Aloe vera is a popular succulent plant, characterised by its thick and fleshy leaves. Often going by the name of lily of the desert or burn plant, it is believed to originate in Sudan, but is widely found throughout the world.
Many people grow aloe vera for its plethora of medicinal properties, where it’s said to heal and soothe a wide range of conditions. Far from being a new-fangled natural health tonic, it has been used to treat many ailments for over 6,000 years.
Gel from within the leaves can be applied topically to the skin, or it can be added to juice products for internal consumption. Here are the potential health merits of this wonder plant.
Treating skin conditions
Aloe vera scores top marks for treating many skin conditions, including sunburn, cuts, irritation, sores, wounds and inflammatory problems. Scientists claim that substances in aloe vera gel, called glycoproteins and polysaccharides, are responsible for promoting healing of the skin.
Studies have also found that aloe vera applied to first- and second-degree burns can slash healing time by nine days, compared to traditional medicines. Historians even claim that Christopher Columbus and Alexander the Great used it to treat the wounds of soldiers to great effect.
Aloe vera is frequently applied to beauty products and cosmetics to improve the appearance of skin. Preliminary studies even suggest that this wonder ingredient plays a role in the anti-ageing process, where it can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. One study, in particular, noted that women who applied gel to their skin experienced an increase in collagen and an improvement in skin elasticity.
As well as improving the skin, aloe vera has earned a reputation as a valuable digestive tonic, easing a wide range of tummy troubles. Researchers suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera juice can help to heal a leaky gut, soothe acid reflux, reduce constipation and nausea, and stamp out parasitic gut infections.
Balance blood sugar
Studies conclude that regular consumption of aloe vera juice can help to balance blood sugar levels in the body and prevent insulin sensitivity. This may play a useful role in the battle against type 2 diabetes, although more research is needed in this area.
Natural plaque remover
If you’re looking for a more natural solution to remove dental plaque compared to standard mouth rinses laden with unknown ingredients, aloe vera juice could be up your street. Several studies confirm that the juice is just as effective as regular mouthwash for eliminating dental plaque, even after as little as four days of use. It contains substances that can kill bacteria (streptococcus mutans) and yeast (candida albicans) in the mouth that can cause plaque build-up.
Reduce joint and muscular pain
Since aloe vera contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory properties, early studies show that it can play a beneficial role in treating inflammation of the joints and muscles, through injuries or from conditions such as arthritis. Both gel applied topically and drinking the juice are thought to help ease inflammation.
With its widespread therapeutic benefits, it’s no wonder that aloe vera is proving popular as a natural alternative to conventional medicines. However, it’s worth consulting with your GP before you decide to take it as a form of medical treatment, to ensure you use it safely and without causing any implications or negative side effects.