What are the benefits of aloe vera?

Aloe vera is a popular medicinal plant that people have used for thousands of years.

Aloe vera, or Aloe barbadensis, is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves. It is best known for treating skin injuries, but it also has several other uses that could potentially benefit health.

This article lists eight potential health benefits of aloe vera. It also covers some of the risks associated with use.

It contains healthful plant compounds

Aloe vera may help treat skin injuries.
Aloe vera may help treat skin injuries.

The cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries make heavy use of aloe vera, and the plant has an approximate global annual market value of $13 billion.

Aloe vera is known for its thick, pointed, and fleshy green leaves, which can grow to a length of about 12–19 inches (30–50 centimetres).

Each leaf contains a slimy tissue, which stores water , making the leaves thick. This water-filled tissue is the “gel” people associate with items made with aloe vera.

The gel includes most of the plant’s beneficial bioactive compounds including vitamins , minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.

It has antioxidant and antibacterial properties

Antioxidants are important to safety. Aloe vera gel contains potent antioxidants from a large family of substances called polyphenols.

These polyphenols along with many other aloe vera compounds help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that can cause human infections.

Aloe vera is known for its properties as antibacterial , antiviral, and antiseptic. That’s part of why healing wounds and treating skin problems may help.

It accelerates wound healing

People use aloe vera as a topical remedy most frequently, rubbing it onto the skin rather than chewing it up. It actually has a long history of use in the treatment of sores, and especially burns, including sunburn.

As early as 1810–1820, the United States Pharmacopeia describes aloe vera preparations as being a skin protective.

Studies suggest that the first and second degree burns are an effective topical treatment.

An analysis of laboratory research, for example, showed that aloe vera could reduce burns’ healing time by about 9 days compared with conventional medication. It also aided in preventing redness , itching and infections.

The proof that aloe vera helps heal other wound types is inconclusive, but the study is promising.

It reduces dental plaque

Decay of the dentures and gum diseases are very common health problems. Reducing plaque buildup, or bacterial biofilms, on the teeth is one of the easiest ways to avoid these conditions.

Researchers compared 100 percent pure aloe vera juice to the standard mouthwash ingredient chlorhexidine in a mouth rinse study of 300 healthy people.

After 4 days of use, the aloe vera mouth rinse seemed just as effective in reducing dental plaque as chlorhexidine.

Another study found similar benefits of aloe vera mouth rinse over a 15- to 30-day period.

Aloe vera is effective in killing in the mouth both the plaque-producing bacterium Streptococcus mutans and the yeast Candida albicans.

It helps treat canker sores

Many people at some stage in their lives suffer mouth ulcers, or canker sores. These usually form under the lip, inside the mouth, and last approximately a week.

Studies have shown that treatment with aloe vera can speed the healing of mouth ulcers.

For example, applying an aloe vera patch to the region was successful in reducing the size of the ulcers in a seven day study of 180 people with recurrent mouth ulcers.

It has not, however, outperformed conventional ulcer treatment: corticosteroids.

In another study, aloe vera gel not only improved mouth ulcer healing but also reduced the pain associated with it.

It reduces constipation

Aloe vera can help with constipation treatment, too.

This time it’s the latex that offers the benefits, not the gel. The latex is a sticky yellow substance that is present just under the leaf ‘s surface.

The main compound responsible for this effect is called aloin, or barbaloin, which has laxative effects that have been well known.

With regular use, though, people have raised concerns about health. For this reason, aloe latex has not been available in the United States since 2002 as an over-the-counter medication.

Aloe vera does not seem to be protective against other stomach disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, contrary to common opinion.

It may improve skin and prevent wrinkles

There is some preliminary evidence that topical aloe vera gel can slow skin ageing.

In a 2009 study of 30 females over 45 years old, taking oral aloe vera gel increased the production of collagen and improved skin elasticity over a 90-day period.

Reviews also suggest that aloe vera may help retain moisture in the skin and improve the integrity of the skin which may benefit dry skin conditions.

It lowers blood sugar levels

People sometimes utilize aloe vera as a diabetes remedy. That’s because it can increase insulin sensitivity and help improve the management of blood sugar.

A review of eight studies , for example, found that aloe vera might have benefits for people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes because of its effects on glycemic control.

The quality of the existing studies is not ideal, however, so scientists are currently not recommending to use aloe vera for this purpose.

Risks

Aloe vera is a natural remedy that has little known side effects.

The National Complementary and Integrative Health Center (NCCIH) says the topical use is likely safe.

That said, due to its laxative effects, oral use of aloe vera may cause stomach cramps or diarrhea. Some cases of liver damage associated with long-term use of the aloe vera supplement have also been published.

The NCCIH also reports that nondecolorized whole-leaf aloe vera extract appears to be associated with the risk of cancer in rats.

Summary

Aloe vera possesses a range of therapeutic properties , particularly as a skin and gum ointment.

People can use aloe vera gel bottled, or take it directly from an aloe plant’s leaf. Aloe vera juice has varying uses for aloe vera gel.

Oral options should include decolorized whole-leaf aloe vera extract to reduce risk.

A person should always speak to a health care provider before using aloe products to treat a disease.

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