Aloe vera is a cacti-like, succulent plant that was dubbed the plant of immortality by the ancient Egyptians. Cleopatra is said to have used it as part of her beauty regime more than 2,000 years ago. Used extensively in medicinal and cosmetic industries, Aloe vera plants probably originated from the Arabian Peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. But, this amazing plant is now cultivated worldwide.
Aloe vera, known globally as a medicinal aloe, has been used for traditional medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The plants produce yellow latex and a clear gel, both of which have been used for healthcare products. The gel is commonly used in ointments and creams to treat various skin conditions and burns. Aloe latex works as a laxative, and sometimes people use it orally to treat constipation.
Applications of aloe vera
Aloe vera is a medium-sized aloe that grows in the form of large rosettes without stems. The aloe leaves are light green with scattered white spots on both surfaces.
It is one of about 420 aloe species and one of only four main species with medicinal properties. It is considered to be the most potent of all the aloe species.
Because of the amazing benefits of Aloe vera plants, it is widely cultivated throughout the world, primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. It is also widely grown as a hardy, ornamental garden plant.
Like most other aloes, Aloe vera features short, stubby teeth on its leaf margins that can be quite sharp to the touch. Flowers grow on long stalks and are yellow, but sometimes tinged with orange.
The applications and uses of Aloe vera are incredibly varied. A paper published in the Journal of Food Agriculture and Environment in 2010, outlines these.
The paper is titled Aloe Vera: A Plant for many uses and was written by Efterpi Christaki and Panaglota C. Florou-Paneri from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece in 2010. These learned authors categorize the applications of Aloe vera plants into cosmetic, food, and medicinal. They also discuss its safe use as per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As an aside, did you know that Cleopatra, despite being an Egyptian leader, and a woman who valued the cosmetic uses of Aloe vera, was Greek?
We use Aloe vera gel, latex, and a type of whole-leaf extract, in various cosmetics. According to the research, the concentrations of Aloe vera range from just 1% to as much as 98%.
Its use in the cosmetic and toiletry industries is extensive. Applications are hugely varied and include moisturizers, sun lotions, cleansers, mouthwashes, shaving creams, toothpaste, shampoos, body scrubs, and deodorants.
In the U.S. the FDA has only approved the external or topical use of Aloe vera as an ingredient in cosmetics.
The uses Aloe vera has in the food and beverage industry have been increasing over the years. For instance, it’s used in various health drinks, including some teas.
One of the benefits Aloe vera offers is its ability to prevent diseases and promote good health. For this reason, it is often used as a nutritional supplement.
It is also used as an edible coating that prolongs the safety and quality of some fresh products including table grapes. Additionally, its antibacterial properties inhibit the growth of microorganisms that cause food spoilage and foodborne illnesses.
The FDA has approved the use of Aloe vera gel as a dietary supplement that may be used internally or orally.
The uses Aloe vera has medicinally are remarkable. These range from its ability to heal wounds, treat ulcers and skin disorders like acne and psoriasis, and help with joint-related problems and arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory actions.
It is used successfully to treat scar tissue and prevent scars from forming when the skin is badly injured. Christaki and Florou-Paneri say this is probably because it contains the amino acids needed for new cell formation and enzymes that promote the regeneration of the very deepest skin layers.
There is also evidence that it supports the healing of first and second-degree burns as well as skin damage caused by radiation therapy. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH), it also relieves the pain from burns.
Additionally, the properties Aloe vera plants offer have been linked with reducing blood sugar or glucose levels in diabetics and lowering cholesterol. It is also used for weight loss and heartburn relief.
Aloe vera is a potent laxative. But in 2002, the FAD disallowed laxative products containing any form of Aloe vera to be sold over the counter.
The antifungal benefits of Aloe vera haven’t been widely studied. But there are reports that it inhibits Candidiasis infections, including thrush, that are caused by Candida, a type of fungus.
Benefits of aloe vera
One of the benefits aloe plants have is that their gel holds moisture for incredibly long periods of time. It also has amazing soothing effects.
But it’s the benefits we experience when we use products that contain aloe latex and aloe gel that is important. We have already mentioned these, but here are the benefits that the Mayo Clinic highlights.
The gel promotes wound healing and shortens the time it takes for wounds to heal. It also works well as an acne treatment and to control psoriasis and herpes simplex virus.
Aloe gel also helps to reduce inflammation inside the mouth caused by oral lichen planus. And it acts as a laxative but can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
The Mayo Clinic states that aloe gel is generally safe, but warns that aloe latex shouldn’t be taken orally. This is because unprocessed aloe latex contains chemicals that might cause cancer.
Rather be safe than sorry.
Different aloe vera uses
There are many different uses for Aloe vera, and once you discover them you will find that this succulent plant has some amazing benefits. We have discussed the cosmetic, food, and medicinal Aloe vera uses that are widely known, if you want to explore further, there are some fascinating Aloe vera YouTube videos you can watch.
You can also add an Aloe vera plant to your garden. Given the right conditions, they are very easy to grow. But that’s a subject for another day.
Aloe vera is probably the best-known aloe plant globally. That’s understandable given its amazing uses.