Amazing Aloe Vera Uses for Your Health

Aloe vera uses for your health.

Aloe vera uses for health.

For thousands of years, the Aloe Vera plant has been used for a wide variety of health benefits.  It is used internally as well as topically.  Aloe vera gel is commonly used to treat skin irritations, wounds, burns, relieve sunburn and constipation.  You may be surprised to read about the abundant medicinal Aloe vera uses that have been studied through the years.

The Aloe plant naturally grows in tropical and subtropical locations, including the Caribbean, Latin America and North and South Africa.  It has been such a popular succulent that it is now grown all around the world.

Historical Aloe Vera Uses

The use of the Aloe vera leaf was common by the pharaohs in ancient Egypt.  It was called the “plant of immortality” by ancient cultures of the past.  More recently in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was regularly one of the more frequently prescribed natural medicines.  Even today, in the United States, it remains one of the most commonly used herbs for treating health conditions.  The health benefits of Aloe vera are amazing and here are just some of the more commonly used treatments.

Aloe Vera Topical Treatments

  • Wound healing
  • Dental plaque and gum disease
  • Moisturizes dry skin
  • Licen Planus a chronic disease of the skin
  • Mouth ulcers (mucositis)
  • Psoriasis
  • Skin injuries from radiation therapy
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (also called seborrhea or dandruff)
  • Skin burns
  • Genital herpes
  • Skin conditions from chemotherapy
  • Skin ulcers
  • Sunburn
  • Canker sores

Aloe Vera Internal Treatments

  • Helps diabetics lower blood sugar
  • Helps with heart disease
  • Fights high cholesterol
  • Liver disease
  • Provides enzymes, glyconutrients, vitamins and minerals
  • Alkalizes the body
  • Provides natural electrolytes
  • Improves hydration
  • Boosts oxygenation of blood
  • Soothes arthritis pain and eases inflammation
  • Inhibits kidney stones
  • Helps with some digestive disorders
  • Alleviates constipation
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Reduces triglycerides
  • Helps with Candida infections
  • Low in calories

Those were some long lists but let’s take a closure look at some specific medicinal uses for Aloe vera.

Hydration

As noted there are many uses for Aloe vera but one important benefit to consider is to simply add it to your diet for hydration.  It is essential to stay hydrated at all times for optimum health.  Aloe will assist since it is 99% water and filled with electrolytes.  It is especially helpful after intense exercise when you need to rehydrate your body.  Aloe vera juice will also help you flush out excess lactic acid that builds up with exercise.

Liver Function

Aloe vera juice will help keep your liver healthy in several ways.  It will help detox your liver which in turn helps your overall health.  It is ideal for your liver since it is rich in phytonutrients and as already mentioned is excellent for hydration.

Herpes and Skin Conditions

Using Aloe vera for skin conditions has been one of the most common uses of this herb.  Aloe is a great source of vitamins and antioxidants that will help protect and rejuvenate your skin.  It has been shown to help repair UV damaged skin and for some, it prevents wrinkles and fine lines.

The evidence is only preliminary but some research suggests that Aloe Vera gel may help improve the terrible symptoms that result from genital herpes.  These same reports also show improvement for other skin conditions like psoriasis.  One study proved that combining tretinoin with Aloe vera gel was much more effective for treating acne than using tretinoin alone.  Another important study discovered that Aloe vera displayed superior anti-inflammatory effects to both 1% hydrocortisone cream and a placebo.

Some research suggests that Aloe will even help with ultraviolet-induced erythema.[1]  This is a painful skin condition that results in redness and rashes.  There are many types of erythema.  There can be many causes of this skin condition so it is important to work with your doctor to find the source so it may be treated appropriately.

Using the Aloe vera plant is beneficial beyond serious skin conditions.  Many use Aloe vera products to keep their skin hydrated and clear.  Varieties of Aloe vera thrive in hot, dry and desolate areas.  The plant is superior at storing water in its leaves.  The leaves also contain complex carbohydrates that help it to flourish.  These traits make it a special plant for skin moisturizing and for pain relief.

Nutrition

Aloe vera juice contains substantial amounts of folic acid and the vitamins C, E, and B.  It is one of the few plants that contain vitamin B-12.  It also has small amounts of copper, chromium, calcium, selenium, sodium, potassium, manganese, zinc and selenium.

Another benefit is that a small serving of Aloe vera juice has only a few calories and contains zero sugar.  (Depending on why you are using it a serving is usually 4 ounces or less.)

Relief for Burns and Cuts

The most popular use of Aloe vera is to treat minor burns and cuts.  This would include sunburns that happen often in spite of all the suggestions to always use a sun block.  The central part of the Aloe vera leaf is a clear gel that is easy to extract.  If you have access to Aloe vera plants it is simple and inexpensive to remove the gel and apply it directly to the burn or cut.  There are also many manufactured products that have the Aloe gel as one of the main ingredients.  This may be more convenient and should still not cost a lot.

The Aloe gel contains dozens of active compounds that will help reduce inflammation, encourage skin repair and growth, as well as reduce pain in many cases.

