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Aloe Vera: What It’s Good For

Although aloe vera is often touted as a sunburn treatment, research on this potential benefit is limited. There are more than 300 species of the aloe plant, but Aloe barbadensis (aka aloe vera) is the best known and is prized in the health and beauty worlds for its healing properties.

The spiky succulent plant grows naturally in dry, tropical climates. Many centuries ago, people realised the plant had more to offer than just being nice to look at. The gel and juice found inside aloe vera became a popular herbal remedy that was used to help treat everything from skin issues to digestive problems.

Humans have long known about the plant’s healing benefits, and over the years have used aloe — which is also known as “burn plant,” “lily of the desert,” and “elephant’s gall” — to help treat wounds, hair loss, hemorrhoids, and digestive issues. These days, aloe has an entire industry behind it. Its juices are used in cosmetics and personal-care products such as moisturisers, soap, shaving cream, and suntan lotion. The aloe vera product that probably comes to mind most easily is the bright green gel that’s stocked on drugstore shelves. You’ve probably used it to soothe a nasty sunburn. Aloe vera is also available in supplement form, which is said to offer the same possible benefits to the skin and digestive system as other versions of the plant.

Types of Aloe Vera People Use

There are two medicinally useful parts of the aloe vera plant. First, the leaves are filled with a clear gel. This gel is extracted from the plant and usually used on the skin to treat burns and various skin conditions. The gel can also be found in liquid or capsule form and taken orally. The second substance the plant produces is called aloe latex. This is the yellow pulp that’s found just under the outer part of the plant leaf. Aloe latex has been shown to have laxative properties, and it’s usually taken orally to treat constipation. The latest in aloe vera trends is the introduction of aloe-based drinks, such as aloe vera juice and aloe vera water. The plant juices are usually mixed with citrusy juice to make aloe vera juice or water to make aloe vera water.

Aloe vera on its own can taste a little bitter, so many brands will add flavor or sweeteners to the bottle. Take a look at the bottle’s ingredients list to make sure it’s not packed with loads of added sugars.

Potential Health Benefits of Aloe Vera

There’s not enough evidence to prove that aloe vera can treat all the health issues it’s said to help with. But the plant has been linked to many potential benefits, including:

Digestive help Aloe latex contains aloin, which is an anthraquinone that gives aloe vera its laxative properties and may help treat constipation.

Treating skin conditions, such as psoriasis and acne Aloe creams have a calming effect on the skin and have been shown to help reduce itchiness and inflammation.

Sunburn relief Some people swear by aloe to calm sunburn. You might have experienced the gel’s cooling effect yourself, but the research backing up the claim that it can speed skin recovery is lacking.

Wound healing Aloe gel may help expedite the healing process of burns or cuts on the skin.

Heartburn relief Researchers found aloe vera helped lessen several symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), including heartburn, belching, and vomiting.

Lower blood sugar A study found drinking two tablespoons of aloe vera juice every day for two weeks helped lower the blood sugar levels among people with type 2 diabetes. Triglyceride levels of the study participants also improved.

Beauty Benefits of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is also an “it” ingredient in the beauty and cosmetics world. You’ll find it in everything from moisturizers and toners to shampoos and deep conditioners. What’s the reason for the hype? The plant is known for keeping skin hydrated and clear. It’s rich in antioxidants such as and vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E, and it contains seven of the eight essential amino acids. It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

One study found an aloe vera topical gel helped treat acne lesions when combined with a tretinoin cream. Another study found aloe has anti-aging potential: The researchers gave 30 women doses of aloe vera gel twice a day for three months. The women saw significant improvements in their wrinkles and the elasticity of their skin thanks to an increase in collagen production.

You’ll also find hair-care products containing aloe vera. Some beauty pros apply the gel found inside the leaves directly to their hair and use it as a deep conditioner. It can leave a residue behind though, so be sure to rinse it out thoroughly.

Whenever buying one, check that aloe vera quality and purity has been tested and confirmed. Also ensure that you learn about all possible side effects especially if you have a health issue.