What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera is a succulent plant native to East and South Africa, India, Southeast Asia, as well as other tropical and sub-tropical areas such as Latin America and the Caribbean. While there are more than 200 varieties, the one most often used medicinally is the variety aloe ‘barbadensis’.

The plant itself is comprised of thick succulent leaves that form a rosette radiating from the center. Many have spectacular flowers that are tubular shaped and form on long stalks that grow from the plant’s center. While the plant itself may have similar characteristics as a cactus, it is actually a succulent that is in the lily (lillaceae) family, the same family as onions and garlic.

The aloe plant produces two substances that are used therapeutically; a thick and clear gel, and a layer of latex that is just below the plant’s skin.

History of Aloe Vera.

The therapeutic use of aloe vera dates back at least 6,000 years. We find stone carvings and references in ancient Egypt where it was referred to as ‘the plant of immortality’. It was also presented to deceased pharaohs as a burial gift.

Many people cite references in the bible to the use of aloe (in fact there are at least six), and while the word ‘aloe’ is used specifically, it is more likely that the reference is actually a type of wood that was used to make incense.

Aloe vera has been linked to many ancient cultures and traditions around the world.

Benefits of Aloe Vera.

The use of aloe vera has many benefits. One of the main benefits associated with aloe vera is its positive effects on the body’s immune system. Our body’s immune system protects us from disorders ranging anywhere from inflammation to autoimmune disorders to cancer.

Aloe vera is also very high in anti-oxidants. These anti-oxidants help to protect us from free-radicals. Free-radicals are the toxic substances we are exposed to every day either through unhealthy lifestyle choices or pollution and chemicals that are present in the world around us.

Another benefit to the use of aloe vera is the positive effect it has on our digestive system. Aloe vera has long been used as an ingredient in laxatives. While it can help with constipation, studies show that it can also be effective at relieving diarrhea.

Aloe vera cleanses and soothes the digestive tract by reducing bad bacteria and promoting the growth beneficial intestinal flora. This may be why so many people have reported relief from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and even acid reflux.

In addition, aloe vera is very detoxifying to the body. It is also considered a ‘vermifuge’, meaning it may rid the body of intestinal worms.

Aloe Vera as a Dietary Supplement.

Aloe vera has over 200 active components which makes this plant a true superfood.

It contains 20 different minerals including; calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese.

There are 18-20 different amino acids. The human body contains 22 different amino acids and there are eight that are considered essential. Aloe vera contains all eight essential amino acids.

There are 12 vitamins in aloe vera including; A, C, E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), and is one of the few plants that contain B12.

In addition to adding valuable enzymes to your diet, aloe vera also contains fatty acids. These fatty acids include; HCL Cholesterol (lowers fat in the blood), campesterol, and B-sitosterol. All are helpful in relieving symptoms of acid indigestion and allergies. Other fatty acids include; linoleic, linolenic, myristic, caprylic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic.

Aloe vera is an alkalizing food. It can help to balance our modern more acidic diets.

Common Uses of Aloe Vera.

The most common use of aloe vera is on the skin. It is used to relieve the pain of sunburns as well as other types of burns. It can relieve pain and itching of insect bites and is also effective on cold sores due to its analgesic properties. Also used for minor cuts and scrapes as well as psoriasis.

Aloe vera is an astringent which means it causes the constriction of body tissue. This property can slow or stop bleeding of minor cuts and abrasions.

As an emollient, aloe vera can smooth and soften skin. It can also repair collagen and elastin making skin more elastic and flexible.

Aloe vera also supplies oxygen to the skin through capillary dilation which strengthens the skin and aids in new cell production.

Taken internally, aloe vera is used to treat and/or prevent many conditions including; ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, acid reflux and inflammation. It has also been shown to reduce fevers.

Some people have reported positive effects when used to treat allergies, asthma and even diabetes.

Recommended Doseage.

Usually 2-4 ounces a day is recommended for internal use. It is always best to refer to the directions given on the product label of which ever aloe product you choose since some are diluted and some are concentrated.

As with any medication, do not over do it. Often times people think since a little is good, more must be better. This is rarely (if ever) true. Aloe vera has potent therapeutic and medicinal qualities and should be used with respect and moderation.

Possible Side Effects.

Aloe vera is considered a diuretic and can reduce the effectiveness of some medications you may be taking. Always let your health care provider know what types of supplements you are taking.

Most common issues reported include; may lower blood sugar (monitor blood glucose levels carefully if you have diabetes), may reduce potassium levels with prolonged use, seek advice if you are pregnant or nursing, do not use if you have hemorrhoids, may be hard on the kidneys with prolonged use.

As with any supplement, use good sense, moderation, and seek advice of you personal health care provider.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Juell is the owner of EcoSpreeLiving.com and a lifelong entrepreneur and author.

Eco Spree Living is dedicated to sharing information, resources and products that help people live a healthier and more prosperous life.

This article can be republished in it’s entirety with proper credit given to Paul Juell and www.ecospreeliving.com