Aloe Vera has become one of the most important and commonly used plants in skin care, medicines and cosmetics. It can be found in the ingredients lists of many cosmetic products like gels, creams and lotions. But has anyone stopped to wonder why this plant holds such an importance in skin care and in the manufacture of herbal medicines? Aloe Vera is a member of the lily family that has been known to have both external and internal applications. It is an incredible plant, which is a storehouse of powerful nutrients like vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants. Aloe Vera flourishes well in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Although this plant is beneficial to your health and is used effectively in the medical world, Aloe Vera is mostly popular for the benefits that it provides to your skin.
Nutritional value of Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is an extraordinary medicinal plant. According to scientists, there are about 150 active nutrients in this plant. All these nutrients work together in sync to provide you with healing and health promoting benefits. The main nutrients contained in Aloe Vera are amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, anthraquinones, salicylic acid, lignins, monosaccharide, polysaccharides, saponins, and sterols. The vitamins in Aloe Vera include vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and E. It is also rich in many minerals including calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, chromium, iron, sodium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and selenium. Aloe vera also contains the trace minerals like iridium and rhodium.
The chief enzymes in Aloe vera include Amylase, Bradykinase, Catalase, Cellulase, Lipase, Oxidase, Alkaline Phosphatase, Proteolytiase, Creatine Phosphokinase, and Carboxypeptidase. The sap of the Aloe Vera leaves contains about 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds known to have antibiotic properties and stimulating effects on your bowels. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and the human body needs 22 of them to function properly. While your body can produce 14 of the amino acids, it needs to get the rest from the diet you intake. Aloe Vera contains all of these 8 amino acids, which include isoleucine, lysine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. In addition to these essential acids, this plant also contains a few other non-essential amino acids like alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, asparagine, cysteine, glycine, glutamic acid, proline, histidine, serine, glutamine, and tyrosine. Aloe vera has good amounts of salicylic acid which is known to have analgesic, anti -inflammatory, anti-pyretic and anti-bacterial properties. The gel of Aloe Vera contains soapy substances called saponis, which have anti-septic and cleansing properties. Another important component of Aloe vera is lignins, which is the structural material of cellulose. They have strong penetrative properties which allow the Aloe vera to penetrate deep into the skin, even the hard areas.
Benefits of Aloe Vera for skin
Several studies have confirmed that Aloe Vera plant possesses numerous properties that make it effective in curing and treating many skin conditions.
Aloe Vera for treating and preventing acne
Aloe Vera has been proven to be a great remedy for treating acne. People who suffer from acne can see positive effects just by breaking the leaf of this plant and applying the gel that oozes out of the leaves on the affected area. Although Aloe Vera is not capable of curing acne, it is very effective in reducing the inflammation, swelling, and redness that is often associated with acne. Daily application of Aloe Vera is also considered to be helpful in preventing acne outbreaks.
Aloe Vera has healing properties
Aloe Vera has been used since olden times by ancient Egyptians to heal wounds and injuries. The gel obtained from the leaves of this plant has incredible healing properties that not only help in the healing of infected and wounded skin, but also help in keeping it healthy and beautiful. When Aloe Vera gel is applied on a wound, the gel quickly forms a seal or dressing over the wound, protecting it from environmental and bacterial contamination and also accelerating the process of wound healing. It also provides essential nutrients to the damaged tissues and stimulates the process of skin cell regeneration. The anti-inflammatory effect of Aloe gel is useful in reducing redness, inflammation, and swelling. The healing effects of Aloe Vera makes it useful for treating bruises, burns, cuts, insect bites and sunburn. The curative properties of this plant can be attributed to the wealth of nutrients it contains. All these nutrients work together to promote the regeneration of connective tissues and skin cells and alleviates pain and inflammation. The anti-microbial effects of Aloe Vera help in protecting your skin from infections caused by bacteria and fungi.
