Aloe Vera is a succulent plant species of the genus aloe. It has a cactus-like look, and its leaves consist of a clear gel. It originates from the Arabian Peninsula, and it also grows wild in tropical and semi-tropical and in arid climates in the world. It has been cultivated for a long time for agriculture and medicinal uses. Besides using it for medicinal purposes, it is also used for indoor decoration purposes, and it's grown as potted plants.
There are various types of Aloe Vera, but the most common one used is Aloe Barbadensis. Aloe Vera has been commonly used for treating skin problems like acne and blemishes and treating various problems related to hair. It is proved to be quite effective in treating dandruff and hair loss. This plant is used in many commercial products, including beverages, skincare products, cosmetic items, ointments, etc. although there is little clinical evidence for this plant's extract's effectiveness or safety to be used in cosmetic products or medicine.
Description of the Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe Vera is stemless or has a very short stem, which grows up to 60 to 100 centimeters tall. It has thick, green leaves that are fleshy. The borders of the leaves have small white teeth, and it produces flowers in the summer. Aloe vera forms arbuscular mycorrhiza; it is a symbiosis that gives the plant better access to mineral nutrients present in the soil.
This plant is native to the Arabian Peninsula, but it is widely cultivated worldwide and has become acclimated in North Africa, Sudan, and its neighboring countries. This plant was introduced to China and various parts of Europe in the 17th century. It can grow in a harsh climate and tropical regions of temperate continents. The current distribution we can see all around us is the result of cultivation in almost all parts of the world. Aloe Vera has always been grown as a plant that was meant to enhance the house's beauty or any space it has been kept in. This particular plant is a favorite amongst gardeners because of its reputed medicinal uses, interesting look, and flowers.
Climate and suitable conditions are needed - Aloe Vera
This plant can survive in low natural rainfall areas, making it ideal for rockeries and another low maintenance gardening. It also used less water and is perfect for those who want to keep plants in the house without the complication of taking constant care of it. The plant is also quite resistant to pests and other insects, though spiders and scale insects might affect the plant in a bad way.
When planting Aloe Vera in pots, one has to make sure that the plants receive well-drained, sandy soil, and it should be kept in bright and sunny conditions. It also has to be kept in mind that too much sun can burn this plant, and it can shrivel when the pot does not drain the water properly. When potted, the aloes tend to get crowded with "pups" growing from the sides of the "mother plant." Plants that have become crowded should be divided and potted again to allow room for further growth. This helps in preventing pest infestations. During the winters, Aloe vera may become dormant, during which little moisture is required. In areas that receive frost or snow, the species is best kept indoors or in heated glasshouses.
History and modern use of Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera has been said to have many healing properties, and it was considered a "plant of immortality" and was gifted to Egyptian Pharaohs as a funeral gift. And over time, many groups of people have been using this plant for various purposes. It is said that the plant helps in treating wounds, hair loss, hemorrhoids, and digestive issues.
When we look at this plant now, an entire industry is made of it. The gel which the plant produces is used in cosmetics and personal use products like moisturizers, soap, shaving cream, and suntan lotions. Aloe Vera is also available in the form of supplements. It is said to offer benefits to the skin and help fix digestive issues. There are two useful parts of the aloe vera plant, which can be used for medicinal purposes. The first one being the leaves. They are filled with a clear gel.
This gel is extracted from the plant and is usually used on the skin to treat burns and various skin conditions. The gel can also be converted into liquid form or capsules, which can be consumed orally. The second substance the plant produces is called aloe latex. This is the yellow pulp that is found just under the outer part of the plant's leaf. Aloe latex has been shown to have laxative properties, which, when taken orally, is quite helpful in treating constipation. The latest trend of using aloe vera is the introduction of aloe-based drinks, such as aloe vera juice and aloe vera water.
