Do you want smooth, soft and glowing skin? Look for the ingredient aloe vera your moisturizer. Chances are, it’s there. But do you really know what aloe vera is and what it’s for? This amazing plant keeps such a low profile, no wonder we take it for granted.
Apart from being the most effective moisturizer for skin, aloe vera has many other benefits you probably haven’t heard about. Aloe vera can be used as a topical treatment or consumed as a drink or in capsule form.
What is aloe vera?
When you hear about aloe vera, you probably think there is only one aloe plant. The fact is, there are more than 500 species of the aloe plant, but the species most commonly used for herbal medicine refers to Aloe Vera Barbadensis Miller. It is grown in almost all parts in the world, from America, to Europe, to Africa and Asia. Aloe is a succulent plant that looks stem-less, as its leaves seem to rise up from the ground. The aloe plant looks similar to a cactus, with leaves that are thick and fleshy with serrated edges. The gel-like sap from stored in its leaves is used for its moisturizing, healing and soothing properties. The juice from the aloe plant can be ingested in liquid or capsule form to treat a number of ailments.
Aloe vera contains a host of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and other phytonutrients that give it its cosmetic and medicinal properties. As a topical agent, aloe promotes the healing of wounds, soothes first- and second-degree burns and moisturizes the skin. Although the specific components in aloe vera responsible for the treatment of skin conditions are still not exactly known (they can be an enzyme or a hormone), anecdotal evidence has shown aloe’s efficacy in dermatologic diseases, dating as far back as 6000 years ago in Egypt. As a supplement taken orally, aloe vera contains vitamins, minerals, phenolic compounds and amino acids that aid in the treatment of certain illnesses.
Aloe vera for topical use:
Cracked and dry skin:
Deficiency in vitamins A, E and D, not drinking enough water and constant exposure to dry environments can cause skin dehydration. Aloe vera penetrates the skin better and faster than synthetic creams and works on the cellular level to hydrate skin, not just externally.
Various researchers have shown aloe vera increased keratinocyte and fibroblast activities in wound healing. Keratinocytes make up the connective tissue and fibroblasts are the major components of skin. Promoting their growth hastens the healing and contraction of excisional wounds.
In a study presented to the International Congress of Dermatology in 2009, aloe vera was found to reduce the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) score of patients with psoriasis. PASI is the approved measurement of psoriasis activity and a significant improvement was seen in psoriatic individuals after treatment with aloe vera.
Sun burn, eczema, insect bites and other skin conditions:
Rubbing aloe vera soothes the pain of sun burns and the itchiness and inflammation of eczema and dermatoses. The enzyme bradykinase and plant steroids campesterol, beta-sitosterol and cholesterol possess anti-inflammatory properties that aid in reducing the symptoms of these conditions.
More commonly known as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis responds well to aloe vera treatment by reducing scalp itchiness, scaling and size of affected areas. This was the result of a study done at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
Aloe vera for oral intake:
The aloin in aloe vera has been scientifically proven to be an effective laxative and treatment for constipation. Folk medicine practitioners used the dried latex found in the inner lining of the aloe leaves as a laxative when taken by mouth.
According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website, emodin, an extract of aloe vera, slows down the growth of cancer cells. Other aloe vera components, such as acemannan, aloeride and di-phthalate boost the immune system and have anticancer properties.
Type 2 Diabetes:
A study done at the Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand showed diabetic patients with similar blood sugar levels who were given two tablespoons of aloe vera juice had a 57 percent reduction of fasting blood sugar at the end of six weeks against a group who were not given aloe vera juice.
In a 2004 clinical trial for Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 44 patients were given oral aloe vera gel or placebo, 100 milliliters two times daily for four weeks. The patients who received aloe vera reported reduced symptoms of ulcerative colitis as measured in clinical remission, improvement and response.
As a skin lotion, moisturizer and balm, aloe vera may be applied liberally three to four times a day without any side effects. There are several skin products containing aloe vera alone or in combination with other ingredients.
As a laxative, 40 to 170 milligrams of dried aloe vera juice is needed to maintain soft stools. For other uses, the recommended dose is from 150 to 300 milligrams daily to obtain its benefits.
Using Aloe Safely
Do not use aloe vera if you have known allergies to onions, garlic and other plants of the Liliaceae family.
Aloe vera gel should not be applied on open wounds, surgical wounds, before sun exposure or after a skin peeling procedure.
Aloe vera should not be injected.
If diarrhea occurs after taking oral aloe vera, discontinue temporarily and consult your doctor.
As a general safety precaution, pregnant and breast-feeding women should not take oral aloe vera juice or capsules.
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