What are the benefits of aloe vera?
Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant that grows in hot and dry climates. It is farmed in the subtropical areas, including the southern border areas of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. In 2002, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling that required manufacturers to remove aloe from over-the-counter laxative products because of a lack of safety data.
The gel obtained from fresh aloe vera has many therapeutic effects and can be used for the following
- Skin treatment: Skin conditions such as dermatitis, sunburn, heat rashes and radiation burns respond very well to aloe vera gel. Research backs up the ancient use of aloe vera in conditions such as
- Surgical wound healing: Many studies have reported aloe vera’s surgical wound healing properties, especially in surgeries such as periodontal flap surgery and gynecological surgeries.
- Laxative: Aloe vera latex is commonly used to treat constipation. It has a laxative effect due to anthraquinone glycosides. A small, controlled trial has demonstrated that it has stronger laxative effectiveness than the stimulant laxative phenolphthalein. It is even helpful in conditions such as fissures (small tears in the lining of the anus) and piles. Combinations of aloe vera, celandine and psyllium may improve bowel movement frequency, consistency of stools and laxative dependency in people. It is always prudent to talk to your doctor before starting aloe supplements.
- Diabetes control: Aloe vera gel intake seems to be helpful to lower blood sugar levels in those with diabetes. It may also lower cholesterol levels, as reported in limited studies.
- Treat peptic ulcers: Aloe vera in many preparations is widely promoted for the treatment of ulcers and inflammation in the digestive system. There is evidence of successful use of aloe vera gel along with heavy liquid petrolatum emulsion for peptic ulcers (open sores on gullet, stomach and small bowel). 3 percent aloe vera gel exerts some action on radiation-induced proctitis.
- Prevent metastasis (cancer spread): A small group study in patients with advanced cancer reported that 1 mL consumption of aloe vera tincture (10 percent aloe vera and 90 percent alcohol) twice a day along with 20 mg/day of melatonin may stabilize metastasis. This is more effective than taking melatonin alone. Additionally, a significantly higher percentage of one-year survival was observed in cancer patients who received aloe vera and melatonin combination. This, however, warrants more evidence.
- Other applications: There are therapeutic claims that promote aloe vera for the treatment of a wide range of conditions such as alopecia (baldness) and Alzheimer’s disease (memory loss and damage mental functions). Aloe vera gel is often used as a skin moisturizer in the winter.
- Ulcerative colitis: In a small European study, 44 adults with ulcerative colitis were randomly assigned to receive aloe vera gel or a placebo twice daily for a month. Almost half of the people treated with aloe vera responded to the treatment. This too requires further research.
How much should I use?
It is the key ingredient in many creams, sunscreen lotions, ointments, gels, soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, etc. It is available even in tablet or capsule form for oral consumption. The dosage of aloe vera depends on your illnesses such as
- Burns: Mostly creams or gels for minor burns contain 0.5 percent of aloe vera and they vary in dosage.
- Psoriasis (scaly itchy skin): Creams for psoriasis may contain as much as 70 percent aloe vera.
- Constipation: 100 to 200 mL aloe juice or 50 mL of aloe extract daily can be used as a laxative, depending on your age.
- Diabetes: One tablespoon of the gel can be enough to consume orally. Avoid a high dosage of aloe vera and consult a doctor before use.
What things should I remember when using aloe vera?
You must remember that natural does not always mean safe. Always consult your doctor before starting aloe vera supplements.
- Oral consumption of aloe leaf extracts in some individuals (for as little as three weeks and as long as five years) has been related to cases of acute hepatitis (liver swelling).
- The aloe latex may interact with digoxin, a drug universally used in heart failure, causing a serious reaction.
- Some people have reported eczema and allergies with the use of aloe vera gel. Never apply it directly to deep cuts or severe burns.
- Avoid the consumption of aloe vera if you have kidney problems and a tendency for electrolyte imbalances.
- Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women must avoid its consumption.
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