Aloe Vera: A Skin Treatment Not Just for Skin Anymore

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

aloe vera

Aloe Vera is popular as a cosmetic, medical treatment, and food product; however, what does the research show are the actual benefits? From ancient history to modern-day medical treatment, let’s dig into Aloe Vera and how it’s used today.

What Is Aloe Vera?

Today, there is a tremendous amount of interest in Aloe Vera as a food supplement due to the presence of active compounds that could lead to health benefits. There is a product called Acemannan that’s of particular interest in up and coming research. Acemannan, along with phenolic compounds, could lead to the plant’s acceptance as a food supplement.

Some of the potential benefits include colitis treatment, a reduction in colon carcinogenesis, reduction of the glycemic index in patients with diabetes, and a reduction in total blood cholesterol levels. Therefore, it is important to take a look at the evidence behind Aloe Vera and how it might provide health benefits as a food supplement. Aloe Vera may make a significant difference in someone’s overall quality of life with the right precautions.

History of Aloe Vera Use

Aloe Vera has been used since ancient times for various purposes, ranging from cosmetics to healthcare treatments and more. It was used for several millennia in diverse cultures, including Greece, Egypt, India, Mexico, China, and Japan. Egyptian queens would use the plant as a regular part of their beauty regimens. Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus would regularly use Aloe Vera to treat wounds that their soldiers had incurred. By the early 1800s, it was routinely used in the United States. By the 1930s, it was a regular treatment for a skin condition called dermatitis, helping to alleviate a lot of the irritation and blistering resulting from burns, radiation exposure, and drug reactions.

Ancient cultures in the Middle East would regularly use Aloe Vera in the cream they placed on their hands to heal wounds, treat irritation and burns. Furthermore, they would extract the gel directly from the rich, succulent leaves and add it to their food to help with digestion. This includes constipation, diarrhea, and other symptoms of bowel dysfunction.

There are references to Aloe Vera found in the Bible along with carvings referring to the plant that are more than 6000 years old, with direct references to its healing properties. In this manner, the healing properties were known to people even in ancient times, explaining why we still find it useful today. How can we use Aloe Vera in our own lives to further enjoy the benefits that ancient cultures uncovered so many years ago?

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Aloe Vera as a Food Product

We are now starting to discover that Aloe Vera can lead to several benefits as a food product. Even though science has come a long way, there is nothing like using natural health supplements that have been proven effective over thousands of years.

Aloe Vera drinks date back nearly 5000 years. Studies have pointed out that drinking the juice can aid in health processes, including digestion, weight loss, immune function, and even general discomfort. The leaves of the plant are used to make the juice. There are some safety concerns about drinking too much, so it is important to drink this beverage in moderation as too much could be harmful. 

The Aloe Vera juice molecule itself contains a wide variety of organic and inorganic components. It is unclear exactly which parts of the molecule lead to its beneficial physiological properties. Regardless, there are suspicions that the carbohydrate polymers attached to the juice molecule are likely responsible for the benefits that so many people enjoy. Further research should be done with appropriate processing techniques to uncover how Aloe Vera can best be utilized fully. Then, more specific guidelines can be developed for use.

A research article published on the specific nutritional implications of Aloe Vera noted that the molecules contain vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes that all contribute to its health benefits. These ingredients play a role in the medicinal and cosmetic uses that so many people enjoy. The study points out that the gel can be useful both via oral and topical use, helping people prevent cancer, enjoy antioxidant benefits, reduce inflammation, reduce ulcers, and even treat GI discomfort, making it one of the most versatile nutritional compounds in the world.

Even ancient cultures realized that Aloe Vera was incredibly useful in treating frostbite, burns, and wound healing. Studies have been completed showing that, as a food supplement, it can play a role in increasing HDL (the good cholesterol), reducing LDL (the bad cholesterol), and reducing blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Researchers point out that the plant itself has more than 200 compounds that contribute to its health benefits. At the same time, the researchers conclude that more guidance is needed on exactly how much people should take and when they should consume it. That way, the beneficial applications can be expanded, and people will have more information on how to safely consume Aloe Vera.

The Nutritional Profile of Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a potent, medicinal plant mainly because of its diverse nutritional profile, which includes:

  • Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12, folic acid, calcium, copper, selenium, magnesium, and more.
  • Countless enzymes that break down sugars and fats such as amylase and lipase.
  • Healthy fatty acids that reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Antioxidants that scavenge free radicals that could otherwise lead to DNA damage.