The plant juices are usually mixed with citrus juice to make aloe vera juice or water to make aloe vera water. Aloe vera on its own can taste a little bitter. Because of this, many brands will add flavor or sweeteners to the drink. It is advised to take a good look at the ingredients mentioned on the bottle to make sure it's not packed with loads of added sugars.
Benefits of Aloe Vera
Although it has not been scientifically proven that Aloe Vera can treat all the health issues, it is proven to have many potential health benefits of Aloe vera, including helping individuals with digestive issues, treating skin problems, and providing relief from sunburns and heals wounds quickly. This plant helps with constipation because aloe latex contains aloin; this is an anthraquinone that gives the aloe vera its laxative properties, which help treat constipation.
It can also treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne because it has a calming effect on the skin and has been observed to reduce irritation, itchiness, and inflammation. When it comes to sunburns, we all know that that can be quite painful and cause severe skin irritation. Aloe Vera can help sunburns because of its cooling effect, although it does not speed up recovery for healing the skin. Another study found that drinking two tablespoons of Aloe Vera juice every day for two weeks can help lower the blood sugar levels among people with type 2 diabetes and does not put these individuals at the risk of developing heart disease.
Things to keep in mind when uses Aloe Vera
When we talk about the Aloe Vera plant, we can think of its benefits and healthy properties. It is important that we also consider its side-effects and other health risks present in this plant. The Aloe gel, which is present in the plant, is generally safe to use. And this gel is commonly added in face creams and moisturizers. However, aloe latex can be harmful. When the aloe latex is consumed orally, it can lead to cramps and diarrhea, and it could result in making any other oral medication less effective. Aloe latex has other risk factors too. Consuming this every day repeatedly can cause kidney damage, which can be fatal to the individual. It can also severely lower blood glucose levels, so anyone with type 2 diabetes needs to be extremely careful. It is advised that they consult with their healthcare professional before incorporating aloe latex into their diet. Aloe latex also has cancer-causing compounds.
Generally, it is recommended to store aloe vera gel and aloe vera juice in a cool, not-too-humid environment, such as at room temperature or in the refrigerator, as humidity and temperature can affect the shelf-life of the product. This is why aloe vera juice is usually found in amber-colored bottles. The dark bottle is designed to keep light from affecting the active ingredients. Aloe vera is considered as a supplement. And supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that there is no certain way to know for sure whether the safety or potency of the drink claimed to the product is valid. And there are loads of products that claim to be rich in aloe vera, but many of them contain hardly any active ingredients or none at all.
Some of the other names which the Aloe Vera plant goes by are Aloe barbadensis Mill, Ghritkumari, Gheekumari, Khorpad, Gheekwar, Musabhar, Machambar, Ghritakalmi, Indian Aloe, Eliyo, Eariyo, Musabhar, Elva, Karibola, Lolesara satva, Lovalsara, Lolesara, Musabbar, Siber, Chenninayakam, Korphad, Musabara, Kalasohaga, Mussabar, Alua, Kattazhi, Satthukkathazhai, Musambaram, Musabbar, Ailiva, Siber, etc.
Internal Benefits of using Aloe Vera
Numerous studies conducted have shown that aloe vera is beneficial for various health reasons. But there are differences between a scientific view and an ayurvedic view regarding the use of this plant.
Benefits of Aloe Vera for Constipation.
Scientific View: Due to its laxative property, aloe vera is capable of managing constipation and other digestive issues. The plant acts as a natural laxative because of the presence of anthraquinones. This compound speeds up bowel movement and helps in the easy excretion of stool.
Ayurvedic View: In an Ayurvedic perspective, constipation is caused because of an aggravated Vata Dosha. This can be due to the frequent consumption of junk food, excess intake of coffee or tea, sleeping late at night, high-stress level and depression, or leading an unhealthy lifestyle. All these factors disrupt the Vata in the large intestine and cause constipation. Aloe vera helps manage constipation due to its Vata balancing and Bhedana (eliminating feces by breaking hard stools) properties. It helps eliminate hard stools smoothly and manage constipation.
