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This page contains information on aloe vera and how it is used as a herb in alternative herbal treatments to treat ailments and problems such as healing wounds, for skin rejuvenation, acting as a laxative and reducing skin irritation and relieving sun burn.
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Although we believe in the therapeutic and healing properties of herbs, care must be taken in the use thereof, as they are powerful compounds.
Aloe vera is a clump forming perennial with rosettes of thick, fleshy, spiky, gray-green leaves, young specimens being red spotted and the plant bears yellow tubular flowers in summer.
The slimy inside of the leave is used (also referred to as gel) as well as a juice extracted from the pulpy inside and a yellow bitter laxative principle which is an exudate from the leaf which is dried to a crystalline substance.
To prevent any confusion, herewith a summary of uses:
Aloe vera gel
This is the naturally occurring and undiluted gel obtained by stripping away the outer layer of the leaf.
Aloe vera concentrate or extract
This is the product obtained when removing the water from the gel
Aloe vera juice
This is a drink for internal use that consist of at least 50% of the pulped aloe gel.
Aloe vera latex or bitter principle
This is a bitter yellow liquid derived from the pericyclic tubules of the rind of the aloe and which primary constituent is aloin.
It is a bitter herb with anti-inflammatory, astringent, emollient, anti fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is useful in the eradication of parasites and stimulating the uterus.
It contains a host of compounds that are biologically active and includes anthraquinones, saccharides and prostaglandins as well as other constituents.
The anthraquinones contained in aloe, which has the purging and laxative action on the digestive system includes aloin (barbaloin), isobarloin, anthranol, aloetic acid, anthracene, ester of cinnamic acid, aloe-emodin, emodin, chrysophanoic acid, ethereal oil as well as resistannol.
It contains various saccharides including glycoprotein, mucopolysaccharide and polysaccharides such as galactose, xylose, arabinose, acetylated mannose as well as the remarkable acemannan.
Prostaglandins and fatty acids
The conversion of fatty acids to prostaglandins are rare but the major unsaturated fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid can be converted to 1-series prostaglandins and have a very effective influence on reducing inflammation, allergy as well as helping platelet aggregation (blood clotting at wound sites) as well as wound healing.
It furthermore contains enzymes (oxidase, amylase, catalase, lipase and alkaline phosphatase) amino acids (lysine, threonine, valine, methionine, leucine, isoleucine and phenylalanine) vitamins (vitamin b1, B2, B6, C, E, folic acid, choline and beta carotene) minerals (calcium, sodium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper and chromium as well as other miscellaneous compounds such as cholesterol, triglycerides, steroids, uric acid, lignins, beta-sitosterol, gibberellin and salicylic acid.
The herb is used internally to combat most digestive problems, including
irritable bowel syndrome as well as
immune system enhancement
Studies have also shown that when aloe is taken internally it can stimulate and regulate various components of the immune system by stopping the inflammation and blood supply of tumors and also showed interesting results in preventing carcinogenic compounds from entering the liver and is combined in some cancer treatments.
The juice of the inner leave can be used for its anti-inflammatory effect it has on Crohn's disease but the laxative and bitter principle of aloe must NOT be used by people suffering from Crohn's disease as it causes griping and cramping.
It contains aloemannan which stimulates the growth of healthy kidney cells and helps to slow the formation of kidney stones.
The juice can be used very successfully to treat heartburn as well as ulcers and to soothe the lining of the digestive tract. It is not that effective to treat stress induced ulcers, but can be used for peptic ulcers caused by excess acid, aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as alcohol use.
The oral use of aloe has produced good results in patients suffering from asthma when the asthma sufferers were not dependant on corticosteroids for treatment.
The exude from the leaves are used as a strong purgative and stimulant laxative but can cause griping and has an abortifacient effect and should not be used in pregnancy.
The bitter principle in aloe exudate which cause the laxative effect is preferable to use than that of cascara and senna, as aloe draws less fluid into the large intestine and are less likely to cause electrolyte imbalance than the other two.
In a study where volunteers ate 120 grams of parboiled aloe for lunch and supper a marked decrease in cholesterol, triglycerides and sugar was found, while in another test using aloe extract, it reduced fasting blood-sugar dramatically which is probably due to the stimulating effect it has on the pancreas to produce more insulin.
Aloe is used externally for the treatment of
to stimulate cell regeneration.
The gel can be applied directly to the skin as a softening agent.
For burns and other wounds aloe is particularly effective as it activates the macrophages which fights bacterial infection while at the same time increasing circulation to the area which results in accelerated healing.
The enzymes - carboxypeptidase and bradykininase are both involved to reduce swelling, itching, reducing inflammation as well as pain.
Studies confirmed that wounds treated with aloe heal far faster than other wounds not so treated - both for traumatic as well as surgical wounds. This may be due to the fact that it contains not only vitamin E and C as well as zinc but the polysaccharides also reduce inflammation and stimulate the fibroblast and epidermal growth and repair process.
The juice is also effective for the treatment of minor wounds and insect bites by forming a "natural plaster" over the wound.
It has good astringent qualities and is usually combined with other ingredients, to make an excellent, soothing treatments for the skin and can also be used with great success on hemorrhoids (piles).
In studies it also showed a marked result in producing remission in skin cancers and its superb anti-oxidant effect is effective to help prevent skin damage from x-rays and other forms of radiation.
When applied regularly to psoriasis great results are achieved and also relieve the pain and inflammation of eczema.
When people with frostbite was treated with a cream containing aloe, the incidence of tissue loss and amputation was reduced.
Aloe-emodin which is one of the ingredients not only has a laxative effect, but is also involved in killing the herpes virus which causes cold sores and shingles.
Aromatherapy and essential oil use
Aromatherapists use aloe vera by infusing the plant material into a base oil, such as almond or apricot kernel oil.
This macerated oil exhibits astringent, emollient, anti fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
The oil is combined in massage therapy for its healing and rejuvenating properties.
For more information visit www.Essentialoils.co.za/aloe-vera-oil.htm
Safety precautions and warnings
Pregnant and breast feeding women should not use aloe latex (the laxative part) internally, although the topical application of aloe to the skin has no effect on pregnant or breastfeeding women.
People suffering from problematic hemorrhoids, ulcers, diverticulosis, colitis, Crohn's disease, or irritable bowel syndrome should consult a medical practitioner or trusted herbalist before taking aloe internally.
Extreme care should be taken with the administration of aloe laxatives, as this can cause severe digestive upsets.
When used topically, some individuals may have an allergic reaction and a skin patch test (behind the ear or on the forearm) is advised before use.