For these reasons, the applications of Aloe Vera are gradually expanding, and it has the potential to provide individuals with health benefits.

Aloe Vera and Health Uses

Aloe Vera has possible health uses, as researchers have uncovered in scientific studies. Some of the potential uses include:

Aloe Vera and Heartburn

One of the most significant areas in which this plant can be helpful is heartburn thanks to biologically active compounds, including Acemannan, which was introduced above. Simultaneously, some research covers years of studies showing that collective evidence points towards Aloe Vera as an effective treatment option for acid reflux, also known as heartburn.

Both animal and human studies have shown that Aloe Vera has a beneficial impact on the treatment of GI problems, including heartburn. Given that prolonged acid reflux can lead to esophageal cancer development, it is important to take a well-rounded approach to the treatment of the condition.

Aloe Vera and Blood Sugar

Elevated blood sugar levels have contributed heavily to the development of an obesity and diabetes epidemic. Many people are wondering if Aloe Vera can be used to treat elevated blood sugar levels. There is evidence that Acemannan can help control blood sugar levels; however, the levels are inconsistent across products. Therefore, it could be hard to ensure the medicinal qualities of supplements.

At the same time, this does not mean that Aloe Vera is not helpful for blood sugar levels. One review looked at a total of five trials with more than 400 people with prediabetes. Universally, these studies showed that supplementation reduced fasting blood glucose levels.

Another experimental paper produced similar results. This review looked at more than 470 people spread across eight trials, with all patients having prediabetes. While Aloe Vera did not improve HbA1c levels, largely seen as the marker of diabetes, it did improve fasting plasma glucose levels.

While future studies are planned to take place in patients with full-fledged diabetes, the results are clear that Aloe Vera can improve people’s blood sugar levels. The hope is that if blood sugar levels can be reduced, then the frequency of diabetes will fall. This can drastically improve people’s quality of life.

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Aloe Vera and Digestion

Aloe Vera is known to have beneficial impacts on the digestive system. It is useful in the treatment of GI complications, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, ulcers, constipation, and more. At the same time, a study points out that more research is needed to figure out exactly how much is required to produce these beneficial effects without adverse side effects.

Aloe Vera can be useful in the treatment of severe GI diseases. This includes dysentery, which is a condition that leads to chronic diarrhea. Dysentery, while uncommon in developed countries, is still a significant killer globally. Most individuals who die of dysentery do so via dehydration. If the plant can slow the diarrhea rate, then this provides a chance for medical professionals to intervene and save people’s lives. The study also points out that it is also helpful in treating conditions involving the liver and pancreas.

Finally, a trial lasting 16 weeks showed that Aloe Vera helped treat conditions involving both the upper and lower GI tract. More than 40 people participated in this study, and the group that took the supplement for four weeks showed massive improvement in the frequency and severity of GI symptoms, including indigestion, heartburn, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Furthermore, people who took Aloe Vera also reported improved energy, mood, and sleep.

Aloe Vera and Wound Healing

Aloe Vera is also well-known to have wound-healing properties. In one review that focused on individuals requiring skin grafts, the group that received the plant as part of their treatment healed much faster; however, use did not necessarily lead to improved overall pain at the graft site. The study showed that patients receiving Aloe Vera enjoy much faster rates of wound closure.

Another study took a closer look at why Aloe Vera might lead to faster healing rates. The researchers looked at skin biopsies after patients were treated with the gel. The results showed that treatment increased immune cells’ presence around the wound, which play a role in the healing process. This includes lymphocytes, leukocytes, and the rate of blood vessel regeneration. All of this led to the regeneration of the skin’s epithelial cells, leading to faster wound closure speeds.

The results of both of these studies were echoed by a third research paper, which was conducted in animals, but showed that the rates of wound closure, collagen deposition, and tissue formation were much faster in animals treated with Aloe Vera. Overall, it is clear that the research shows that use of the plant leads to much faster wound healing rates. This explains why it is so effective in helping patients who have suffered severe burns.

Aloe Vera and Cancer

Aloe Vera contains a powerful anti-cancer compound called butyrate, which plays a role in the cessation of tumor growth. Butyrate can also halt blood vessels’ formation in tumor cells, which chokes off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, slowing their growth.

