Aloe Vera is a wonderful plant of Liliaceae family (lily family). Onions and garlic also belong to the same family. This plant can be grown in pots and also in our kitchen garden. It grows in both hot and cold climates. It is a stem-less or short stemmed succulent plant, which grows about 60-100cm tall. It has got thick fleshy, leaves, which are green in color. It produces flowers in summer on a spike up to 90 cm tall. Different parts of the plant are used for different purposes on the body. It can be applied both internally and externally.
Aloe Vera Benefits & Uses
Aloe Vera contains more than 200 necessary health components like amino acids, vitamins & minerals, enzymes, fatty acids, enzymes and polysaccharides. It is because of this wide range of nutrients it contains that this plant is used for a variety of cosmetic and medicinal purposes. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), C, E, folic acid, B6 and B12. It also contains 20 minerals of which calcium, chromium, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, sodium, iron and zinc are some. The leaves of this plant are filled with 99% water. It is said that man has used aloe vera for more than 5000 years now. It contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. 8 amino acids of the total 22 are necessary for the perfect health of a human body. Aloe vera is said to contain 18-20 amino acids with all 8 essential amino acids. It contains a good range of fatty acids which include three plant sterols namely HCL cholesterol, campesterol and B-sitosterol. All these reduce allergies and acid indigestion symptoms. Caprylic, Linoleic, linolenic, myristic, oleic, palmitic and stearic are other fatty acids which are seen in aloe vera.
Let us go through the five major uses of aloe vera.
Aloe vera as an adaptogen
Aloe vera is a notable adaptogen. An adaptogens are biochemcials that improve the ability of the body to adapt external changes and according to stimuli. Thus, they resist diseases. Aloe vera balances the body system; it is also known to stimulate the defensive and adaptive mechanisms of the body. It gives us added ability to get by the emotional, mental, physical, and environmental stress such as pollution. The polysaccharides in aloe vera juice stimulate macrophages, which are the white blood cells of the human immune system that fight against viruses. The high level of anti oxidants in aloe vera helps to combat the unstable compounds termed free radicals, contributing to the aging process. Free radicals are more in individuals who lead unhealthy life. Aloe vera is an antipyretic too which reduces or prevents fever.
Aloe vera helps in digestion and detoxification
Poor digestion invites many diseases. The strong digestive system is an indication of good health. Aloe vera is said to cleanse and relax the digestive tract and improve digestion. Taking aloe vera internally helps with either diarrhea or constipation and regulates our elimination cycles. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux find great remedies if aloe vera is used. It helps to reduce the amount of unhealthy bacteria in our gut and keeps our intestinal flora in balance. It is a vermifuge also which makes the body free of intestinal worms. Aloe vera is a gelatinous plant food, which moves through the intestinal tract absorbing toxins and then gets them eliminated through colon. Our body has to function according to the 80/20 rule:
- 80% alkaline forming foods and
- 20% acidic foods.
Aloe vera alkalizes the body and tries to balance the overly acidic food habits.
Aloe vera in cardiovascular health
Some research showed that aloe vera juice, if injected into the blood, multiplies oxygen transportation and diffusion capabilities of red blood cells by a great deal. Beta sitosterol found in aloe vera helps to lower cholesterol. Blood pressure will be regulated, circulation and oxidation of blood also will be improved, cholesterol will be lowered and blood will become less sticky with the use of aloe vera. Thus, it helps to lower the risk of heart disease.
Aloe vera does wonders on skin
The ancient Egyptians termed aloe vera the “plant of immortality” and they used to offer it as burial gifts to pharaohs. The cosmetic uses of aloe vera are just plenty. It is primarily used to soothe blistered, sunburned skin. It has anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties and it does support skin cell regeneration. It contains some active compounds also which may decrease pain. It gives a cooling, refreshing feeling when applied on the skin. Since it is largely made of water, it evaporates quickly and can be applied again and again on the skin several times in a day. Aloe vera is a strong healing agent too. Besides treating burned skin, it moisturizes dry flaky skin. It also gives remedies to much more serious skin conditions like genital herpes, dandruff, psoriasis, canker sores, skin ulcers etc. It is liberally added to lotions, shampoos and other cosmetics.
Aloe vera in weight loss
Aloe vera improves our digestion and helps us to get our body detoxified. This naturally has a secondary effect that we reduce weight because improved digestion enhances elimination of waste from the body too. This removes the toxic load on our body and gives us more energy.
Aloe vera has anti-septic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-bacterial, disinfecting, germicidal, and anti-viral properties. The active ingredients of aloe vera are cinnamic acid, phenol, sulphur, lupeol, salicyclic acid and urea nitrogen, which preclude the growth of microorganisms in the body. These ingredients act together as a team to enhance antimicrobial activity and try to eliminate internal and external infections. They are also active against bacteria and help to treat viral and fungal infections. This plant is largely medicinal. Hence, it should be used in a moderate quantity.
Side effects of Aloe Vera
Too much of anything is bad. A little of aloe vera is beneficial.
- Long-term use of aloe vera may result in loss of potassium and other electrolytes.
- Taking aloe vera internally should be avoided during pregnancy.
- It can increase blood in menstruation, so it should not be taken during menstruation.
- If you suffer from piles or hemorrhoids, aloe vera is not for you.
- It is contraindicated in degeneration of the liver and diseases of gall bladder. Therefore, aloe vera should be used appropriately and moderately as a medicine.