Aloe vera is mostly known in the West as a sticky gel used topically on sunburns, but the aloe plant offers so much more than relief from redness. The health benefits of aloe vera range from treating skin conditions and wounds to aiding digestion and promoting hydration.
Just what does this miracle plant offer? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about aloe vera and its amazing health benefits.
What Does Aloe Vera Offer?
The aloe vera plant is just one of the 420 species of the Aloe genus, a group of perennial succulent plants grown throughout the world. Botanists believe that the species originated in Sudan before being transplanted to the Mediterranean world and spread across the globe to Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
The plant is a green succulent featuring fleshly leaves marked by serrated edges. The plant only grows to reach one to two feet tall, but it’s a dense species. Split open an aloe vera leave, and you’ll find a cool, jelly-like inside that is sticky but soothing. The inner flesh of the leaf is used to make aloe gel, which is used in skin care and pharmaceutical contexts. Between the green skin and the clear jelly is a yellow layer used to make aloe latex.
Why is aloe vera the most frequently used of the Aloe genus? Because it’s recognized as being the most biologically active of the 420 species. The plant contains over 75 active properties from across the vitamin and mineral spectrum that allow it to be used in many different ways.
Active Properties of the Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe vera is used as both a supplement and a treatment for many different deficiencies and ailments because of the sheer number properties that it contains.
The plant is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as choline, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
A, C, and E are antioxidants, which the body uses to neutralize the free radicals hanging around.
You’ll find calcium chromium manganese, potassium, zinc, sodium, copper, and selenium in the plant.
The human body uses these naturally occurring minerals for overall function; these minerals, in particular, are deployed in different places across your metabolic system to help the enzyme systems function.
Botanists have identified eight health-boosting enzymes in the plant including alkaline phosphatase, alliase, amalyase, carboxypeptidase, cllulase, catalase, bradykinase, peroxidase, and lipase.
The enzymes found in aloe vera serve many purposes ranging from reducing inflammation to helping your body break down fats and sugars.
These plants include 12 laxatives (anthraquinones) including emodin and aloin, which have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Low on fatty acids? You’ll find cholesterol, beta-sisosterol, campersterol, and lupeol in aloe vera. The fatty acids found in this plant offer anti-inflammatory action.
Aloe vera contains both monosaccharide and polysaccharide sugars, both of which can be medicinal and have immune boosting properties.
Maximize Your Health: Juice vs Gel
Aloe can heal both externally and internally, but what product do you need? Aloe vera juice or aloe vera gel? What’s the difference anyway?
Both gel and juice are made from different parts of the plant. The gel is made from the squishy, clear innards of the leaf – in fact, you don’t even need the gel. If you buy an aloe vera plant, it’s possible to split open a mature leaf and apply the inside of the plant directly.
Aloe vera juice is made from the inside of the leaf or the whole leaf – the label of the bottle will tell you which one you’ve purchased.
If you’re applying aloe topically to treat a sun burn or skin condition, you might find that the gel is most soothing. The plant heals over time, but it also provides an immediate relief that soothes burns, inflammation or irritation of the skin.
Using aloe vera as a health supplement to stimulate digestion and boost your immune system? You’ll want the juice. Watch out for the label though. Juice made from the innards only produces several health effects and is used as a complementary therapy for osteoarthritis, asthma, and epilepsy.
However, juice made from the whole leaf also offers a laxative effect. The laxative is derived from the liquid derived from the leaf itself. If laxatives are the opposite of the digestive stimulation you need, avoid the whole leaf juice and stick to the inner fillet.
Looking for the same aloe vera juice benefits but don’t enjoy the taste of the juice? Aloe vera is also available in supplement form. Alternatively, you can add a few tablespoons to your favorite juice, smooth, or beverage to mask the taste and texture.
The Benefits of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera offers the opportunity for a diverse range of applications ranging from beauty to mitigating the effects of serious illnesses and harsh treatments.
Here are just some of the ways you can use this incredible plant:
The aloe vera plant is most commonly known for its ability to heal skin conditions, and indeed, that is where its greatest strengths lie.
You can use the plant and by-products of it to heal both wounds and burns as well as deal with inflammation. It has been used to treat dermatitis, psoriasis, and even surgical wounds.
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The uses of the plant aren’t just tradition passed on from generation to generation – aloe vera’s benefits in curing skin conditions have been tested, too. In a study performed in 1935, scientists found that applying the plant secured serious relief from the burning and itching side effects of radiation dermatitis.
A second study was performed in Sweden in 1996. The Department of Clinical Physiology rounded up 60 psoriasis patients who were given either a placebo or aloe vera cream. Eighty-three percent of the aloe vera patients saw significant improvements in their chronic psoriasis compared to only 7% in the group that received the placebo cream.
Aloe vera can also be used orally to heal from the inside out. A systematic review of the scientific literature found that it was used to heal wounds, reduce the number of tumors found in the spleen and liver, and treat psoriasis, frostbite, dermatitis, genital herpes, and burns. The healing and anti-inflammatory properties found in the plant are aided by its ability to ward of bacteria, viruses, and fungus.
Aloe vera supplements are also used to aid weight loss. While the plant itself doesn’t stimulate major fat burning action, the many active properties found in it support your body’s systems in cleansing and repairing while you’re in the process of losing weight.
The vitamins and minerals found in the leaves support essential functions including metabolic functions, which keep your body running efficiently. The enzymes and fatty acids found also support weight loss systems because they improve the way your body absorbs and utilizes nutrients, which helps you lose weight and become healthier at the same time.
Immune System Function
The sugars you’ll find in aloe aren’t just natural sugars – they may also be used to heal your immune system.
Long-chain polysaccharide sugars help your immune system by aiding the efficiency of your white blood cells, which prefer polysaccharide sugars to other types of dietary sugar. However, what makes the plant so spectacular for immune function is that the polysaccharide sugars are helped along by glutathione, an antioxidant that improves energy.
Glutathione supports white blood cell development and prevents the damage caused by oxidation. Together, the two active components create an immunity powerhouse that heals.
Aloe vera is used to relieve both constipation and diarrhea on their own and when these issues are symptoms of bowel issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or leaky gut. Not only do the plant’s properties keep your bowels running smoothly, but studies have found that the juice also helps reduce the abdominal pain and discomfort that too often accompanies IBS.
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Do you have trouble staying hydrated or will you need to find a way to pack a hydration punch? Aloe vera juice is a helpful substitute for water because, in addition to all the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes it provides, it’s also water-dense, which helps your body stay hydrated while also delivering a serious nutritional kick.
Next time you’re at the gym, skip the coconut water and choose aloe juice to enjoy both the hydrating effects and the incredible health benefits.
Boost Your Health with a Single Plant
For those of us who grew up covering sunburns in aloe vera gel during the summer and forgetting about this miracle plant all winter, the world of uses for this green plant is almost overwhelming. Whether you use a topical or juice form, everyone can benefit from adding aloe vera to their diet – there are 75 active properties that help you enjoy your healthiest life.
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Do you use aloe vera in your health or skin care routine? Share your favorite products in the comments below.