It can be used to cap nanoparticles, leading to cytotoxic effects in cancer cells. Specifically, these particles altered the function of mitochondria, which generate cellular energy in cancer cells. These nanoparticles could then lead to DNA damage in cancer cells that led to cellular destruction in tumors.

Aloe Vera can be useful in the treatment of breast cancer. One study showed that it could bind with high degrees of affinity to cellular receptors seen in breast cancer. It even outperformed a significant cancer treatment compound called Tamoxifen, showing that Aloe Vera could be the foundation of a new drug used to treat breast cancer. 

While it is shown to help wound healing, it does not prevent the development of wounds in patients with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy. Aloe Vera itself may still help treat wounds and burns from radiation treatment after they have developed. 

Aloe Vera may be helpful for irritation in other parts of the body, such as proctitis, which irritates the rectum. It is critical to take a well-rounded approach to the treatment of radiation burns and side effects.

On the other hand, we found a study that showed certain levels of Aloe Vera could lead to the development of colon cancer. While the researchers point out that more information is needed, it appears that taking too much triggers cellular pathways that lead to colon and rectal cancers. There is a lot that research still has to uncover when it comes to Aloe Vera and cancer.

Aloe Vera and the GI System

Studies have pointed out that Aloe Vera can have a beneficial effect on the GI system, including its ability to act as a laxative to help individuals with constipation. The extract is effective in the treatment of patients with constipation.

It is important to note that using Aloe Vera as a laxative to help the GI system must be done with caution. Even though reviews have pointed out the beneficial effects, there is an added risk using it as a laxative. If patients take Aloe Vera and do not notice any immediate effects, they may feel they need to continue taking more until they see some results. Therefore, this increases the risk of side effects, which can impact the liver. For these reasons, it is critical to use Aloe Vera as a laxative in consultation with trained medical professionals.

Aloe Vera as an Antioxidant

Aloe Vera has also received a lot of attention due to its potential as a powerful antioxidant. One study points out that there are compounds in the plant that can scavenge free radicals. This includes compounds such as chromones, polysaccharides, anthraquinones, and anthrones. Finally, the researchers also state that, due to these properties, it can be used in the treatment of an endemic condition called leishmaniasis.

In another article, the research team was taking a closer look at the ability of Aloe Vera to help patients with wound healing. The researchers discovered that extreme doses could be toxic to specific cell lines, realizing that doses above 50 mg per kg of body weight could be toxic; however, it still has powerful wound healing properties because it did not lead to any oxidation in the body’s cells, making Aloe Vera a powerful antioxidant.

Finally, additional research points out that Aloe Vera has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that improves lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, which helps maintain normal sugar and cholesterol levels. The review also points out that the plant contains powerful antioxidants, which may allow it to play a role in increasing the shelf life of food and its widespread use in the cosmetics industry. Specifically, the gel, flowers, and skin all have powerful antioxidant effects.

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Aloe Vera and Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a serious condition that impacts multiple systems throughout the body, including the endocrine and GI systems. Aloe Vera is helpful in individuals with metabolic syndrome. 

In one study, Aloe Vera was shown to reduce both blood glucose levels and inflammation in individuals with metabolic syndrome. These results were echoed by another literature review exploring multiple natural compounds and their ability to help people with obesity. The study points out that Aloe Vera can have a positive impact on someone’s lipid profile and carbohydrate metabolic rates, which can help people who suffer from obesity.

Another trial looked at 45 people who had either impaired fasting blood glucose levels or prediabetes. The study lasted for eight weeks. The results showed that Aloe Vera gel led to a significant reduction in LDL, glucose, and fructosamine levels. Therefore, the researchers concluded that it could be an effective treatment option in reducing the early signs of prediabetes.

Overall, Aloe Vera can play a significant role in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. While the plant is not going to reverse the effects of metabolic syndrome, it can be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound-healing features that can lead to improved lipid profiles, lower blood pressure levels, and even help people prevent the development of diabetes.

Aloe Vera and the Immune System

In addition, Aloe Vera can have positive effects on the immune system. With more than 200 biologically active substances, many of the compounds found in Aloe Vera have been discovered to possess properties that can fight bacteria and viruses. Researchers point out that the Aloe molecule itself is very similar to the antibiotic called tetracycline. This compound acts by blocking the genetic material of bacteria from reproducing, slowing the replication of pathogenic cells, helping the immune system fight infections. There are phenolic compounds that are known to have toxic effects on pathogens. Therefore, these phenols can also play a role in fighting infections.