Aloe Vera is an excellent moisturizer
Aloe Vera is a very potent natural moisturizer that helps in sealing the moisture in your skin and keeping it hydrated and rejuvenated. Unlike many moisturizers available in the market nowadays, Aloe Vera does not produce a greasy appearance and feel, and hence is perfect for people with oily skin. It prevents drying of your skin and gives it a smooth and shiny look.
Aloe Vera for sun burn
When it comes to sun burns, nothing is better than the application of Aloe Vera gel. The soothing effect of the gel helps in relieving the pain and irritation associated with the burn. Aloe Vera, being a powerful moisturizer can prevent moisture loss and can also help in preventing peeling of skin due to sun damage. Aloe Vera stalks can be placed in the refrigerator and then applied to the affected area. This not only cools your skin, but also gets rid of the irritation and itching caused by the sun burn. Although Aloe Vera is effective in treating minor sun burns, it is better to seek medical attention for severe cases.
Aloe Vera prevents aging of skin
According to a study published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, Aloe Vera when ingested or applied topically enhances the collagen levels in your body. This in turn helps in preventing wrinkles and improving the elasticity of your skin. Free radical damage is another major reason that can lead to aging of skin. Aloe Vera is rich in antioxidants that fight off the free radicals and prevent signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. Applying Aloe Vera gel on your skin before going to sleep can help in making your skin looking young, smooth and supple.
Aloe Vera for treating Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a non-contagious autoimmune disease which causes the skin cells to be produced at a much faster rate than the normal rate, leading to red, dry and scaly appearance. Aloe Vera, with its moisturizing and healing properties is found to be an effective remedy in treating this condition. These properties help in addressing both the internal and external factors that contribute to the development of psoriasis. Unlike other steroidal creams and product used in psoriasis treatment, Aloe Vera does not cause any side effects.
Aloe Vera for treating eczema
Aloe Vera is the best natural remedy for treating eczema. Eczema is often made worse by dry skin. Aloe Vera is an excellent moisturizer that helps in keeping your skin hydrated and in preventing dryness. One way to use this plant to treat eczema is to drink its juice. For those who do not like the taste of Aloe juice, there is always the Aloe Vera gel that can be applied on the eczema patches. You can also get the benefits of this amazing plant by using products like soap, shampoo etc that contain Aloe Vera.
Side effects of Aloe Vera
In addition to Aloe Vera gel, the latex of this plant is also used widely for many medical purposes. Although it is natural and considered to be safe, Aloe Vera can cause certain side effects in some people. The side effects mostly occur when Aloe Vera is used in excessive amounts or for a prolonged period of time. The most common side effects of this plant are allergic reactions. Sometimes the allergic reactions may be mild and include skin rash and itching. In some cases the reactions may be severe and cause symptoms like difficulty breathing, facial swelling, etc. In such cases it is vital to stop the use of Aloe Vera and seek immediate medical attention.
The oral intake of Aloe Vera latex can sometimes cause side effects like abdominal pain and cramps. Prolonged and excessive use of latex can cause diarrhea, muscle weakness, kidney problems, weight loss, presence of blood in the urine, low levels of potassium, and heart disturbances. Oral intake of Aloe Vera may also cause lowering of blood sugar levels. Excessive doses of Aloe latex have been associated with kidney failure and other serious medical conditions. Pregnant and breast feeding women should avoid the oral ingestion of Aloe Vera gel or latex. It could increase the risk of birth defects and miscarriages. Aloe Vera latex is a bowel irritant and hence people with conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease should avoid its use. People with hemorrhoids should not use Aloe latex as it can worsen the condition.
Aloe Vera can be considered as one of the highly nutritious plants in the world that has been used for several centuries for their medicinal properties. However, it’s only recently that the medical field has recognized its healing power and the whole world has come to realize its importance. So, go ahead and get an Aloe Vera plant to reap its skin, hair and health benefits!Image Credits: Flickr - Éamonn Ó Muirí, Flickr - Wagner Cesar Munhoz, Flickr - ER and Jenny