Aloe vera has long been known to have medicinal properties. It has been used as a medicinal herb by native peoples for centuries. The modern world discovered its usefulness as a burn remedy and a soothing balm for irritation decades ago, and now it can be found in all kinds of products, ranging from burn creams to lotions. Its use as an antibacterial agent is less well-known, however, and it is that use which shall be discussed here.Practitioners of traditional and alternative medicine have long though of aloe as having antibacterial properties. This has recently been borne out by scientific studies that show aloe vera helps in the treatment of minor skin infections such as cysts and minor wounds, and that the inner-leaf gel inhibits the growth of Streptococcus and Shigella bacteria. These last have only been demonstrated in a laboratory setting, but it can be assumed that they have the same effect inside the human body. It is the leaves of the aloe vera plant, both the interior and the rind, which contain the medicinal compounds.
Aloe vera is a succulent, and like most succulents, it has very thick, fleshy leaves. Some of the many biologically active compounds that are found in aloe leaves include anthraquinones, several lectins, sallcylic acid and acetylated mannans and ploymannans. It is thought that two of these are what give aloe vera its antibacterial properties. The first are the anthraquinones. These are actually an entire group of phenolic compounds which can be found in the sap. They include barbaloin, anthracene, emodin, and anthrone-C-glycosides and chromones. These are found in most aloe vera plants and all of them are potent antimicrobial agents. Sallcylic acid is the other compound thought to give aloe vera its antibacterial qualities. It is an aspirin-like substance that shows high antibacterial action and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. This compound has kerolytic effect on wounds, which means it helps remove dead tissue. The strongest antibacterial effect is found in extracts of the aloe leaves and in the gel made from the inner leaves. These products can be used both internally and topically. They are available at many health food stores and even in some supermarkets. Many health food stores also sell aloe vera juice for internal use.
In addition, they can easily be made at home from fresh leaves. The gel can be used to treat both minor wounds and skin infections, including cysts and boils. To use the gel this way, apply it directly to the infected area. Either bottled gel or a freshly cut aloe leaf may be used. If a fresh aloe leaf is available, cut the leaf and apply the gel to the wound or the affected area. Repeat the application several times a day. Aloe vera may also be taken internally to help with other forms of infection. If aloe vera is taken internally, a product made specifically for ingestion should be used. Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. The usual dose is around one tablespoon for an adult. A gel made from the inner leaves will be most helpful. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid taking aloe orally. Children under the age of five should also not take aloe vera at this time.
Aloe vera extract can now be found in many products other than the juice and gel normally sold at health food stores. Many of these products are specifically designed to be used in applications where an antibacterial agent is necessary. Bandages infused with aloe are now becoming common. There are a number of sunburn creams containing aloe vera. It is also now possible to find ready-made salves and ointments that are designed to treat wounds and skin infections which contain aloe vera extract or aloe vera gel. The extract is now even being added to antibacterial hand soaps and gels. While the extract is not meant to be the primary antibacterial agent in these products, its inclusion will render them even more effective. Aloe vera also brings other good qualities to such soaps and gels, such as its abilities to soothe irritation and moisturize.
The aloe vera plant has long been recognized as having amazing medicinal properties, having been used in medicine for hundreds of years. Antibacterial qualities are high on the list of properties this incredible plant possesses. Let’s give aloe vera the recognition it deserves.