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.
Aloe vera is becoming a forerunner in alternative medicine, providing a natural option for many individuals looking to heal their health woes or protect their overall health. Long being suspected for its health benefits, aloe vera appears in stone carvings from Egypt dated 6,000 years ago. Because aloe was buried with pharaohs as a gift for the afterlife, the Egyptians nicknamed this plant the “plant of immortality”–and they may have gotten it right, as recent research confirms aloe’s ability to fight and ward off many diseases, thus potentially giving us the gift of a longer, healthier life.
The Aloe Leafs and their Medical Uses
The leaves of an aloe vera are responsible for the plant’s wide range of medicinal uses. Producing a clear gel inside its thick leaves, aloe vera is used topically to heal wounds as well as treat osteoarthritis and psoriasis (a skin disease characterized by red patches) and soothe burns, including sunburns. Cosmetic uses of this gel, like clearing up acne and scars, are other benefits of aloe vera. Recently, diabetes, epilepsy and asthma have also been added to the list of medical conditions aloe vera may help treat. When taken orally, this gel’s health superpowers continue to grow: research shows that it can then play a role in lowering cholesterol and blood glucose levels, an important discovery for those with type II diabetes. It can also be juiced and used in foods like smoothies.
Another part of the leaves is the green outer layer that surrounds the gel. It can be used to produce a juice or dried into an oral form. When this bitter, yellow exudate is dried, it is commonly used as a laxative. Despite its ability to therefore aid digestive health, this part of aloe vera remains controversial in research, as it may interfere with other medications and should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women. Regardless, the aloe vera has proven itself a very economical plant.
Where Does Aloe Vera Get its Medicinal Superpowers?
Aloe vera’s amazing ability to multi-task in the health world, covering a wide range of medical conditions for such a small plant, boils down to the nutrients it contains–all 200 and more of them. The long list of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids that aloe vera contains–vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, calcium, chromium, zinc, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, copper, CL cholesterol (which lowers fats in the blood), antioxidants, etc.–gives insight into why it is as powerful as it is.
Aloe Products: Take Advantage of the Plant’s Health Benefits
Aloe can be found in many topical ointments for wound healing and burn or rash relief. Due to its ability to also soothe skin, it is a common ingredient in sunblocks and hand lotions. Cosmetics, food, and hand soaps are also all places where aloe pops up in the grocery store. Visit the drug aisle to find aloe laxatives lining the shelves.
Whether it is in laxative form, an ointment to soothe your summer sunburn, or a plant to decorate your kitchen, pick up aloe vera and enjoy its benefits today.