The Therapeutic Uses of Aloe Vera: Skin Care and Digestive Health

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In the world, there are about 420 different species of Aloe. The most popular being the Aloe barbadensis miller strand. Commonly known as Aloe vera, it is the most prevalent of all the Aloe species and is a cactus-like plant that is typically cultivated in warm climates in the Middle East, South America, Europe, and Africa. It is the gel from the plant that is frequently used in medicine, cosmetics, herbal remedies, and food. It is also a good source of essential nutrients and trace minerals like Vitamin A, C, E, beta-carotene, folic acid, calcium & magnesium. This species (miller) happens to be the most nutrient-dense! Although there are a lot of benefits to taking Aloe Vera (or applying it topically to your skin), there are some risks to look out for as well. Below, I go into detail about all you would need to know surrounding Aloe barbadensis miller.

Aloe Vera Gel:

Aloe vera ‘gel’ is made by withdrawing the substance found from the plant’s leaves and can be directly applied on the surface of the skin. Aloe Vera products mainly come in two forms, a gel that can be used as an ointment, or a juice that can be consumed orally. The gel form has been used throughout history in ancient herbal and traditional medicine all around the globe. It treats many types of burns with its soothing properties, which can range from helping burns and skin irritation caused by poison ivy to reducing the appearance and duration of cold sores. This topical application aids in burns, sunburns, and dry skin for those suffering from eczema. Despite the fact that it has healing properties on the skin, caution should be used with regard to infected skin or open cuts as this can affect the healing process and make the infection worse or more prolonged.

Aloe Vera Juice:

Although the most common version of Aloe Vera is in its gel form (for topical applications), the liquid juice version can also be as beneficial to your digestive health. It is best consumed on an empty stomach, by diluting it with water, to preference. The juice performs as a laxative as it relieves heartburn, digestive upset, and can aid with constipation. It is naturally rich in vitamins and trace minerals. It has been studied for the potential to help assist in heartburn relief, inflammatory bowel syndrome, constipation, ulcers, and canker sores. It is important, however, to consume pure aloe vera juice in moderation as there can be some unfavorable aftereffects if you consume too much. As always, those who are pregnant should consult a health care practitioner, nutritionist, or naturopath prior to consuming.

Aloe vera is extremely hydrating – this is due to how water-dense the plant is. Consuming aloe vera can help replenish fluids after strenuous exercise without depleting minerals or electrolytes, much like coconut water. This can also help ensure your liver and kidneys can properly do their jobs.

Aloe has been shown to interact with some medications as well, so it is important that if you are taking any prescription medication for blood pressure, diabetes, or digestive issues that you consult a health care professional prior to use.

Growing Aloe Vera:

If you were thinking of growing an aloe vera plant in your home, there are a few things to consider before you get started. First, you would need a location with direct natural or artificial sunlight. It doesn’t require a lot of sunlight to grow so bear this in mind as it might render the leaves burnt and discolored if exposed to extreme heat or light. The optimal spot would likely be by a kitchen or bedroom window. A suitable container or planter would be made of a spongy, absorbable material that can permit the soil to meticulously dry when watering the plant. Choose a pot that is as big as it is wide in order to allow the plant to fully grow and not hinder any development, especially if your plant has a long stem. Once done, planting or re-potting, do not water the plant for 5-7 days as this will help decrease the likeliness of any rot or mold to build up. Aloe plants don’t need much fertilizing and should only be fertilized once in the spring. As they prefer more dry conditions and climates, watering once a week should be sufficient, which can even be extended to two weeks in colder months, during the winter.

Aloe Vera in Cosmetics:

The Aloe Vera plant is a jack of all trades with all its diversity of useful benefits, both beneficial to digestive health and beauty. The extracts from this plant can be used as a makeup remover, face exfoliator, and even as a soothing shaving gel. The best way to apply any aloe vera-based product is in the gel form, coming from the inside of the plant’s leaf, and applying directly onto the skin. You can also find many products for skincare purposes that are primarily (95-99%) aloe, without additives. There are many benefits to using aloe vera in other cosmetic formulations (like powders, exfoliators, and cleansers) due to its many great qualities! Naturally moisturizing, skin-soothing, cooling, and healing. In cosmetic products, you can find aloe listed as a gel, oil, powder, juice, ‘extract,’ and ‘glycerite’ – this is a skin brightening ingredient commonly used in Eastern countries.

Inner Leaf vs. Whole Leaf Juice and Gel:

When it comes to the gel and juice forms, there are two components which are: the ‘inner leaf’ and the ‘whole leaf.’ Inner leaf is formulated from the procedure of extracting the juices or gel from the inside of the plant’s leaf, while the whole leaf method is combining the gel and juice found inside with the ‘outer’ parts of the leaf-like stem, which is often ground or crushed. Inner leaf typically has a translucent color and gel-like consistency that is thicker than water and is applied topically on the surface of the skin or ingested.

Whole leaf juice, is raw and comprised of the whole plant which contains aloin. This is a phytochemical with laxative type attributes that can be hard for the human body to naturally break down and is usually associated with more side effects (like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and cramps) when it comes to consumption. The inner leaf where the gel naturally derives from is where the most nutritional and topical benefits lie. One of the active ingredients naturally present in aloe, acemannan, is extremely anti-inflammatory and a cooling agent which helps relieve the symptoms from sunburns, acne & dry skin.

This is why it is often used topically in personal care and cosmetic items. Aloe Vera has been widely used throughout history due to its healing, calming, and soothing effects on the skin. Originating from Africa, the “miracle leaf” can be traced all the way back to the times of the Pharaohs. Most commonly applied by rubbing on the skin, this plant acts as a healing agent when applied to burns and rashes, accelerating the healing process and providing relief from burns or an itch. It is also a great source of essential nutrients and trace minerals like Vitamin A, C, E, beta-carotene, folic acid, calcium, and magnesium. Thanks to the anti-inflammatory characteristics, it is not great for treating skin that is prone to dryness and eczema, but digestive upset and irritation as well – provided it comes just from the inner leaf if being used internally.

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