Aloe Vera: The “Wonder Plant”

Elaine Belcher

Aloe vera is a versatile plant majorly used for its medicinal properties. It is also used as a beauty cosmetic and incorporated into food products. This plant naturally grows in dry, tropical climates, which gives it long, fleshy leaves that are stiff and spiky along the edges. Aloe vera extracts, derived from its succulent leaves, are available in two forms: gel and latex. When aloe vera is cut, a colorless, gel-like pulp is exposed and can be identified as the gel, while the yellow sap that exudes from the plant is latex. Both have medicinal properties.

Health Benefits of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera provides your body with a lot of benefits as it contains bioactive compounds including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. It can be used as a topical gel on your skin or taken orally in foods, juices, or smoothies and aloe supplement tabs. Below is a compilation of aloe vera benefits.

1. Improve your skin health

Aloe gel moisturizes and nourishes your skin without feeling all greasy. It is perfect for both oily and dry skin. It reduces skin dryness, and its natural saponins help the oily skin by unclogging pores. This principle also works in preventing acne eruptions on your face.

Most of the skin aloe gels are incorporated in body lotions and facial scrubs. It can also be used as a moisturizing base coat before applying your makeup. This leaves your skin hydrated, even under layers of makeup.

2. Slow the aging process

Apply topical aloe gel that contains vitamin E and beta-carotene (anti-aging properties) to give yourself a youthful look. The antioxidants in the aloe gel destroy the free radicals emitted in your body that accelerate aging. It improves your skin's firmness, especially around your wrinkle lines, making them less noticeable.

3. Promote healing

Aloe vera gel contains gibberellin, a growth hormone stimulating the growth of new cells. This allows your skin to heal quickly with minimal scarring. Aloe topical gel is recommended as an aftershave cream as its healing properties can treat small cuts caused by shaving. Before you embark on that summer retreat, make sure you pack aloe vera ointment, as it prevents scaling and peeling from sunburns.

4. Reduce inflammation

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties effective for reducing inflammation and redness as seen in boils and cysts. It suppresses the inflammatory markers in your body, and is more effective than regular anti-inflammatory medications such as hydrocortisone.

5. Soothe psoriasis itchiness

Applying aloe gel creams to the scales decreases the severity of psoriasis and associated itchiness. Aloe vera hydrates the skin by producing collagen, which enhances new skin growth over the scaly skin. Therefore, aloe prevents flare-ups and gives you a glowing touch.

6. Boost your immune system

Aloe vera incorporated in juices and smoothies strengthens your immunity against infections. It contains powerful antioxidants that inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

7. Improve your digestive system

The laxative effects of aloe vera will have you pooping in no time. The latex portion in the aloe vera contains natural laxatives, making it an effective remedy of constipation. Enjoy a chilled aloe vera juice and wade yourself out of constipation.

8. Strengthen your hair and prevent dandruff

Aloe vera hair conditioner contains proteolytic enzymes that remove dead skin from your scalp and soothes it, thus making it an effective anti-dandruff treatment. Aloe acts as a fertilizer, stimulating the dormant hair follicles into growth. This turns your brittle, weak hair to a marvelous strong-stranded, shiny mane!

9. Improve your dental hygiene

Aloe vera mouthwash contains antimicrobial properties, which reduce the buildup of tartar on your teeth and gums. It is much effective than regular medicated mouthwash. Make sure you gargle soon after brushing as it will leave your mouth feeling fresh.

10. Regulate blood sugar levels in your body

Aloe vera capsules have been found to lower blood glucose levels and low-density lipoprotein or cholesterol. This results in improved cell sensitivity to insulin and uptake of glucose respectively. It improves your quality of life and keeps diabetes an arm's length away.

11. Treat canker sores effectively

Canker sores form in your mouth lining, resulting in painful ulceration that interferes with eating. Aloe vera reduces the size of the canker sore, relieves pain, and fastens healing. It effectively clears when you gargle with an aloe mouthwash or brush and swish with a toothpaste fortified with aloe.

Precautions and Warnings of Aloe Vera Use

Aloe vera contains antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antibiotic, and antibacterial properties, with some of its components still under research. Therefore, it is important to exercise caution while using it. Some precautions to keep in mind include:

  • Application of aloe vera to deep cuts or severe burns is discouraged. This is because this kind of wound is prone to infections, warranting antibiotic use and more specialized care such as grafting for the skin to regenerate.

  • Stop topical application if it causes skin irritation with eruptions of rashes. You may be allergic to its properties.

  • Avoid using unprocessed aloe products as they may contain chemicals that have the potential to cause cancer or interact with any drug you are currently using.

  • Limit aloe vera to the external application if you are expecting or nursing a baby.

  • Although aloe vera offers a quick fix of relieving constipation, do not overuse it more than its recommended dosage as it may overstimulate your bowels, leading to diarrhea and consequently dehydrating your body.

Aloe Vera and Other Drug Interactions

Due to the vast nature of the pharmacological properties of aloe vera, it interacts with other drugs as discussed below:

1. Potassium-sparing drugs

The aloe containing latex impairs resorption of potassium and may cause heart and nervous problems in your body. If you have a deep venous thrombosis and on anticoagulants, aloe vera may cause a thrombus to break out and bleed as it reduces blood-clotting mechanisms.

2. Hyperglycemic agents

Aloe vera intake may have a synergistic effect when combined with hyperglycemic agents used by diabetic patients. This can drastically lower your blood glucose levels. Before taking aloe gel, consult your doctor to adjust your diabetic medications and monitor your blood glucose levels closely.

3. Blood Thinners

Blood thinners, such as warfarin, prevent you from forming harmful blood clots. When used together with aloe, it amplifies the clotting effects, thereby forming larger clots. These clots can travel to your vital organs, such as brain causing a stroke, it also interferes with your coagulation cascade, resulting in bleeding tendencies.

It is therefore paramount to discuss with your doctor about the interaction of these drugs to avoid causing harm to your body.

Grab yourself a purified aloe vera product from a reputable company and enjoy the myriad medical benefits that come with it!