You may have heard or even used aloe vera at one time or another topically to help soothe a sunburn, but there are a host of other health benefits many people are unaware of.
The plant has been used for thousands of years and was known as "the plant of immortality" by Egyptian cultures. (1)
People realized long ago that this succulent had many benefits to offer us. It's been commonly used in Indian and Chinese medicine for everything from constipation to fungal diseases as well as many other internal and topical applications.
It's widely used in the cosmetic industry in our modern culture for it's heathy skin promoting compounds, but the benefits of aloe vera go far beyond that.
Aloe Vera has a unique ability to promote healing in virtually any human tissue it comes in contact with, which is why it has so many topical and internal applications and benefits to our bodies.
Types of Aloe Vera
Over 400 specifies of the aloe plant exist, but the one that's used most widely is Aloe Barbadensis Miller (Aloe Vera).
It's a spiky succulent plant that grows in dry climates, although due to recent growth in popularity, aloe vera plants are widely accessible in most parts of the United States and people grow them at their houses.
Aloe vera produces two main substances which contain medicinal properties people use today.
One is the gel found in the center of the leaves. The other substance is referred to as aloe latex and is obtained from the underside of the leave.
Both parts of the plant possess unique compounds that carry many benefits.
The gel is commonly used topically to treat burns and wounds to help speed healing. The latex is used internally for digestive distress like constipation and intestinal issues.
The best Aloe vera products use both parts of the plant with whats commonly referred to as a whole leaf extraction process so you get the best of both worlds!
Aloe Vera Nutrition Facts
Aloe vera contains many essential nutrients and beneficial compounds that are great for our health. Here is a breakdown of the many nutrients it contains (2):
- Enzymes - Aloe contains 8 enzymes that help to reduce inflammation when applied to the skin and breakdown sugars and fats when taking internally.
- Vitamins - It contains fat-soluble antioxidants like Vitamin A & E as well as other free radical scavengers like Vitamin C, B12, and Choline.
- Minerals - It has a number of beneficial minerals and trace minerals like selenium, copper, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and more!
- Fatty Acids - It provides 4 plant steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol all of which have anti-inflammatory benefits
- Hormones- Auxins and gibberellins are hormones contained in aloe vera that help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.
- Amino Acids - Aloe has 7 of the 8 essential amino acids.
- Mucopolysaccharides - These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and healing benefits.
- Many More - Aloe vera contains over 75 potentially active constituents (that we know of)
Health Benefits and Uses of Aloe vera
1. Heal Skin Burns
This is likely the most widely known use for aloe vera. Tons of "after sun" skin products containing aloe vera are found on store shelves.
Studies have proven the ability of aloe vera to heal burns and reduce the pain and swelling related to burns. (3)
This goes for sun burns, but also for any time of burn whether it be inflicted by stove top, hot water, camp fire, etc.
Sadly, most of the after sun aloe products on the market are very poor quality and contain many harmful additives.
That is why we recommend using our homemade sun burn relief combination using very high-quality aloe vera and a few other natural ingredients.
2. Improves Digestion
Countless people suffer from digestive distress on a regular basis. In fact, constipation is the most common digestive issue that affects about 42 million Americans! (4)
Due to it's healing and anti-inflammatory properties, it may also aid in healing leaky gut syndrome.
It can even help to heal stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis! I've has success with helping my clients who suffer from ulcerative colitis reverse it by incorporating aloe vera among other natural substances in their protocol.
Taking high-quality aloe vera internally is a great way to safely and naturally heal any gut issues since it will promote healing on any tissue it contacts in your gastrointestinal tract.
3. Reduces Disease-Causing Free Radicals and Inflammation
Inflammation and free radicals are the root cause to many diseases and cause you to age faster!
Due to the various nutrients and antioxidant compounds in Aloe Vera, it can really help to quell inflammation and scavenger up free radicals. (7)
This will help you look and feel younger while decreasing your chances for many chronic illnesses!
4. Helps to Treat Rashes and Skin Irritations
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study done through the Department of Clinical Physiology in Sweden tested the effects of aloe vera on 60 test subjects who all suffered from chronic psoriasis. The cure rate was 83% in the aloe vera group versus 7% in the control group! Better yet, there wasn't any return of the psoriasis at the 12 month follow-up with the cured test subjects! (8)
A review of 40 research studies found aloe vera to be very effective for a host of skin benefits including genital herpes, psoriasis, human papilloma virus, seborrheic dermatitis, frostbite, burn, wound healing, inflammation and more!! (9)
5. Heal Cold Sores
Anyone whose suffered from a cold sore knowns how annoying they are! I mean a big sore on the inside or outside of your mouth is embarrassing and inconvenient!
Aloe Vera can help! It has been shown to help cold sores heal more quickly when applied topically 2-3 times/day.
This is likely due to the nutrients it contains and it's anti-viral & anti-inflammatory properties.
6. Boost Your Immune System
Our immune system is the underlying factor that keeps you healthy and free of sickness and disease.
Essential nutrients contained in Aloe Vera like Zinc, Vitamin A, Selenium, and many others are critical to optimizing your immune system function. (10)
It also has anti-viral and anti-fungal compounds that can help to ward off issues that suppress immune system function. (11)
7. Promote Healthy Hair and Prevent Premature Balding
Premature balding is a problem that is becoming more and more common! (12) It's a real issue since nobody want to lose their nice head of hair!
Aloe Vera is a common ingredient in many shampoos, conditioners, and various hair products for good reason!
Aloe Vera can help to moisturize your scalp and hair! This leads to stronger, thicker, and healthier hair! (13)
Researchers believe this may be due to the fact that aloe vera can help to increase blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicle. (14)
It can also help to reduce the itching and irritation associated with dandruff.
It works by taking aloe vera internally, but also topical application to the hair. You can add 1-2 tsp of a good aloe vera product to your shampoo or even just spray some straight onto your hair and massage it in to reap the benefits.
What to Look For When Buying Aloe Vera
One simple way to get more aloe vera into your lifestyle is by purchasing an aloe vera pant from a local nursery and breaking off the leaves to apply the gel to the areas on your skin or scalp as needed.
You can also put the gel smoothies or add it to water for internal use.
The only drawback to using the plant yourself is that it's difficult to utilize the latex part of the plant found on the underside of the leave. This is where many of the active healing compounds reside.
Hundreds of aloe vera supplements exist, and as mentioned previously there are tons of after sun aloe vera options.
I've found that many of these products aren't using a good extraction method of the aloe plant so it doesn't contain as many of the active constituents. Additionally, many contain harmful additives (like FD &C colorings and synthetic preservatives) we certainly don't want in or on our bodies.
We recommend this aloe vera concentrate since the company uses a special full leave extraction method and contains 15x-20x the concentration of beneficial compounds compared to most aloe vera supplements. (insert link below)
Aloe Vera is great to have on hand for all the applications listed above. It's wide range of nutrients and health benefits make it a great choice to use internally as a preventative measure and to heal issues in your body you may not even know you have!