The Health Benefits Of Aloe Vera
The Aloe vera plant has been used for thousands of years to heal a variety of conditions, most notably burns, wounds, skin irritations and constipation. In fact, it has been cited as being used in herbal medicine since the beginning of the first century AD and remains one of the most commonly used herbs in the US today. While oral use of aloe for constipation is no longer recommended as it can have severe side effects, extracts from Aloe vera are widely used in the cosmetics and alternative medicine industries, being marketed as having rejuvenating, healing and soothing properties. It's also an excellent ingredient to put in green supplement products due to its plethora of health benefits.
Aloe vera is a perennial, succulent plant - in other words, its leaves hold large quantities of water. Cultivated in subtropical and tropical locations, including South Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Aloe vera plant can grow up to 4 feet tall and has tough, fleshy, spear like leaves. The clear, thick gel found in the inner part of the leaf is most commonly used for minor cuts and burns. Although aloe is 99% water, aloe gel also contains substances known as glycoproteins and polysaccharides. Glycoproteins speed the healing process by stopping pain and inflammation, while polysaccharides stimulate skin growth and repair. These substances may also stimulate the immune system.
You can get aloe by simply breaking off leaves of the plant, but it is also available commercially in ointments, creams and lotions. Aloe vera gel, made from the central part of the Aloe leaf, is a common household remedy for minor cuts and burns as well as sunburns. It can be found in many commercial skin lotions and cosmetics and is also an effective moisturizing agent. For this reason, Aloe vera gel has gained tremendous popularity for relief of burns.
Many people have started using Aloe vera leaf powder to boost nutritional content of juices and smoothies. In fact, some companies have started making green supplements with Aloe vera leaf powder and other nutritional ingredients due to the high demand by health-conscious consumers.
A 2013 study assessed the efficacy of Aloe Vera gel compared with 1% silver sulfadiazine cream as a burn dressing at Nishtar Hospital in Pakistan. A total of 50 patients with superficial and partial thickness burns were divided into two equal groups. One group was dressed with Aloe vera gel while the other was treated with silver sulfadiazine. Study authors observed that healing of burn wounds happened earlier in patients treated with Aloe vera gel relative to those treated with silver sulfadiazine. Not only that, all the patients in the Aloe vera group were relieved of pain earlier. In other words, thermal burns patients dressed with Aloe vera gel benefited in terms of early wound epithelialization, earlier pain relief as well as cost-effectiveness.
In another study, burn sites treated with Aloe vera healed completely in less than 16 days compared to 19 days for sites treated with silver sulfadiazine. In a review of scientific literature, patients who were treated with Aloe vera were seen to heal an average of almost 9 days sooner than those who weren't treated with the medicinal plant. However, at least one study also found that Aloe vera actually delayed healing. Health experts now say that Aloe is best used for minor burns and skin irritations and should never be applied to open wounds.
Preliminary evidence suggests that Aloe gel may improve symptoms of genital herpes and certain skin conditions such as psoriasis, even displaying anti-inflammatory effects superior to hydrocortisone cream or a placebo gel. Researchers also claim that Aloe vera gel may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions, such as ultraviolet-induced erythema.
While the use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease, they may have side effects and they can interact with other herbs, supplements or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Aloe gel is considered safe when applied to the surface of the skin, but in rare cases, it may cause an allergic reaction such as a skin rash. Taking Aloe latex orally may cause severe intestinal cramps or diarrhea and is not recommended. Pregnant women should never take Aloe latex because it may cause uterine contractions and trigger miscarriage. Nursing mothers should not take Aloe latex either because the effects and safety for infants and children are not known.
The combination of aloe vera and glyburide, a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, may help control blood sugar and triglyceride levels in the blood. However, people with diabetes who use Aloe either alone or in combination with other medications must be monitored closely to make sure blood sugar levels don't fall too low, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Further, taking oral Aloe can decrease potassium levels in the body. Therefore, Aloe latex should not be used by people taking diuretics or digoxin, a medication used to treat irregular heart rhythms and congestive heart failure, since these drugs also lower potassium levels in the body. In other words, a combination of aloe and digoxin or diuretics could cause potassium levels to fall dangerously low.