Probably one of the best, most handy and efficient additions to the planet for human beings, Aloe vera has so many healing properties and health benefits that we can use on a daily basis that it’s truly worth planting your own. It can heal from both the inside and outside, so not only is it a superfood but when applied topically, it helps heal our skin! It sounds too good to be true, but I promise you now, it isn’t!
Utilising the beneficial properties of aloe is not a new revelation, it has been used medicinally for centuries, the healing properties first being noted by how the plant manages to heal itself; if damaged, the succulent leaves seal off the injured area with the gel from inside the wounded leaf.
Properties of aloe vera
Aloe is well known for its positive effects on our skin. If we have spent too long in the sun it can be used as a soothing and reparative skin cream,. If we have minor burns it is an excellent aid in the healing process, and as a general moisturiser for just about anywhere on the body. Chapped lips, mild dermatological conditions, and even acne and eczema can be relieved by the plant thanks to its anti-inflammatory, and nutrient rich properties. Aloe vera is rich in vitamins, as well as minerals, polysaccharides, phytosterols, and auxin and gibberellins – two hormones that provide wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, stimulating the growth of new skin cells. As well as its topical uses aloe is fast becoming the ultimate superfood which is not a new phenomenon but one that is catching on worldwide.
The following list provides a breakdown of the components of aloe vera and their effects on our system:
- Aloe vera contains vitamins: A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12.
- A, C, and E are antioxidants and help to fight off free radicals which can contribute to cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. They aid in strengthening our immune system, bone growth, and fighting off bacteria and viruses.
- The B vitamins help promote a healthy digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, and immune system. They assist in the process of turning food into energy, detoxifying the body and supporting healthy hormones, blood cells and the production of DNA.
- The plant’s high mineral content includes calcium, sodium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper. All of which contribute to strengthening bones, promoting a healthy cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system, regulating blood pressure, healthy muscles and nerves, making new blood cells, proteins and energy for the body, regulating blood sugar levels, protecting blood vessels, and healthy heart function.
- Fresh aloe also contains ‘anthraquinones’, which are antibacterial and antiviral agents that also help with pain relief and are often removed from commercial aloe products. It also contains Acemannan, a unique type of sugar believed to aid digestive issues, and promote a healthy immune system.
- The four fatty acids contained within the plant have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities as well as pain relieving abilities. There are also hormones and enzymes to be found within aloe as well as 20 different amino acids, seven of these are said to be essential to our health.
- Using Aloe
Using fresh aloe vera is the best way to get all the benefits from the plant. When you purchase store-bought aloe many of the nutrients are already lost and there may have been some processing and additives put in, which can greatly reduce the effectivity.
So if you can get your hands on some fresh aloe vera, the clear gel within the leaf of the plant is the place where all the goodness lives. To harness this it is possible to literally remove the outer ‘skin’ of the leaf, both the green and spiky parts until you are left with the inner ‘fillet’; a semi-solid, gel-like substance that is almost clear in colour.
Here are some wonderful ways you can make your own aloe vera products to include in your daily life:
First Aid Kit – take some freshly cut aloe gel and place directly on to affected skin; for minor wounds, grazes, rashes, sunburn, minor burns, chapped lips, even psoriasis or eczema.
Shampoo – you can prepare your own shampoo by combining freshly blended aloe gel with coconut milk and using it directly on your hair immediately. It does not keep, so make fresh or freeze in batches.
Skin Cream – a fantastic moisturiser as well as firmer of the skin, aloe is amazing when it comes to cosmetic skin care. Simply apply fresh gel to the skin or combine with a mild natural cream.
Conditioner – combine fresh aloe gel with water in equal parts to promote a healthy scalp and hair, also helps to rid you of dandruff.
After Sun Lotion – as with minor burns aloe is an amazing moisturiser and soother of the skin, apply fresh onto sun kissed skin to prevent peeling and drying out.
Juice – blend a few tablespoons of fresh aloe gel with other fresh fruits or vegetables (it doesn’t taste great by itself) to make your daily super juice. Please see advice on possible side effects and drug interactions prior to ingesting aloe vera. Always consult your health practitioner before making alterations to your diet.
Possible Side Effects
- Aloe can, as with anything, when ingested, have side effects. Be sure to avoid the yellow liquid which is where the latex is situated, if using fresh aloe. When in doubt, always check with your doctor.
- Regular use of the entire leaf — which includes the latex — can deplete potassium in the body.
- Electrolyte imbalances can lead to muscle weakness and cardiac problems.
- According to the NIH, ingesting one gram of aloe latex for multiple days can be fatal!
- Products containing the latex will exacerbate intestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels when using aloe.
- Ingesting any form of aloe is not recommended during pregnancy as it may cause uterine contractions or miscarriage.
- Aloe should also be avoided during breastfeeding.
- Excessive use of aloe latex may cause kidney failure and shouldn’t be used by people with kidney problems.
- Because there is the potential for low potassium counts from aloe, people who take medication (Digoxin) for heart rhythm problems may see adverse effects when using aloe.
- It’s possible that aloe may decrease the body’s blood clotting abilities.
- Taking aloe orally before surgery is not recommended since certain anaesthesia also decreases blood clotting.
- If used topically, the NIH states that aloe may increase the absorption of steroid creams (hydrocortisone).
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