Aloe vera is quite an incredible medicinal plant full of nutritional benefits. It is a succulent plant and part of the lily family (Liliaceae), the same family that garlic and onions belong to. Different parts of the plant are used for different purposes and aloe vera has both internal and external applications. I love to juice aloe and use it in my clear skin juice and recently started making fresh aloe vera salads. I also like to add aloe to my smoothies to gain some of the benefits of this incredible plant. (Update: Due to the tremendous amount of emails I now receive each week about aloe vera, I will include here that I don’t consume aloe every day, but you can go through short periods of time (like up to 2 weeks) where you do consume it every day to help with a particular issue.
Aloe vera is medicinal, and like all plant medicines, should not be consumed every single day for months on end. I use my intuition when working with plant medicines and never usually consume it for more than a week or two at a time in large doses. When I do use aloe in my smoothies or juices, I cut a piece of aloe about 1 inch long and open up the skin and only add in the clear inner gel of the aloe plant.) Be sure to read the last section about over-use of this plant as well as dose recommendations. I consume fresh aloe, because that’s what I have access to.
Top 12 Benefits of Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera contains over 200 active components including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, polysaccharide, and fatty acids – no wonder it’s used for such a wide range of remedies! The bulk of the aloe vera leaf is filled with a clear gel-like substance, which is approximately 99% water. Humans have used aloe therapeutically for over 5000 years – now that’s a long-standing track record! The list of benefits and effects for this miraculous plant are many. Here is a list of the Top 12 Benefits of Aloe Vera (including some medicinal uses):
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Aloe Vera contains many vitamins including A, C, E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6. Aloe Vera is also one of the few plants that contains vitamin B12. Some of the 20 minerals found in Aloe vera include: calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper, manganese.
2. Aloe Vera is High in Amino Acids & Fatty Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are about 22 amino acids that are necessary for the human body and it is said that 8 of these are essential. Estimates of the amino acids found in aloe range from 18-20 amino acids, with all 8 essential amino acids. Aloe vera also includes quite an impressive range of fatty acids. Aloe contains three plant sterols, which are important fatty acids – HCL cholesterol (which lowers fats in the blood), campesterol, and B-sitosterol. All are helpful in reducing symptoms of allergies and acid indigestion. Other fatty acids include linoleic, linolenic, myristic, caprylic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic.
3. Aloe Vera is an Adaptogen
Aloe vera is a well-known adaptogen. An adaptogen is something that boosts the body’s natural ability to adapt to external changes and resist illness. It is thought that aloe’s power as an adaptogen balances the body’s system, stimulating the defense and adaptive mechanisms of the body. This allows you an increased ability to cope with stress (physical, emotional and environmental stress like pollution)
4. Aloe Helps with Digestion
Poor digestion is related to many diseases. A properly functioning digestive tract is one of the keys and foundations of health. Aloe is known to soothe and cleanse the digestive tract and help improve digestion. The interesting thing about taking aloe internally is that, because it is an adaptogen, it helps with either constipation or diarrhea, helping to regulate your elimination cycles in whatever way you need. It’s been a great remedy for people with problems such as irritable bowel syndrome as well as acid reflux. Aloe also helps to decrease the amount of unfriendly bacteria and in our gut keeping your healthy intestinal flora in balance. Aloe is also a vermifuge, which means it helps to rid the body of intestinal worms.
5. Aloe Helps in Detoxification
Aloe Vera is a gelatinous plant food, just like seaweeds and chia seeds. The main benefit to consuming gelatinous plant foods in your diet is that these gels move through the intestinal tract absorbing toxins along the way and get eliminated through the colon. This will help the proper elimination of waste from your body and help the detoxification of your body.
6. Aloe Alkalizes the Body
Disease cannot manifest in an alkaline environment. Most people are living and subsisting on mostly acidic foods. For great health, remember the 80/20 rule – 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acidic. Aloe vera is an alkaline forming food. It alkalizes the body, helping to balance overly acidic dietary habits.