Scientific View: Aloe vera could boost your metabolism, increasing the number of calories you burn throughout the day, promoting weight loss. Although there aren't many clinical studies regarding this, it was observed in animals that the phytosterols present in the plant reduce body weight. Aloe Vera's fat-burning abilities are credited to the presence of vitamin B. this converts the fat stored in the body into energy and aids weight loss. Aloe vera gel also contains a complex carbohydrate known as acemannan, which promotes the cells' absorption of nutrients. It nourishes the cells and also helps to detoxify them.
Ayurvedic View: According to Ayurveda, obesity is caused by excess Ama, which is the toxic remains in the body because of improper digestion in the body, which causes weight gain. Aloe vera can help with obesity by reducing Ama because of its property, Deepan. This means that it is capable of boosting the metabolism by increasing the digestive fire.
Diabetes Mellitus (Type 1 and type 2)
Scientific View: Aloe vera helps in managing diabetes by improving blood glucose levels as well as insulin levels. This is mainly because the plant consists of phytochemicals such as lectins, mannans in Aloe Vera. A few studies suggest that aloe vera is capable of preventing cell damage such as ulcers, wounds, and kidney damage, which is associated with diabetes due to its antioxidant properties.
Ayurvedic View: Diabetes, also known as Madhumeha in Ayurveda, occurs because of Vata's disruption and impaired digestion. Impaired digestion leads to Ama's accumulation, which is the toxic remains in the body due to improper digestion in the pancreatic cells. This impairs the function of insulin in the body. Aloe vera helps to remove Ama and controls the disrupted Vata. This is possible because of its Deepan (appetizer) and Pachan (digestive) properties. Therefore, helping in controlling high blood sugar level.
Scientific view: Aloe vera can help in reducing high cholesterol or low- density lipoprotein and prevent artery blockage. This is mainly because the plant consists of phytosterols, glucomannan, fructose, and glucose, which greatly help maintain cholesterol levels. Aloe vera gel also helps in lowering and controlling serum cholesterol, serum triglycerides, and serum phospholipids. It also prevents blockage in the arteries.
Ayurvedic view: According to Ayurveda, high cholesterol is due to an imbalance of Pachak Agni, the digestive fire. When there is impairment indigestion at the tissue level, it produces excess waste products or Ama. This is the toxic remains in the body that occur due to improper digestion. This leads to an accumulation of bad cholesterol and a blockage in the heart vessels. Aloe vera can greatly help manage such ailments because of its Ama, reducing properties and eliminating toxins.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Scientific View: The anti-inflammatory properties which are present in the aloe vera plant are quite useful in treating gastrointestinal inflammation, which contributes to inflammatory bowel disease. According to scientific research, aloe vera positively impacts reducing abdominal pain and flatulence in people with this disease. Although evidence that aloe vera seriously helps with this disease is still lacking, symptoms were seen to improve over time.
Ayurvedic View: When we talk about this disease from an ayurvedic perspective, it is believed that the main cause of inflamed bowel disease is Ama, and aloe vera helps in IBD to a great extent. This plant helps in reducing the remains in the body, which causes improper digestion. This happens mainly because of its Deepan (appetizer) and Pachan (digestive) properties. Even though aloe vera constitutes of these positive properties, it is still highly recommended that you consult with a professional medical expert because of the plant's Rechana (laxative) effect.
Scientific view: It is said that drinking aloe vera juice helps in alleviating depression and improves learning and memory. This is mainly because of the biochemical compound, which is present in the plant, which are flavonoids and amino acids. There is not enough scientific backing on this, but it has been observed that it really helps in improving moods.
It is advised that if an individual is suffering from depression, it is best to seek professional help instead of self-prescribing various other methods.
