It has been widely in use in Ayurveda and many other traditional medicine systems for beauty and skin treatment and for treating digestive disorders since centuries in some countries. While in others, it was no more than a weed. Studied worldwide, it was found that either not many people knew about it or they were not at all bothered. Then there are many places where it is seen as an ornamental plant. So, despite being in use, it was some kind of unknown to the common man. Then suddenly it caught a boom over the last few decades when many cosmetic manufacturing companies started using it in their products, particularly when they found that people are turning back towards natural alternatives. Ample of studies were conducted and innumerable health benefits & medicinal benefits of this plant were discovered. Yes! I am talking about Aloe Vera. Let me tell you something more about it.
What’s so special about Aloe Vera? Is it some kind of wonder medicine? Honestly saying, “No”. It is not a wonder medicine in itself, but indeed a wonderful assistance. Use of Aloe Vera should rather be seen as assistance to certain treatments, than considering it as the sole treatment. In fact, even many of Aloe Vera’s claimed medicinal uses are yet to be proved. Therefore, in acute medical conditions, it may be given only in consultation with and when permitted by a doctor, along with other medications. The patient should not be left on the mercy of Aloe Vera alone.
No doubt Aloe Vera helps in certain medicinal situations. The part of Aloe Vera that is mainly used is the flesh, obtained by peeling its leaves. The flesh looks like transparent gel. When cut in pieces, it looks like clear ice cubes.
Description: Aloe Vera is a species of succulent plant of genus “Aloe”. It is a common site in countries with hot and arid climate, like India, countries of Africa and others. Aloe Vera is also known as “True Aloe” or “Medicinal Aloe”. Some people tend to stay away from it, confusing it with cactus. But it is not cactus. It spreads through “Offsets”. The color may vary depending upon varieties, climate and even season.
Benefits of Aloe Vera: The benefits of Aloe Vera include its health benefits, medicinal properties and economical benefits. Let us start with its benefits then.
Health Benefits of Aloe Vera: The health benefits of Aloe Vera are listed as under;
- Since ancient times, Aloe Vera was in use domestically as a natural soothing and moisturizing agent and also as a source of dietary fiber.
- As a Moisturizer: The flesh of Aloe Vera, crushed to gel, is extensively applied on skin and on hair as a moisturizer. It makes the skin smooth and moisturizes hair due to its gel like properties.
- As a Soother: The gel of Aloe Vera makes an excellent sunscreen lotion and soothes skin inflammations, sunburns etc.
- As a Bulk Laxative: Now, it cannot be rightly called a laxative, but it undoubtedly gives relief in constipation and facilitates clear motions due to its gel and fiber.
- As a Nutritional Supplement: Now, this property of Aloe Vera gel is really controversial. Some studies claim that Aloe Vera has as many as around fifty vitamins, minerals and amino acids and over seventy nutrients. That’s impressive! But, on the other hand, some studies say that it is more water and fiber than anything else. May be that the above nutrients, although many in number; are just present in traces and thus there are almost no studies which suggest that Aloe Vera can be used as a complete dietary supplement.
Medicinal Benefits of Aloe Vera: The medicinal benefits of Aloe Vera includes following
- In Treatment of Dandruff: This is perhaps the most widespread and most popular medicinal use of Aloe Vera gel. The gel, a sort of slippery in texture and full of moisture retaining properties, keeps the hair roots, follicles and scalp moist, soft and protected from drying, thereby reducing patching away of skin from scalp or dandruff. Further, being a natural product, it has no side effects on hair, eyes or skin unlike the synthetic anti dandruff shampoos.
- In Treatment of Wound & Sores: Although there are contradictory statements on this property, but many people believe to have benefited by applying Aloe Vera gel on wounds & contusions and sores, fresh or old. This may be largely due to the fact that apart from soothing the wounds due to its coolness, it does not let the skin go dry around the wound when it starts healing and that’s why the skin is neither stretched nor goes itchy. This gives some relief to the wounded person. Whether Aloe Vera gel speeds up healing of wounds is still a matter of research, but some studies claim that Aloe Vera gel has cicatrizing properties, i.e. healing up of scars.