7. Cardiovascular Health
There hasn’t been a lot of studies conducted on aloe’s effect on cardiovascular health, but there has been some research to show that aloe vera extract injected into the blood, greatly multiplies the oxygen transportation and diffusion capabilities of the red blood cells. According to a study published in the 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal, beta sitosterol helps to lower cholesterol. By regulating blood pressure, improving circulation and oxidation of the blood, lowering cholesterol, and making blood less sticky, aloe vera juice may be able to help lower the risk of heart disease.
8. Aloe Helps Boost the Immune System
I think given the stresses of our daily lives, every one can use a boost to their immune systems. The polysaccharides in aloe vera juice stimulate macrophages, which are the white blood cells of your immune system that fight against viruses. Aloe is also an immune enhancer because of its high level of anti-oxidants, which help combat the unstable compounds known as free-radicals, contributing to the aging process. (Free radicals are a bi-product of life itself, it is a naturally occurring process but we can overload ourselves with unnecessary free-radicals by living an unhealthy lifestyle). Aloe is also an antipyretic which means it used to reduce or prevent fever.
. Aloe Vera is Great for the Skin
Because of aloe’s well-known healing properties for the skin, aloe is one of the primary compounds used in the cosmetic industry. It is a known vulnerary, (meaning it helps heal wounds) and is great for applying topically to burns, abrasions, psoriasis and even to bug bites. Aloe acts as an analgesic, acting to help relieve pain of wounds. It’s feels especially good to cut a stem of aloe, place it in the fridge and rub it on sun burnt skin – the immediate soothing effect feels like an absolute lifesaver. Aloe is also an antipruritic: A substance that relieves or prevents itching.
Aloe vera is an astringent: which causes the contraction of body tissues, typically used to reduce bleeding from minor abrasions. Due to aloe’s high water content (over 99% water) it is a great way to hydrate, moisturize and rejuvenate the skin and fits within my general guideline: “Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat!” Aloe increases the elasticity of the skin making it more flexible through collagen and elastin repair. Aloe is an emollient, helping to soften and soothe the skin. It helps supply oxygen to the skin cells, increasing the strength and synthesis of skin tissue and induces improved blood flow to the skin through capillary dilation.
10. Aloe vera is a: Disinfectant, Anti-biotic, Anti-microbial, Germicidal, Anti-bacterial, Anti-septic, Anti-fungal & Anti-viral:
Wow, I think that covers all anti- bases. Okay, I admit, that was just a sneaky way to add in another 8 good reasons why you should keep an aloe vera as a handy (to to mention beautiful) house plant and incorporate it’s uses into your healthy lifestyle. Aloe vera’s active ingredients are sulphur, lupeol, salicylic acid, cinnamic acid, urea nitrogen and phenol which are substances that prevent the growth of disease-causing microorganisms and act as a team to provide antimicrobial activity thus eliminating many internal and external infections, also active against bacteria. It also helps to treat fungal and viral infections.
11. Aloe Helps Reduce Inflammation
Aloe Vera contains 12 substances, including B-sisterole, which can help to slow down or inhibit inflammation. This may be able to help with painful joints due to stiffness and help improve joint flexibility.
12. Weight Loss – A Secondary effect
Improving your digestion, and detoxifying your body will have a secondary effect of promoting weight loss because when you start to improve your digestion you naturally eliminate more efficiently, which is a primary way that we all detoxify – through our bowels. This will lighten your toxic load on your body and will give you more energy.
Aloe Vera Intake Precautions
This plant is incredibly medicinal, yet there are some cautions against long-term use. Just because a little is beneficial, doesn’t mean that a lot is more beneficial. This is an incredibly potent plant and should be used with a level of respect for its potency. Long-term use can lead to loss of electrolytes, especially potassium.
Tip: Avoid taking aloe internally during pregnancy, menstruation, if you have hemorrhoids or degeneration of the liver and gall bladder.