Ayurvedic view: Depression is a state of constant low mood and aversion to doing anything that brings joy to the individual. It is not "lazy." Depression can affect an individual's day-to-day function, thought, behavior, feelings, and his/her general sense of well-being. According to Ayurveda, Vata is responsible for the nervous system's proper functioning, and Vata, which is disrupted, can cause depression. Aloe vera contains Vata balancing properties, which help to control depression and also improve moods. It is still advised that you seek professional help from a doctor.
Since Aloe Vera has many beneficial properties, it is also capable of boosting immunity. This means it is able to manage symptoms of HIV infections in the body. Although there are no studies on human bodies, animal studies suggest that Aloe Vera has a high chance of improving HIV-infected individuals' immune systems.
This is possible because the plant increases the number of white blood cells and antibodies in the body. For a person combating an immunodeficiency disease like HIV, anything to bolster these cells can improve the body's resistance to harmful infections. In research conducted on aloe vera's chemical composition, it was found that aloe vera gel contains properties that form disease-fighting antibodies and stimulates white blood cells, called phagocytes. Research also showed aloe vera to possess antiviral polysaccharides, which enhance cell function.
These findings led to more reports linking aloe vera and the treatment of AIDS. A credible contributor to the boosting of the immune system by aloe vera is its acemannan content. Acemannan is a phytonutrient in the aloe plant that is known to increase tumor necrosis factor, interferon, and interleukins, in the human body. According to Wikipedia, "This compound has been known to have immunostimulant, antiviral, antineoplastic and gastrointestinal properties.”
In a scientific view, aloe vera is used as a complementary treatment for cancer. Some studies report that since aloe vera has immunity-boosting properties, it can increase the number of white blood cells in the body and help minimize chemotherapy's side effects. The complex carbohydrates present in the aloe plant can strengthen the immune system cells and eliminate the abnormal cells, which causes cancer.
Complex carbohydrates cause the cells to open their door to nutrients coming in and push out toxins. The complex carbohydrates make up a long chain of sugar that puts itself into all cells. The cells absorb nutrients and repel toxins because this sugar chain makes the cells able to do this. The cells metabolize better, and the production of energy is improved. The immune system is stronger and is better able to fight off abnormal cells or cancer.
Precautions to take while using Aloe Vera
In a scientific view, the prolonged use of aloe vera can for laxative effects induce diarrhea and cramps. It also prolongs bleeding time. aloe vera also tends to interfere with the prescribed medications that the individual has been taken; this is why it is advised to consult with your doctor before consuming aloe vera. It is also highly recommended not to take aloe vera gel with castor oil as it causes diarrhea and dehydration.
Aloe Vera has two parts: a clear, gel-substance found in the middle of the plant leaf called aloe gel, and aloe latex. It is a yellow substance found right under the skin of the leaf. When you make aloe juice yourself, you would have to scrape the aloe gel from your aloe leaf, paying careful attention to avoid that aloe latex. If you are purchasing aloe from the store to use, make sure it is the edible kind. If you pick the wrong stuff, it can cause problems and worsen your health. Besides aloe vera causing diarrhea, it also results in the loss of electrolytes.
To help prevent diarrhea from aloe vera juice, whether or not it contains aloe latex, it is important to keep yourself hydrated. Aloe juice should not be drunk in place of water, and be sure to sit with an additional jug of water alongside your glass of aloe vera juice at work to avoid dehydration. Monitoring yourself while consuming aloe drinks is important. If not careful enough, it can cause fatalities to the body.
Ayurveda believes that aloe vera should be avoided when an individual faces stomach problems like loose motion because the plant can worsen the condition due to its Rechana (laxative) property.
For allergies, those individuals who are allergic to garlic, onions, and other plants of the family Liliaceae have high chances of being allergic to aloe vera. If this is the case, it is recommended to consult with a doctor before consuming the aloe plant gel.
For pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, they must stay away from aloe vera as it is unsafe, it is associated with miscarriages, and might also increase the risk of congenital disabilities. Therefore, it is advised not to consume this plant's gel or latex, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. When it comes to children, aloe vera is safe when applied on the skin appropriately, but it might prove to be dangerous if taken in the mouth. Children under the age of twelve should stay away from this plant's gel as this might cause stomach problems for them, such as pain, cramps, and diarrhea.