Also, Aloe Vera can play a role in fighting viruses. Specifically, it can be very effective at fighting HSV2, a virus known to cause cold sores and other skin complications. There are also reports that it can fight influenza A, thanks to its cytopathic effect, preventing the replication of this virus. Future studies are going to take a look at the ability of Aloe Vera to fight HIV.

Aloe Vera in Dentistry

Aloe Vera also has beneficial uses in dentistry. One study points out that Aloe Vera is like a wonder plant, helpful in treating various conditions, including stomatitis, oral fibrosis, and dry sockets. In particular, it is useful for patients who have undergone radiation for neck cancer. 

Aloe Vera has properties as an immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral compound, contributing to its unprecedented versatility in dentistry.

Specifically, one research team points out that the plant can be used as a disinfectant. Dental water lines are a significant issue because they can become contaminated easily, spreading this infection to patients. This study showed that Aloe Vera could be useful at sterilizing these dental water lines, efficiently removing pathogens from the lines themselves.

The plant can also be effective at treating infected cavities, helping patients improve their treatment results. By excavating dental caries with Aloe Vera, this can play a role in minimally invasive tooth decay treatment.

Aloe Vera Side Effects and Adverse Reactions

It is important to note that it is possible to experience side effects and adverse reactions from Aloe Vera. One case report points out that a patient experienced acute hepatitis stemming from an Aloe Vera preparation. A middle-aged female ingested the supplement, leading to acute abdominal pain and lab evidence of acute hepatitis. The doctors were able to intervene quickly, likely preventing long-term liver damage that would have otherwise occurred. The researchers go on to note that the symptoms and acute hepatitis entirely resolved after stopping intake. Therefore, it is essential to emphasize that everyone has to use caution when taking Aloe Vera, as taking too much can lead to side effects.

How To Grow and Harvest an Aloe Vera Plant

If you would grow and harvest your Aloe Vera plant to take advantage of its healing properties, it is important to take good care of it. When looking at plant care, some points to note include:

  • Place the plant in bright, indirect sunlight or artificial light.
  • Keep the temperature between 55 degrees F and 80 degrees F.
  • Bring the plant inside in the evening if it gets cold.
  • Water plants deeply, but not too often.
  • Let the soil dry about 1 to 2 inches deep in between waterings.
  • During the winter, water the plant every three weeks.
  • Only use light fertilizer, no more than once per month, and only during warmer months.

These are the most important points about caring for Aloe Vera. Once the leaves start to bloom, it is time to harvest them safely. When looking at Aloe Vera – how to grow and harvest, you should:

  • Remove only about three to four leaves at a time, choosing thick leaves on the outside.
  • Cut the leaves close to the stem and avoid the roots.
  • Wash and dry the leaves carefully.
  • Trim the prickly edges with a knife.

Finally, you should be able to enjoy the gel and juice for yourself. Remember to avoid the plant’s green and yellow portions when extracting the liquid and gel, as it can be toxic to people.

Aloe Vera Food Recipes

Several delicious Aloe Vera food recipes can provide you with many of the health benefits discussed above. A few options include:

  • Juice: To make juice, run the leaf under running water, dry it with a cloth, cut the thorny parts off, and filet the leaf in two. Then, extract the gel and add it to fruit juices such as carrot juice, orange juice, or apple juice. It is ready to drink! Make sure to avoid the green and yellow parts of the plant as they are toxic. With this drink, everyone can enjoy Aloe Vera juice benefits.
  • Smoothie: There are plenty of Aloe Vera smoothie recipes to try; however, one popular one involves mixing the gel with coconut water, pineapples, kiwi, cucumber, and orange juice to make a citrus splash. Even though it might not look attractive when finished, it will still taste amazing!
  • Poached: To make poached Aloe Vera, you will need 1 cup of cane sugar, two tablespoons of lime juice, and leaves. Take the gel and combine this in a small saucepan with the cane sugar and lime juice. Next, cook over medium heat. Once the mixture has the texture of a grape, allow it to cool. Poached Aloe Vera goes great with plain yogurt.
  • Jelly: To make Aloe Vera jelly, remove the gel from the plant and cut the gel into small cubes. Place the cubes in a pan and add two cups of water and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse the mixture under cold water and use it as a topping for lattes, teas, juices, and more!