- As a carrier: Aloe Vera gel is readily absorbed in the skin and is able to penetrate through all the three layers of skin due to presence of a component named Lignin.
- In Treatment of Burns: Researches show that Aloe Vera gel helps reduce inflammation in first and second degree burns and also promotes healing to some extent. It also protects skin from drying, going hard and cracking when burn wounds heal.
- In Treatment of Diabetes: Studies show that certain compounds present in Aloe Vera gel can reduce blood glucose (triglycerides) and glycosylated haemoglobin levels. Further, the soothing and cooling properties of Aloe Vera gel can reduce abnormal thirst (when taken orally), skin itching (when applied externally) etc. in diabetic patients.
- In Treatment of High Cholesterol: The high fiber content of Aloe Vera reduces cholesterol level in blood thereby helping reduce hypertension.
- In Treatment of Ulcers: Aloe Vera gel was found effective in soothing inflammation in ulcerative colitis, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, peptic ulcer and also wounds, cuts, bruises and ulcer of intestines. It is also useful in treating liver cirrhosis and hepatitis.
- In Treatment of Cancer: Certain compounds extracted from Aloe Vera gel help stimulate immunity for fighting cancer in lower animals like cats, dogs etc. It also helps in stopping growth of cancerous tumors. However, it is still to be proved on humans.
- In Treatment of Herpes: External application helps give relief in genital herpes, herpes zoster & herpes simplex.
- In Treatment of Psoriasis: Topical application of Aloe gel improves conditions in Psoriasis.
- In Treatment of Infections: Aloe Vera is found to have antibacterial and antifungal properties thus may be used in treatment of infections. It is particularly found effective in treatment of boils, skin rashes, skin cysts and tinea, infections caused by streptococci and in shigellosis. It is also found effective in treatment of acne, Candida, staph infections, dermatitis, eczema, Epstein-Barr viral infections, vaginal infections, Actinic Keratosis, Athlete’s foot, urticaria, intestinal worms, kidney infections etc.
- In Blood Purification: It is said to “Oxygenate” and liquefy thick, impure blood. It also reduces proneness to allergies.
- Aloe Vera gel eases joint pain in arthritis.
- The anti oxidants present in Aloe Vera protect body from free radicals and oxalates.
- It helps maintaining pH balance of blood by countering rise in acids in blood.
- In Treatment of Chronic Fatigue: The high moisture content and numerous nutrients present in Aloe Vera gel helps in treating chronic fatigue by nourishing & re-hydrating the body.
- Other Medicinal Uses: Apart from those given above, Aloe Vera is also believed to be useful in treatment of blisters, insect bites & stings, sunburns, nausea, albumenorrhea, conjunctivitis, Varicose Veins, tendonitis, allergic eruptions, frostbite, fading of scars, wrinkles, rosacea (reddening of skin) etc. Although not proved, but it is believed to give relief in ailments caused by X-Ray radiations. It is also found helpful in regulating menstruations.
- And last but not the least, some recent studies claim that Aloe Vera is found effective in giving some relief in AIDS by boosting immunity.
What more did you expect from a humble herb?
- Commercial Benefits of Aloe Vera: This is high time you take to cultivation of Aloe Vera, because it is finding its way towards wide applications in cosmetics industry, where nearly all skin lotions, creams, conditioners, soaps and shampoos claim to contain Aloe Vera extract. Aloe Vera is selling like hot cake and it is right time you get your share.
- Other Benefits of Aloe Vera: Whether or not its health benefits and medicinal benefits are proved, but there is no doubt that it is a plant, it looks good and it looks green. So, planting Aloe Vera in your yard will not only give it a better look (don’t forget that it is also used as an ornamental plant), but will also help keeping our environment better.