For Hemorrhoids, do not take aloe latex if you for this. It could make the condition worse. Remember, products made from whole aloe leaves will contain some aloe latex, which is not suitable for this condition.
For kidney problems, high doses of aloe latex have been linked to kidney failure and other serious conditions. There are chances of the plant causing low potassium level and electrolyte imbalance. Therefore, it is advised to monitor your potassium levels while taking aloe vera. In the case of surgeries, aloe might affect blood sugar levels and interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. It is recommended to stop taking aloe at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
A few side effects related to Aloe Vera are:
How to use Aloe Vera in various ways
Aloe Vera Capsule
Aloe Vera Pulp
External Benefits of Aloe Vera
Scientific view: Since aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, it effectively controls acne and reduces the redness caused by it. The enzymes in the aloe plant form an antibacterial coating on the skin to protect it against acne-causing bacteria. Aloe vera also hydrates the skin because of its hydrating properties.
Ayurvedic view: According to Ayurveda, a Kapha-pitta dosha skin type is most likely prone to acne. Disruption of Kapha increases sebum in the skin, which clogs the pores, resulting in the formation of white and blackheads. Disrupted pitta also causes red bumps and blemishes. Aloe vera helps balance these properties and reduces inflammation to an extent because of its ropan (healing) and sita (cold) properties. Therefore, aloe vera helps in battling acne.
Scientific view: aloe vera helps in reducing dandruff and hair loss. Further research suggests that aloe vera helps in battling dandruff and protect the scalp against various diseases. This is mainly because of the antibacterial and antifungal properties which exist in the aloe plant.
Ayurvedic view: Dandruff is flakes of dry skin on the scalp. This occurs mainly because of disrupted Vata and pitta dosha—the aloe vera plant helps balance the Vata and pitta dosha and contributes greatly to controlling dandruff.
Scientific view: aloe vera helps in healing minor burns because of its cooling and soothing properties. When aloe vera is applied to the affected area, it is said to relieve it from pain and heal the burn to some extent because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The plant also consists of antibacterial properties that prevent the wound from infections.
Ayurvedic view: The aloe vera plant reduces the pain and provides the wound with relief because of its ropan (healing) and sita (cool) nature.
Scientific view: In minor wounds, aloe vera can help regenerate the skin because of its various healing properties. Studies suggest that the plant contains polysaccharides and growth hormones, which increase collagen synthesis and promote quick healing of the wound.
Ayurvedic view: Aloe vera helps in skin regeneration mainly because of its Ropan (healing) property. This is a facet to its Guru (heaviness), Snigdha (oily), and Sita (cold) properties.
Does Aloe Vera juice need to be refrigerated?
Yes, refrigerating the aloe vera juice retains its freshness and increases its shelf life for longer use.
Does Aloe vera cause a stinging sensation?
In some cases, yes, it does. This happens when the gel is applied to the skin or wound for the first time. After applying it, you should wait for five to ten minutes, and then it goes away.
Aloe vera juice vs. gel. Which one is better?
The plant's gel and juice both have various health benefits. To determine which one is better, it depends on what purpose it is used for. For example, aloe vera juice is ideal for gastric problems because of its Rechana (laxative) properties. Similarly, if you want to treat acne, aloe vera gel is ideal because of its ropan (healing) nature.
Is it good to drink Aloe Vera Juice?
It is said that aloe vera juice is good to be consumed as it has many health benefits related to it, but this should be done after consulting with a physician. In an ayurvedic perspective, drinking aloe vera juice helps in improving digestion and managing gastric problems. It also the quality of the liver and helps it function well. There is also the proper digestion of food. These are all because of its Deepan (appetizer) and Pachan (digestive) properties. Aloe vera also relieves the individual of constipation, and this is due to the laxative property which exists in the plant.
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