduces the severity of the skin disorder. (12)
8. Heals Frostbite
An experimental study has validated the use of aloe vera for frostbite injuries. The enzymes, polysaccharides, organic acid and steroids present in aloe vera can easily penetrate through the injured tissues. The vasodilatory activity of the active aloe compounds dilates the blood capillaries, thereby boosting blood circulation at the frostbite site. Its anti-inflammatory effect further helps in the healing process. Furthermore, aloe vera helps in inhibiting platelet aggregation and tissue necrosis, which helps in diminishing tissue damage. To minimize risk of frostbite injury, apply aloe vera gel or an aloe preparation to the exposed areas of the body thrice a day. (13)
9. Repairs Wounds
Aloe vera is recognized for its wound healing property. The active components in aloe vera stimulate proliferation of new skin cells. It is traditionally used as dressing for open wounds. Its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activities help in protecting the open wounds from the microorganisms that tend to infect the wound. (14)
10. Delays Skin Aging
The muco-polysaccharides present in aloe vera gel binds moisture into the skin. This property of aloe vera makes it a remarkable remedy for dry skin. In addition, aloe vera contains amino acids that help in softening the skin. Zinc acts as an astringent and helps tighten the skin pores. The rejuvenating effect of aloe vera helps in delaying skin aging. (15)
Aloe Vera Skin Care Recipes?
Skin care recipes with aloe vera gel are known to work wonders for the skin. They work as powerful moisturizer and soothe sunburn, insect bite, rashes and dry and itchy skin conditions.
1. Anti-Aging Moisturizer
Aloe vera gel – ¼ cup
Coconut oil – one tablespoon
Tea tree oil – 6 drops
Lemongrass essential oil – 4 drops
Whisk the aloe vera gel until slightly fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Use this mixture as needed to moisturize your skin. (16)
2. Aloe Vera Toner
Aloe vera toner is a good choice for soothing and hydrating the skin.
Aloe Vera Gel – 1/3 cup
Distilled water – 2/3 cup
Thoroughly mix the aloe vera gel with water. Pour the solution in an airtight bottle and store in the refrigerator. Remember to shake the bottle before use. Pour few drops of the toner on a cotton ball and dab it on your face and neck. (17)
3. Aloe Vera Face Mask
Face mask helps is making the skin firm. It helps in providing fast relief from skin problems.
Aloe Vera gel – 2 tablespoons
Olive oil – one teaspoon
Honey – one tablespoon
First blend 1 tablespoon of honey with with 2 tablespoons of Aloe Vera gel and then mix in olive oil as well. Spread the face mask evenly on the face and neck. Relax for 15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. (18)
Can Aloe Vera Improves Hair Health?
Aloe vera is not only a panacea for skin disorders, it is also good for the hair. Its moisturizing property makes aloe vera a remarkable hair conditioner. You can apply aloe vera gel directly or mix it with your regular conditioner. The nutrient rich aloe vera gel supplies nourishment to the hair follicle that supports faster hair growth. It also helps in increasing hair density. To thicken your tresses and speed up hair growth, rub aloe vera gel on your scalp. Allow it to sit on the scalp for 30 minutes. Rinse off with tepid water and shampoo as usual. Furthermore, aloe vera inhibits dandruff and adds extra shine to the hair. (19)
Uses Of Aloe Vera For Hair Care?
Aloe Vera Conditioner
To make a deep conditioning solution, aloe vera is combined with moisturizing oil. It is a good choice for the dry and damaged hair
Aloe vera gel – ¼ cup
Olive oil – few drops
Essential oil (optional) – few drops
Add the olive oil and essential oil to the aloe vera gel and mix well. After shampooing your hair, coat your hair with the conditioner. Leave it on for 3 to 5 minutes. Rinse off with cool water. (20)
Aloe Vera Hair Mask
Rubbing aloe vera on the scalp removes the dead skin and helps in unclogging the pores. It supplies nutrients to the hair follicles and balances the pH of the scalp.
