Aloe - For More Than Just Burns!

One of my favorite medicinal plants is the aloe vera plant. Originally from Africa, it is now grown in abundance in Texas, California and Florida.

Oklahoma has specially designed greenhouses to grow this health promoting plant, as it does not tolerate freezing temperatures.

Historically, Aloe’s medicinal properties date back to an Egyptian document written around B.C.E. 1550.  The document listed twelve formulas containing Aloe to treat both internal and external disorders.

More recently it is being looked at for food preservation as researchers in Spain have found it can be used as an edible coating on fruits and vegetables.  This would be extremely beneficial as well as environmentally friendly as most produce is sprayed with synthetic preservatives after harvesting. Researchers dipped grapes into aloe vera gel and successfully stored them for five weeks at low temperature.  The untreated grapes under the same conditions deteriorated within one week. It is believed that the gel primarily works by acting as a natural barrier to moisture and oxygen. But it also appears to contain antibiotic and antifungal compounds that can inhibit microorganisms responsible for food-borne illness. On a more unusual note, it is being used for semen preparation for the artificial insemination of sheep.

Aloe has little standing in the world of medicine but most people are familiar with its healing potential for burns when applied topically to the skin. It is also a common ingredient found in thousands of cosmetic, hair care and skin care items.

Aloe gel is used to treat eczema, frostbite, psoriasis as well as gum conditions.  This potent plant contains at least seven antioxidant compounds that prevent the production of leukotrienes, which are chemical agents of inflammation released by white blood cells.  Aloe gel releases natural salicylates (aspirin-like) that relieve pain and encourage healing.  It has been more effective in healing herpes lesions when compared to a placebo.

Aloe preparations have tremendous soothing and healing qualities for those suffering from heartburn or ulcerative conditions. Capsule forms, made from the leaf of the aloe ferox plant, are one of my most effective treatments for constipation. One to three capsules taken at night have a gentle softening effect usually noticed within eight to twelve hours.

Aloe juice has helped lower blood sugar in diabetics as well as relieving ulcerative colitis. For those lucky enough to grow it, the clear slimy gel extracted from the leaf of the plant, can be taken internally for antioxidant, anticancer and antiviral effects.  It has beneficial properties to blood quality that can be looked at as an anti-sludging effect.  Aloe gel can be ingested fresh from the leaf of the plant or found in a stabilized product.

Acemannan is a complex carbohydrate that is chemically extracted from the gel. It is used in pharmaceutical preparations as a treatment for viral infections and cancer. Aloe appears to slow or halt growth in cancer tumors.

The list is long for the potential benefits of aloe vera and I envy those who live in climates that grow aloe year round.  But for now,  I have my little aloe plant for burns, liquid in the fridge to soothe heartburn and some capsules in my bag of tricks for those rare occasions that I may become “backed-up.”


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