These are just a few examples of how people can consume Aloe Vera and enjoy its health benefits.

Aloe Vera Skin Recipes

If you are looking for skin recipes that can treat various potential issues, you will need to either purchase 100 percent pure Aloe Vera from the store or take Aloe gel directly from the plant. Some possible skin recipes include:

  • Moisturizer: Take one teaspoon of clear Aloe Vera gel and apply it to your face area, including your neck, in the morning and evening to keep the skin moist. Be careful to avoid the eyes, as this will lead to skin irritation.
  • Anti-Aging Eye Cream: Take one vitamin E capsule and puncture it with a pin. Squeeze the oil into a bowl and add one tablespoon of Aloe Vera to the vitamin E, mixing it well. Then, dab the moisture around the eyes before bed to treat lines and wrinkles.
  • Acne: Mix 1 tablespoon of Aloe Vera, one tablespoon of raw honey, and one teaspoon of rosewater. Then, apply this as a mask for 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water, three times per week.
  • Stretch Marks: Mix 1/3 cup Aloe Vera gel with ½ cup organic coconut oil to make a fluffy mixture and apply it to stretch marks overnight.

Aloe Vera for Weight Loss

Countless people are trying to lose weight, and Aloe Vera may help with this endeavor. There are two separate ways that the plant could help people lose weight. These include:

  • Boost Metabolism: Some research studies show that Aloe Vera could increase someone’s metabolism, meaning that it increases the number of calories people burn in a day. One research review showed that the plant increases the metabolism of fat and sugar in the body while also preventing belly fat growth.
  • Blood Sugar Control: Aloe Vera also can help people control their blood sugar, which can increase weight loss and prevent diabetes. For example, one trial showed that consuming the supplement twice per day led to significant reductions in blood sugar levels in individuals with prediabetes.

Some of the other ways that Aloe Vera may help people lose weight including improving the body’s digestion processes, preventing the retention of water (which leads to weight gain), and removing toxins from the body.

Therefore, there is evidence that consuming the plant regularly can lead to weight loss. It can be added to various salsas, juices, and smoothies to help people lose weight.

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A Last Look at Aloe Vera and Your Health

This is only a brief overview of how Aloe Vera can help someone improve their overall health. While there is a lot of research that has already been done, more research is needed to develop firm clinical guidelines. Some of the potential health benefits of Aloe Vera include aiding the body’s digestive processes, scavenging free radicals to prevent oxidation and cancer, treating burns, treating acne, and even helping people control their blood sugar to prevent diabetes. There are recipes to which the plant leaves and gel can be added; however, be careful to avoid the plant’s green and yellow parts if harvesting an Aloe Vera plant, as these portions can be toxic.

Questions and Answers on Aloe Vera

What is Aloe Vera good for?

The benefits of Aloe Vera are found in a variety of cosmetic products, including gels, creams, and masks, which can treat irritation, acne, and stretch marks. Aloe Vera can also improve the body’s digestive processes while combating high blood sugar levels.

Is Aloe Vera edible?

Yes! Aloe Vera is edible. There are three parts to the leaf – the skin, the latex, and the gel. Consuming the latex comes with the risk of safety concerns, however. This is why the FDA banned the sale of Aloe Vera latex in over-the-counter products in 2002. 

How much Aloe Vera juice to drink daily?

When looking at Aloe Vera drink benefits, the amount to drink varies by body weight; however, drinking up to eight ounces of Aloe Vera juice per day should be a safe amount.

How can I use Aloe Vera on my face?

When looking at Aloe Vera for face, you can place Aloe Vera gel on your face or combine it with vitamin E to treat various skin issues.

Is Aloe Vera good for acne?

Yes! Aloe Vera can be used to treat acne, one of the significant Aloe Vera skin benefits.

Can Aloe Vera kill bacteria?

Yes! Aloe Vera is found in topical ointments because it kills bacteria.

Can Aloe cause hair loss?

When Aloe Vera is used to condition hair, less breakage and loss has been noted by many users. So no, we found no connection between Aloe Vera and hair loss.