Aloe Vera is:
- Anti-Microbial (Fights Bacteria, Fungi & Yeasts)
- Gastric Aid: Enhances Digestion, Elimation & Gut FLora
- Skin Healing & Tissue Repairing
- A Beautifying Aid: Collagen Booster & Moisturizer
Growing in dry and hot regions of Europe, America, Africa and Asia, aloe vera is a succulent and member of the lily and onion family, related also to garlic and asparagus.
There are actually more than 250 varieties of this cactus-like plant, but only a handful with medicinal and nutritional value, the most potent and commercially renowned being Aloe Vera Barbadensis Miller. The name Aloe Vera or True Aloe is likely derived from the Arabic work Alloeh meaning ‘shining bitter substance’. It has been recognised for its benefits for thousands of years and used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as well as the Chinese and Indians.
The benevolent offerings of this plant have inspired names such as Medicine Plant, Wand of Heaven, Burn Plant and Plant of Life. It is said the Egyptian queens Cleopatra and Nerfertiti used the plant for it’s beautifying benefits, and that Alexander the Great was persuaded by Aristotle to conquer the island Socotra for it’s bounty of aloe to treat their injured soldiers.
The inside water-based gel of the aloe plant is where the magic lies, containing around 200 active compounds and over 75 nutrients. These include 20 minerals, 18 amino acids and 12 vitamins (even vitamin B12 – one of the very few plant sources of this vitamin). The outer rind of the leaf has no particular nutritional value and is best avoided as it contains aloin, a powerful laxative.
As well as a legion of nutrients, aloe gel houses several different enzymes that help to digest food and reduce inflammation, and anthraquinones – phytonutrients which have anti-microbial and pain-relieving properties and can aid assimilation in the intestines.
The plant also contains a number of essential saccharides that serve the immune system and aid detoxification. These are the moisturizing agents of the plant. Some stick to the lining of the gut forming a protective barrier preventing the absorption of unwanted substances. Aloe also houses saponins; soapy substances that have cleansing effects and anti-microbial action against bacteria, viruses and fungi. There are also 4 plant steroids in the gel that work as anti-inflammatory agents.
Young and Beautiful Skin
Aloe vera is amazingly healing to the skin, internally and externally. Whatever the condition or irritation, be it a burn, eczema, wound, mouth or stomach ulcer, aloe’s action on surfaces and membranes heals and repairs.
It has been a used as a beautifying ingredient for centuries. A growing awareness of it’s virtues in recent years has led to a resurgence of aloe vera in the cosmetic industry where it can be found in hundreds of products for skin and hair.
Aloe Vera works by moisturising and hydrating the skin and stimulating the production of collagen fibres to rejuvenate the skin and create a youthful, wrinkle free complexion. It also smoothes the skin by fusing the more flaky skin cells together.
Aloe vera contains the polysaccharide glucomannan which is the principle moisturising agent in aloe and works to nourish and soften the skin. Further, the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic aids wound healing and has anti-inflammatory action, and plant hormones such as gibberkin stimulate protein synthesis which can also assist the wound healing process.
In the article Aloe Vera: Myth or Medicine, Dr Peter Atherton notes that aloe also interferes with the enzyme responsible for producing the dark melanin deposits in the skin known as liver spots, which if applied regularly and for long enough have been said to actually cause such spots to disappear.
There is anecdotal evidence of the anti-inflammatory effects of aloe on gastric conditions and favourable results have been shown in the treatment of peptic ulcers. Aloe has also been found to aid digestion and elimination and normalise bacteria in the gut.
A study by Dr. Jeffrey Bland of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in California found that aloe vera had several observed effects. These included better protein digestion and absorption, faster transition of food through the bowel and a normalisation of stool bacteria (as compared to the previous high yeast levels in some subjects). Intestinal flora was normalised and yeast levels lowered. These findings prompted Dr Peter Atherton, author of The Essential Aloe Vera, to examine the effects of aloe vera as a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and he reported that it ‘worked well in the majority of patients who tried it.’ He noted, however, that although Aloe Vera suppressed the symptoms of IBS it was in no way a cure as they returned not long after stopping treatment.
