Ah, the question we all want to know: what is aloe vera? As a succulent, aloe vera is a cactus-like plant. Its thick, fleshy leaves store water and its roots grow horizontally near the surface of the soil to catch the little water that exists where it thrives–mainly in the hot, arid deserts of Africa. Tubular yellow flowers grow out of the aloe vera, resulting in it being removed from its natural habitat for household decoration. But aloe vera is not only popular in the home for its beautiful appearance. Inside its long, tubular leaves, which grow out of bulbs, is a colorless aloe gel that has gained respect in the health world for its many medicinal properties.
With a name meaning “fierce” in Latin, the aloe ferox lives up to the reputation. Do not let the beautiful, tubular orange flowers that sprout from the top of the plant fool you. Covered in long, sometimes red-tinged leaves and wielding sharp teeth around and on the surface of the leaf, this plant is a powerful member of the succulent family. The aloe ferox is a bitter plant, its single stem covered in dried leaves that, when alive, produce a strong sap. From aloe leaves, a bitter brown exudate, or sap, as well as a colorless gel can be extracted–both of which have great healing power.
Although similar to the aloe vera, the aloe ferox differs in important ways. Aloe ferox produces 20 times more sap than the aloe vera; it’s nutrient concentrations also outshine those of its more commonly known relative. Often overshadowed by the lesser aloe vera, aloe ferox has medicinal properties and health benefits that deserve attention.
The Many Health Benefits of the Aloe Ferox
The Bitter Exudate: Best known for its use as a laxative, the brown sap of the aloe ferox is also credited for its role in preventing cancer, boosting the immune system, and treating viral infections. Reducing arthritis pain may be another one of the bitter sap’s abilities.
Cape aloes is a laxative drug prepared from this leaf exudate. The ancient method used for collecting the brown sap for this purpose is still used today in South Africa, where the aloe ferox grows. Leaves are cut from the aloe ferox and placed around a well; the exudate then drips down into the well from the cut edges of the plant. After the sap is concentrated and dried, the medicine, which is a dark, shiny crystalline chunk, is made and ready for use.
Due to the active ingredients in aloe ferox, products containing the plant should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The laxative effect of the aloe ferox come from anthrauinones, which may stimulate uterine contractions and be toxic to young children.
Aloe Gel: Gathered from the inside of the aloe ferox leaf, aloe gel is used in a variety of ways: from cosmetic products to food supplements and herbal remedies. Due to the glycoproteins in the gel, it is also has similar uses to aloe vera: wound healing. Because the aloe ferox gel is moist and sticky, it can help insulate and hydrate wounds, helping to heal them. The medicinal gel can be applied topically on the skin or prepared and taken orally.
Research has also uncovered aloe gel’s ability to ward off tumors and strengthen the immune system; it has also been found to have antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Aloe Ferox Juice: That’s right, there is also a juice component. The juice from the aloe ferox may help lower cholesterol and fight diabetes, according to studies.
But the aloe ferox is greater than the sum of its parts. All the nutritional elements of the plant combine to create the amazing health effect we see here.
Conjunctivitis, the medical term for pink eye, is a fairly common ailment among school-age children. Pink eye can be caused by a variety of things, but most often by a virus or bacteria. It is very contagious and can be transferred via hand contact with anything that has touched the eye or eye area. This is why it can spread so quickly among a group of friends or a classroom of children.
The conventional treatment for most forms of pink eye is a topical antibiotic or antifungal medication. This usually involves a doctor visit which can be extremely inconvenient or costly. Additionally, these medications have many additives that can cause unnecessary eye or skin irritation. Many people also develop allergies to antibiotics due to overuse. Fortunately, there are other home remedies for pink eye that are quite effective.
One of the most proven home remedy to treat conjunctivitis is Aloe Vera. Aloe is readily available in different forms at drug stores and natural food stores and is fairly inexpensive. This natural remedy has proven antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. This makes it the perfect way to treat pink eye, no matter the root cause. The most common Aloe Vera products are sold as sunburn relief aids, although many brands of eye drops also contain Aloe to soothe inflammation. Aloe is gentle enough to be used in and around the eye, but read labels carefully and beware of other ingredients that could irritate or sting.
Aloe plants, native to northern Africa, have long been used as a natural remedy for healing burns and cuts. Today these hardy plants are grown as houseplants and farmed all over the world, and are more sought after than ever. Aloe leaves, juice, and supplements now available in most grocery stores, and its benefits beyond sunburn relief more widely known. While Aloe is a popular treatment for a wide range of skin conditions, it has many nutritional and digestive benefits as well and makes a great addition to a detoxifying dietary cleanse.
Dietary Benefits of Aloe Vera
The benefits of a diet that is supplemented by Aloe Vera can be varied and profound. To name a few, research suggests that Aloe may lower cholesterol, slow tumor growth, prevent kidney stones and ease inflammation. It is widely known that topical use of this plant will increase recovery time for scratches and burns, however, it is less well known that ingestion of the gel, or derivatives thereof, may also increase healing time of internal afflictions like ulcers. Nutrients from these plants have also been used as a natural treatment for colon polyps and pre-cancerous lesions in the colon. Moreover, when ingested, the gel is a gentle natural laxative that cleanses the colon and detoxifies the blood.Nutrients in Aloe Vera include minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids and plant compounds like triterpenes and polysaccharides. Triterpenes are known to exhibit antioxidant activity and reduce blood sugar. Polysaccharides boost immune function and digestive function. It is this breakdown that makes Aloe one of the most useful herbal products on the market today. The unique blend of these vital ingredients allows aloe to cleanse the body in a way that is safe and powerful.
Benefits of Cleansing
Cleanses are used to break down and clean out waste from the colon and detoxify the blood stream. Toxins in the colon, if reabsorbed into the blood stream, may cause fatigue, low energy and headaches. Cleansing the colon flushes the toxins from the colon and the blood stream, and rejuvenates the body. This can help with weight loss, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Other popular methods for cleansing range from doing yoga, juice fasting, and eating a raw-only diet, to seeking a procedure such as a colon irrigation, and drinking salt water. Aloe Vera does not require a procedure or a major lifestyle change and is easy to incorporate into other types of cleanses. It’s readily available on the market in juice, powder and pill forms, and can also supplement a normal diet without major expense.
Supplements and Products
For those who grow this plant at home, the fresh gel inside the thick and fleshy leaves may be harvested and blended into a nutritious smoothie. If this is too labor-intensive, supplements may be purchased in powder, pills or juice form. These supplements are available for purchase online and in health and nutrition stores. These products have an advantage over fresh leaves from the plant because a diet daily gel from the plant could require someone to have many plants on hand at all times. These products can have a long shelf life and require no upkeep.
Juice or powder may have a bitter taste that is usually mixed with sweet ingredients like sugar and berries to make a smoothie. Pills, like other dietary supplements, should be taken as directed by the instructions on the label.
Contusions like black eyes are usually not a serious medical condition, but they can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. While there are plenty of products on the market that will take care of the swelling, pain and discoloration, one useful and all-natural alternative is Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera will soothe skin irritation and clear up the discoloration.