Aloe vera – ½ cup
Castor oil – 2 tablespoons
Fenugreek powder – 2 tablespoons
Blend the ingredients and apply the mixture to the scalp. Leave it overnight. The next morning, rinse off the hair mask and wash hair with mild shampoo. Use this hair mask once a week. (21)
Aloe Vera Benefits Of Oral Use?
Aloe vera juice is taken internally to help with a number of conditions. It is a nutritional powerhouse. It is a source of vitamins A, C and E, folic acid, choline and vitamin B12. It contains a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium and sodium. In addition, out of the 22 amino acids required by the human body, 20 are found in aloe vera including 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. Aloe vera is also a good source of antioxidants. (22)
The normal recommended dosage of aloe vera juice is one teaspoon per day. Over time it can be increased to 3 to 4 teaspoons per day. (23) Aloe vera is also available in the form of capsule. Each aloe vera capsule contains aloe vera juice concentrate. (24) These aloe vera pills are believed to be good for the digestive health and provide benefits similar to ingesting aloe vera juice.
Aloe vera is amazingly effective in lowering the elevated blood sugar level in diabetics. In a clinical study, researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes who took a tablespoon of aloe vera juice prepared from aloe gel twice daily for 6 weeks reported significant reduction in the fasting blood sugar level. Moreover, aloe vera helps in lowering the triglyceride level in the diabetics. Studies suggest that the active aloe compounds help in stimulating glucose uptake. However, combining aloe vera with anti-diabetes drug tends to increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Therefore, diabetics should consult their physician before taking aloe juice for controlling blood sugar. (25)
Aloe vera juice is beneficial for digestion. It seems to help in inhibiting excess secretion of hydrochloric acid, which helps in providing relief from hyperacidity and heartburn caused by it. As a buffering agent, aloe vera helps in restoring the normal pH of the stomach. It is found to be effective in maintaining the healthy balance of gastrointestinal symbiotic bacteria. Furthermore, it helps slow down gastric emptying for better digestion and improved nutrient absorption. (26)
Helps Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a long-term gastrointestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain and changes in bowel movement. People with IBS suffer from constipation or diarrhea. Ingesting aloe vera juice seems to help people with diarrhea-predominant IBS. In a clinical study, 43% patients who received aloe vera reported improvement in the symptoms. (27)
The weakened immune system can be strengthened by taking aloe vera juice. Studies suggest that the mucopolysaccharides present in aloe vera are capable of boosting the immune system of AIDS patients that helps in suppressing replication of the HIV virus without any harmful side effect. As an immune enhancer, aloe vera seems to help in reducing virus replication in people suffering from serious infections such as herpes, measles and pneumonia. It stimulates production of white blood cells and other immune supportive lymphocytes. (28)
Benefits Of Aloe Vera For Weight Loss?
Aloe vera does not directly stimulate weight loss. It works by providing the vital nutrients and phytochemicals that meet the body’s need for maintaining the process of losing weight. Increasing calorie expenditure through physical activities contributes to weight loss. To maintain the metabolic process, which induces thermogenesis that breaks down the body fats, your body needs supportive nutrients including the B vitamins, vitamin C and amino acids. Aloe vera provides the essential nutrients that ease weight loss. (29) It aids absorption of calcium, which plays an important role in increasing fat loss. Increasing availability of calcium inhibits fat absorption and eliminates the excess fat from the body. In addition, aloe vera provides vitamins C and E and the B vitamins that help in the production of the ‘feel good’ hormones, serotonin and dopamine. The improvement in the happiness factor is a prerequisite for following a weight loss program. (30)
Possible Side Effects Of Aloe Vera?
Topical use of aloe vera is usually well tolerated. Harmful effects, though rare, have been reported in a small number of cases. Adverse side effects of topical application include contact dermatitis and mild itching. However, these side effects are reversible.
No harmful side effect has been reported in experimental studies by ingesting 2 ml aloe vera juice daily for 14 days. The effect of aloe vera ingestion during pregnancy is unclear. In one animal study, researchers found that aloe vera prevents pregnancy, whereas other studies didn’t report any adverse effect on pregnancy. The effect of oral administration during lactation is unknown. (31)