Aloe vera has numerous compounds with anti-inflammatory actions. One of these is the enzyme bradykininase that reduces skin inflammation and corresponding pain and discomfort. The 4 plant steroids in aloe (campesterol, b. sisosterol, lupel and cholesterol) have notable anti-inflammatory effects, as does salicylic acid (an aspirin-like compound which also possesses anti-bacterial properties).
Dr. Peter Atherton in Aloe Vera: Myth or Medicine reports of the beneficial effects experienced by patients with arthritis and asthma who took aloe vera. Those with arthritis under the influence of aloe vera were able to reduce the number of anti-inflammatory and pain killing tablets to a level that no longer caused side effects, and asthma sufferers were able to cut down their usage of inhalers.
Immune System Booster
Glucomannan, the main compound in aloe vera, stimulates the immune system resulting in increased activity of macrophages, the white blood cells that protect and detoxify the body by engulfing harmful substances. In Dr. Pittman’s article, Immune Enhancing Effects of Aloe (1992), he reports how glucomannan in aloe vera has a direct impact on the immune system, stimulating the activity of macrophages, monocytes, T-cells and anti-bodies.
Aloe vera has been found to be effective against numerous kinds of bacteria and fungi. Leading nutritionist Dr. Gillian McKeith in Living Foods For Health, reports of its benefits for yeast-related conditions.
As well as more common bacteria, aloe vera appears to be effective against strains such as MRSA. Dr Valerie Ferro is currently working to identify a chemical in aloe vera that kills bacteria which have become resistant to antibiotics. Dr Ferro became interested in aloe vera after she took aloe for her asthma caused by hay fever and her symptoms which she had suffered since the age of 10 disappeared. Of investigations so far she reports: ‘I had some Honours project students working on different kinds of bacteria including Shigella, which causes diarrhoea, and E.coli. They were using concentrated aloe vera on bacterial cultures and found that even at low concentrations the bacteria could be killed’. She also reported that Dr Fatma Habeeb, a clinical microbiologist from Kuwait University and former PhD student in the Immunology Department, ‘suggested that if it worked on intestinal bacteria, it could work on organisms like MRSA. Dr Habeeb tested different aloe vera extracts on clinical isolates of MRSA obtained from Glasgow Royal Infirmary and found them to be effective, even on the strains that are ‘all-drug resistant’.’
Help for Diabetes
In one study by Dr. Bunyapraphatsara et al.at the Mahidol Medical University and Hospital in Thailand, patients given one tablespoon of aloe vera juice twice a day experienced normalised blood sugar levels and reduced triglyceride levels after only 2 weeks.
Quality Aloe Vera
In choosing your aloe vera it is best to purchase large fresh aloe vera leaves if possible. You can either grow these yourself or they can be delivered to your home. Scrape out the inner gel and blend with fruit, juices or water to ensure you benefit form aloe in its most potent and unrefined form with all its biological substances in tact.
One large aloe leaf will be plenty for a weeks supply to smooth, plump up and beautify your skin, balance and rejuvenate your digestive system and boost your immunity. Less than a palm-sized amount of the inner gel is enough for a single dose and the leaves stay fresh for at least two weeks, more so if refrigerated. You can blend the fresh aloe with fresh fruit, water or rice milk for a tasty shake. It has a very slight bitter edge to the taste, though with fruit this goes unnoticed.
If you are aiming for a liquid aloe drink, try to find one with the highest concentration of aloe and the lowest additives. For aloe to be available commercially some preservatives will need to be added to ensure the plant extract is stabilized and does not rot or ferment, so opt for ones with the most benign preservatives. Fresh, however, is best.
References for the above are shared at this page.
© Global Love Project, Global Love Food.