The leaves of aloe vera plant contain the aloe gel, a colorless and viscous liquid, from which aloe is derived. Aloe can be prepared in both oral and topical form. Oral preparation of aloe consists of either the colorless liquid or the yellowish latex obtained by evaporation of this liquid. Topical preparation of aloe contains the colorless gel.
Medicinal Properties of Aloe:
Aloe contains chemicals with healing properties. One such chemical is allantoin, which speeds up the healing process. Another chemical aloe-emodin has anti-tumor properties. Aloe Vera has also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property. It serves as a natural bandage upon drying.
Recent studies revealed that aloe can change body’s DNA structure. Therefore, research is going on to explore the role of aloe in cancer treatment. Further, according to a study, Aloe Vera has shown promising results, when applied topically, in treating some types of psoriasis in combination with castor oil.
Available forms of Aloe:
As discussed in preceding paragraphs aloe can be taken in both oral and topical form. However, oral or internal consumption of aloe is generally not recommended. Aloe comes as:
- gel with 98%, 99.5% and 99.6% concentration
- juice with 99.6% and 99.7% concentration
- capsules with aloe vera extract or powder
- skin cream, shampoo, lotion, hair conditioner, ointment and jelly
Benefits and Uses of Aloe Vera:
Aloe is most widely used as an antiseptic for cuts, bruises, burns and other skin conditions. It is also used as a natural skin moisturizer. Aloe can also be used for the following conditions.
- Diabetes – Aloe stimulates the insulin hormone secretion and thus helps to reduce the blood-sugar level.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Bacteria in the digestive tract breakdown the food and thus help in absorption of nutrients into the blood. In the process, the bacteria also release toxins, which are under control in normal conditions. Due to poor diet and other causes, the toxic level increases and instead of nutrients, more toxins get into the blood. As a result, undigested food covers the lining of digestive tract and further reduces the absorption of nutrients into the blood. This may lead to fatigue, exhaustion, colon problems, diarrhea, constipation and indigestion. This condition is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Regular intake of Aloe Vera juice increases the food breakdown, reduces the toxicity level and boosts up the nutrient absorption and thus helps in colon cleansing.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – Regular use of aloe reduces the stiffness, redness and swelling of joints. Aloe restores the immune system and helps in the growth of cells.
- Cosmetics – Aloe moisturizes the skin, increases the elasticity of skin thus reducing wrinkles and helps to control the liver spots (melanin deposits).
- Laxative agent for Hemorrhoids
- Common Cold
- Stomach Ulcers
- Minor skin conditions such as burns, frostbite, cuts, and rashes
However, it must be noted that the uses and benefits mentioned above have not been medically proven by research. FDA does not recommend the use of aloe for any condition, though it considers the topical use of aloe to be generally safe.
Method of application of aloe gel:
As said above aloe can be applied topically on minor cuts and burn. Before applying, the area should be cleaned with soap and warm water. Select an older (lower) leaf and cut a few inches of it. Then, slice the leaf lengthwise and scoop out the gel and apply it liberally on the affected part and allow it to dry.
The damaged plant heals itself and therefore, periodic snipping of leaves does not kill the plant.
Side Effects of Aloe Vera:
Prolong use or high dosage of aloe (both internally and externally) can display side effects, which may be one or more of the following:
- red color urine
- build-up of blood into the pelvis
- intestinal spasm
- premature birth or abortion if taken during pregnancy
- reduced potassium level in blood resulting in irregular heartbeats, flabby muscles and weakness
- kidney failure
- severe diarrhea
Aloe should not be taken internally in combination with the following drugs as it may result in serious complications.
- digoxin (Lanoxin)
- Bumex, Lasix, Demadex, and Sodium Edecrin. These drugs cause loss of potassium of blood.
Who should not use Aloe Vera?
The strict don’t of using Aloe are as given below:
- children should not be given aloe
- persons allergic to onions, garlic and tulips (Liliaceae family plants) should not take aloe
- intravenous injection of aloe should never be taken. It proved fatal in many cases when injections were given to treat cancer.
- persons with heart and kidney disease history should avoid taking of aloe
- pregnant, breast-feeding and menstruating women should not take aloe
- Aloe Vera juice or gel should never be taken internally as it may cause severe salt imbalance and diarrhea
Aloe Vera Plant Care:
The following points should be remembered while growing Aloe Vera.
- it can grow in poor soils
- it needs temperature above 40°F
- it requires very less quantity of water but with good drainage
- it grows well in sun as well as in shade
- it produces offshoots, which can be removed and replanted
- it is affected by even light frosts and temperature below 40°F
- pests such as mealybug affects mostly indoor plants. Spray non-toxic insecticidal soap in evening.