By Heidi Baldwin, MS, Health Coach
I grew up with aloe plants in the house. It was always the go-to if anyone got a sunburn, or any kind of burn for that matter, and I remember how terrible it felt if the jagged edges of the plant made contact with the burned skin! Once peeled properly to rub the oozing goodness over the hot stinging burn, relief was in sight! I was lucky to inherit my Gram’s aloe plant that was well over 50-60 years old at the point when she went into a nursing home. Ok, in reality I went to her home almost 4 hours away and claimed the aloe plant I remembered growing up seeing every time I visited, as I did many of her beloved plants. She had kept those plants alive longer than I have been alive, and I made it my mission to make sure they continued to thrive. This aloe plant of Gram’s is HUGE, and I thought, I am all set if I ever get a sunburn (a rare occurrence that generally needs to include an aluminum canoe and water reflecting on me, otherwise I am lucky and tan). I’ve used it twice in the last several years for any type of burn.
Plants and their health benefits have always fascinated me. I was certain this amazing plant had benefits beyond their typically attributed benefits. I quickly learned as I poured through articles on the web that aloe vera is often referred to as the “miracle plant,” so I was eager to learn as much as I could. I love drinking Alo brand aloe drink, so I decided to start looking into the nutritional benefits of aloe first. I was excited to learn about all of the essential vitamins and minerals found in this amazing plant. Aloe vera is known to contain over 75 different nutrients including 20 amino acids (out of the 22 required by the human body, 7 of which are essential ), 20 minerals, and 12 vitamins. It’s packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, enzymes, and various antioxidants. Other minerals in aloe include magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese, which work together to boost metabolic pathways. What a great way to get a nutrient burst, because it’s so easy to add aloe to your water or your smoothies!
According to The Journal of Environmental Science and Health, aloe vera also possesses anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties that assist the immune system in cleansing the body of toxins and invading pathogens. Aloe packs a punch as a super food plant as far as I’m concerned! This is going to be my new go-to for improving my health and vitality!
The extracts of aloe vera have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. There is evidence of use of aloe vera for medicinal uses dating all the way back to the Egyptian Era, and it was commonly used in the Roman Era, especially for stomach issues. Researches today are continuing to find even more benefits of this healing plant!
Did you know that aloe can do some amazing things for your skin and hair? Itchy scalp? Aloe can help! It also nourishes hair and promotes hair growth. When my hair was short and spikey in the back, I used Jason brand pure aloe vera gel as a hair gel rather than commercial hair gels that are filled with toxins. It worked better than the commercial products, and helped nourish my hair! As far as skin use, aloe can help with stretch marks, and is often use to help reduce wrinkles and other signs of premature aging of the skin. Aloe is a great hydrator of the skin. It can also help treat certain skin conditions; I love using it to help heal eczema and contact dermatitis, which I have been overcome with in the last several months with the chemical sanitizing of surfaces everywhere I go in public! Aloe also helps to heal blisters, insect bites, wounds, allergic reactions, and psoriasis. And of course, we know if helps ease the pain and inflammation of burns! Did you also know that is helps to repair the damaged skin that has been sunburned? The lignans in the aloe allow it to penetrate through every layer of the skin! It also treats acne, and is certainly less harsh than some of the acne remedies on the market.
There are also dental benefits associated with this amazing plant. Did you know that aloe can help prevent cavities, promote strong healthy teeth, remove plaque, and can help heal and prevent gum disease? This is another reason I love to drink aloe drinks! Just be sure you’re not drinking products with added sugars because this would be counterproductive. If you are interested in using aloe for oral health, you can find mouth washes that contain aloe, and some natural toothpastes have this as an ingredient as well. Aloe vera is known to heal gum disease too, so I am confident it helps prevent this condition as well!
In addition to being an immune booster and helping to halt inflammation, also can also be beneficial for heart health. Aloe consumption is known to help reduce heart attacks, and reduce high blood pressure. It can boost cardiovascular performance, and help improve physical endurance. It can even lower your cholesterol levels! It is also known for its benefits in improving circulation, protecting the body from stress, regulating weight, and increasing energy levels.
Aloe vera can help improve your gut health, as it heals the intestines and lubricates the digestive tract. It has even been known to heal stomach ulcers. Do you have indigestion? Take some aloe. Experiencing constipation? Aloe can help with that too. It also aids in the relief of IBS and Diverticulitis.
The uses seriously are endless! It can help lower blood sugar in diabetics. It soothes arthritis pain, and alleviates joint inflammation. It can prevent kidney stones. It helps with Multiple Sclerosis symptoms. It reduces chronic fatigue, and is used as a pain inhibitor. It can prevent and treat Candida infections. The list keeps going… There is SO much information out there about the benefits of this amazing plant.
Aloe vera can be consumed, or used topically, straight from the plant if you have one in your house (or in your garden bed depending on the climate you live in). It can easily be consumed in juice form, which is commonly found in health food stores, or you can purchase aloe drinks in most grocery stores. Again, be sure you’re not buying a product with added sugars. Alo brand drinks have some sugar in the form of honey, which is my preference if you are looking for something to sweeten the drink a bit naturally.
If you are going to consume it straight from the plant, it’s important to the know anatomy of the aloe vera plant. The rind is the protective green outer skin layer, which has no nutritional value, and it can poke you. Be cautious of this fact when applying a cut open leaf to a sunburn. Just inside the skin is a yellow, bitter, liquid layer called aloe latex. This part flows like a barrier between the outer leaf and the inner fleshy part that is consumed. The liquid latex is not for consumption, and the Mayo Clinic advises that consumption of it may cause kidney damage, and may contain compounds that are known to cause cancer when consumed regularly. You can read their full synopsis of the safety of the aloe gel and the dangers of the aloe latex at https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-aloe/art-20362267. Lastly, the inner “leaf juice” or gel is the fleshy part in the center where all of the nutrients are found. This part of the plant is very healthy, and safe for internal and external use.
If you have a latex allergy you should not use aloe as it would be next to impossible to remove all traces of the latex from the aloe. To remove the liquid latex before internal use, cut the wider end off of the plant and stand the leaf upright in a glass and let the liquid drain out of the leaf. If you are worried about the latex you can also rinse the inner fleshy “gel” with water before adding it to a smoothie or your water.
The benefits of aloe vera are truly endless, and I am sure the ones I have shared are just a fraction of the possibilities. Please enjoy the graphic below that I found while doing my research on aloe. It truly is a miracle plant, and now you have some other uses for it other than a sunburn if you, too, are lucky to have grandma’s aloe plant in your home!
*None of these statements has been evaluated by the Food and Drug administration, and aloe vera products are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent and disease.