The current scientific literature demonstrates that patients that were treated with topical Aloe vera healed about 9 days sooner on average than patients that were not given this medicinal therapy.  Another study found that patients that had burns treated with silver sulfadiazine healed completely in 19 days whereas those treated with just Aloe healed in 16 days.  To be fair there have also been studies with mixed results so it is best to consult your medical practitioner for serious health issues.  One additional caution is that it is never recommended to apply Aloe vera gel to any open wound.

Heartburn Relief

Aloe vera is used internally to help with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is a serious digestive disorder that has heartburn as a symptom.  One study in 2010 found that drinking 1-3 ounces at mealtimes reduced the severity of GERD in most patients.  Many medical professionals consider this a safe remedy for heartburn symptoms.  It works by controlling the secretion of stomach acids.  It has also been shown to prevent gastric ulcers from getting larger.

Lowering Blood Sugar

There is conflicting evidence from studies primarily because of the use of various parts of the Aloe plant and different levels of patient health.  However, at least one study suggests that ingesting even as little as one tablespoon twice a day of Aloe vera juice will result in blood sugar levels dropping in type 2 diabetes patients.[2]   Triglyceride levels also fell in patients of this same study.  A more recent study showed that using the pulp instead of the Aloe vera gel had a better effect.  This study concluded that the pulp of Aloe vera leaves, without the gel, was successful in treating those with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. [3]

As a Laxative

There have been debates over the safety and effectiveness of using Aloe as a laxative.  Because of possible safety issues in 2002, all over-the-counter Aloe vera laxative products were recalled under the direction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  All of these products removed from the huge U.S. market had to be reformulated before they could be introduced again.

The most current information comes from the Mayo Clinic which suggests Aloe vera may be used as a laxative but only sparingly.  For constipation, it recommends a dose of no more than .04 to .17 grams of the dried juice.  This will include 10 to 30 milligrams of what are called hydroxyanthraquinones.  For safety, many manufacturers of quality Aloe vera products have removed or greatly reduced the amount of hydroxyanthraquinones present as an ingredient.  Unless you specifically need the laxative effect it is best to only use Aloe products that have only minute amounts of hydroxyanthraquinones.

Drinking Aloe vera is not recommended for those with colitis, hemorrhoids or Crohn’s disease.  You should also consult your doctor if you are taking prescribed medications since taking Aloe vera may interfere with the absorption of some drugs.

If you are using Aloe from your own plants be aware that the laxative properties come primarily from the skin of the leaf and not the inner gel.  Be especially careful not to eat any of the outer skin that may be yellow.

Liver Disease from Overconsumption of Alcohol

Some studies have shown that an Aloe extract may help reduce the effects of alcohol-induced damage to the liver.

Dental Hygiene

The gel from Aloe vera, studies have shown, inhibits several varieties of bacteria that often lead to gum disease and cavities.  Aloe has also helped many people find relief from swollen or bleeding gums.  Additionally, a published study in 2014 found Aloe extract was an effective and safe alternative to commercial mouthwash.  Aloe vera naturally contains vitamin C which is good at blocking plaque.

Slowing Breast Cancer

At least one study has suggested that Aloe vera has the potential to slow the growth of breast cancer.  This research studied both of the anthraquinone derivatives emodin and Aloe-emodin.  Interestingly the primary bioactive components in rhubarb are emodin and Aloe-emodin.  Aloe vera leaves contain an abundance of Aloe-emodin.  These two compounds were compared to determine their therapeutic effectiveness in helping breast cancer patients.  The study concluded that emodin and Aloe-emodin had “distinct differences in efficiency” on breast cancer cell growth and that, “both compounds are potential selectively therapeutic treatments for breast cancer. “  [3]

Digestive Benefits

This amazing plant has several enzymes that help to break down sugars and fats.  It helps to decrease irritation that can develop in the intestines and stomach.  This is a factor in it helping people that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  It may also help with other inflammatory disorders in the intestines.  In one study (that was not placebo-controlled) all 33 patients had reduced pain and discomfort from IBS.  They also benefitted from a significant reduction in flatulence. [4]

Side Effects

Like almost any food product or medicine there can definitely be side effects of using Aloe vera.  If you purchase some always follow the product directions.  Let your health care provider know you are using it particularly if you are ingesting it.

The safest to drink is whole leaf Aloe vera that has low anthraquinone and is decolorized and purified.  Aloe vera juice or gel that is unpurified or non-decolorized, in rare cases of long term use, can cause diarrhea, colon benign tumors (adenomas) and colon cancer.

Aloe that has not had the anthraquinone extracted, meaning greatly minimized, is the cause of most problems.  Excess anthraquinone is considered toxic so that is why it should be avoided.

Aloe juice may accentuate the adverse side effects of sevoflurane and any medicine that has Cytochrome P450 3A4 and/or CYP2D6 as a base.

Finding the Best Products

For internal use look for Aloe vera with the highest percentage of acemannan since that is thought to be one of the primary beneficial compounds.  Also, choose products with the highest of what is often called the solid percentage.  Although you will likely only be using a small amount daily it is still best to purchase organic Aloe vera whenever possible.  It usually does not cost that much more and you can often find it on sale.

Summary

Always be careful to consult with your primary physician and do your own research before using Aloe vera in any form.  There is scientific proof that there are a number of ways that Aloe vera helps both when used topically and when used internally.  The Aloe vera health benefits have been helping people for hundreds of years.  Additionally, exciting research continues in dozens of labs around the world.

Footnotes