Aloe Vera or Aloe barbadensis is an evergreen perennial succulent xerophyte plant from the genus Aloe. Native to the Arabian Peninsula, Aloe Vera grows wild worldwide in tropical, semi-tropical, and arid climates. The plant can be described as a short-stemmed plant with thick fleshy leaves. The leaves have slimy water storage tissue that can store water to survive in dry areas with low or erratic rainfall. And, these slimy water-filled tissues are the “gel” that is used in Aloe Vera products as well as in cooking.
For many centuries’ Aloe Vera has been cultivated for medicinal uses and is best known to treat skin injuries like burns. It also has some properties that could potentially benefit one’s health. Nowadays, you will often find products containing Aloe Vera as the ingredients – beverages, skin lotion, cosmetics, and ointments (or gel form) for minor burns or sunburns. According to IMARC, in 2019, the global Aloe Vera market reached a value of US$602 million.
So, what makes Aloe Vera sensational? Here is a list of six benefits associated with the Aloe Vera plant.
1. Aloe Vera has antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Antioxidants protect cells against free radicals that can cause cancer and other diseases, and the Aloe Vera gel contains antioxidants known as polyphenols.
Polyphenols are thought to improve or help treat digestion issues, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and weight management issues. And together with the other compounds in Aloe Vera, these polyphenols help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that can cause infections in the body.
Aloe Vera is traditionally used for skin protection and is known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-viral, and antiseptic properties. The reason why it is commonly used to heal wounds and treat skin problems.
2. Aloe Vera can accelerate wound healing.
With its antibacterial properties, Aloe Vera can help accelerate wound healing. Several studies were conducted to show Aloe Vera’s effectiveness in the prevention and recovery of skin wounds.
In the studies conducted with Aloe Vera, researchers found out the following:
- Aloe Vera can inhibit thromboxane, which is an inhibitor of wound healing, which results in the improvement of the wound healing process and reduces inflammation.
- The gel in Aloe Vera contains magnesium lactate, preventing histamine production that causes itching and irritation of the skin.
- It helps inhibit inflammatory reactions and the reduction of leukocyte adhesion.
- The Aloe Vera gel’s regenerative properties are due to the compound glucomannan, which increases collagen production. Aside from increasing the amount of collagen in the wounds, Aloe Vera gel can also change collagen composition and increase collagen cross-linking, promoting wound healing.
Studies suggest that with these healing properties found, it is an effective topical treatment for burns (first and second degree), sunburn, and sores such as canker sores.
3. Aloe Vera can reduce dental plaque.
Besides healing wounds, Aloe Vera can also reduce dental plaque, which causes tooth decay and gum diseases.
According to a study conducted for Aloe Vera mouthwash’s efficacy, it is equally effective in reducing plaque as chlorhexidine (0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash). And it has no side effects. The study was conducted on 300 healthy individuals that were divided into three different groups. A group of 100 individuals used 100% pure Aloe Vera juice as a mouthwash for four days, 100 individuals use chlorhexidine, and 100 individuals for saline water-placebo.
Another study conducted over a 15- and 30-day period found similar benefits of Aloe Vera mouth rinse. It showed a significant reduction in plaque and gingivitis in those individuals who used Aloe Vera mouth rinse. And there were no side effects seen, unlike those who had chlorhexidine.
4. Aloe Vera reduces constipation.
The Aloe Vera gel is not the only part of the Aloe Vera leaves that has medicinal uses. The latex or the sticky yellow residue that you see just under the leaf’s skin may help treat constipation. It has a compound called aloin or barbaloin that has a well-established laxative effect.
However, due to the safety concerns raised regarding the frequent use of aloe latex, the US FDA released a ruling in 2002 that it will no longer be available as an over-the-counter medication. However, Aloe Vera gel is still used extensively to treat indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea in India.
5. Aloe Vera can improve skin and prevent wrinkles.
And since Aloe Vera gel has a property that can increase collagen production, it is suggested that it can slow the skin’s aging.
Aloe Vera’s properties to prevent wrinkles have been proven in the 2009 study where thirty healthy females over 45 were given two different doses of Aloe Vera gel oral supplements for 90 days. Researchers found a significant improvement in facial wrinkles and elasticity due to increased collagen production in the skin.
Additionally, Aloe Vera contains mucopolysaccharides, amino acids, and zinc, improving skin integrity and helping the skin retain moisture. It also helps prevent skin ulcers and reduction of erythema. It is the reason why most cosmetics and skin lotions have Aloe Vera as a vital ingredient.
6. Aloe Vera can help lower blood sugar.
In traditional medicine, Aloe vera has long been used for diabetes, and several studies have been conducted on its efficacy on glycemic control.
One study shows that Aloe Vera extract can increase insulin sensitivity, reduce fasting blood glucose, and decrease the level of HbA1C.
Although there is a potential benefit of Aloe Vera in improving glycemic control in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, however, the quality of the existing studies is not ideal. Scientists and researchers currently do not recommend using this until further studies are made.
Aloe Vera undeniably has a lot of benefits to our body and health. It is safe to use and has few known side effects.
The topical use of Aloe Vera is likely safe. However, oral use should be taken in moderation if there is a need as it may cause cramps or diarrhea due to its laxative effects. And long-term use of Aloe Vera supplement may cause liver damage, according to some reports.
And please note that it is always wise to consult your doctor before using Aloe Vera products to treat a condition.