Aloe Vera: Top Uses for This Easy-to-Grow Plant

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More than just helping your skin recover from sunburn, aloe vera has a rich array of uses to improve your health and well-being. It can be ingested to fight inflammation or irritable bowel syndrome, or applied topically to fight eczema and other skin conditions. Here are compelling reasons to maintain your aloe vera plant at home -- or start growing one today

It may be widely known for treating wounds and skin injuries, but Aloe barbadensis -- more popularly known as aloe vera -- is more than just a sunburn buster. This thick, short-stemmed plant is a flexible natural remedy that even people not gifted with a green thumb are fond of growing at home.

Aloe vera stores water in its leaves, which contain a slimy tissue that serves as the thick "gel" that people typically associate with the plant.[i] Its extensive food, cosmetic and medicinal uses have built a massive global market worth at least $13 billion in annual value.[ii] Here's a quick list of aloe's therapeutic benefits that you shouldn't ignore.

Nutrient-Packed Juice

Aloe vera juice, served at some cafes and health food shops, is a refreshing beverage often served cold that can be a healthful alternative to many sugary drinks available.

Studies have documented the juice's various benefits, such as a laxative effect that can treat constipation[iii] and an anti-inflammatory agent that can help tackle aches and pain as well as help reduce gum inflammation when used as a mouthwash.[iv]

Aloe vera juice can also be an ally in proper digestion, with 2014 research showing that it may reduce the incidence of stomach ulcers and enhance overall digestive function.[v]

Wound Healing and Skin Health

Aloe is known to accelerate cutaneous or skin wound healing. Research documented this among Type 2 diabetic rats[vi] and radiation-exposed animal models, with irradiation as a known factor for delayed wound healing.[vii]

This plant was also found to be topically useful in treating eczema[viii] and fighting multidrug resistant Pseudomonas in burn wound infections.[ix]

Relief From Bowel Conditions

A systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that aloe vera is a safe and effective option for patients with irritable bowel syndrome compared to placebo.[x]

Oral aloe vera taken for four weeks also demonstrated favorable effects more often than placebo in inflammatory bowel disease.[xi] In the randomized trial involving 44 outpatients with ulcerative colitis, subjects treated with aloe vera -- 100 milliliters (ml) twice every day for four weeks -- saw improvement while the placebo group did not.

A review of scientific studies found that herbal therapy slashed inflammatory activity of experimental colitis or inflammatory bowel condition, diminishing levels of many inflammatory markers such as oxidative stress.[xii] Aloe vera emerged as one of the most promising herbal products in the mix.

Improvement of Facial Wrinkles

In a study published in the journal Annals of Dermatology in 2009, healthy female subjects over age 45 who received two different oral doses of aloe vera gel supplementation for 90 days saw remarkable results.[xiii] The researchers found that facial wrinkles in both groups significantly improved while facial elasticity in the low-dose group increased.

Anti-Cancer Activity

In a study involving 240 patients with metastatic cancer, patients treated with aloe vera fared better than their counterparts in terms of survival.

"The percentage of both objective tumor regressions and disease control was significantly higher in patients concomitantly treated with Aloe than with chemotherapy alone, as well as the percent of 3-year survival patients," the authors noted.[xiv]

Now that you're better acquainted with aloe vera benefits and know that it's more than just a sunburn soother, you may consider growing your own at home as a succulent on your work table or as a delightful tropical touch in another part of the house.

The aloe vera database, meanwhile, has more than 160 abstracts on the wonderful benefits and therapeutic uses of aloe vera.

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[i] Medical News Today

[ii] Olwen G et al "Evolutionary history and leaf succulence as explanations for medicinal use in aloes and the global popularity of Aloe vera" BMC Evol Biol. 2015; 15:29. Epub 2015 Feb 26.

[iii] de Witte P et al "Metabolism and pharmacokinetics of anthranoids" Pharmacology. 1993;47 1:86-97.

[iv] Adam A et al "Efficacy of Mouthwash from Aloe vera Juice after Scaling Treatment on Patients with Gingivitis: A Clinical Study" Brazilian Research in Pediatric Dentistry and Integrated Clinic. 2018, 18(1):e3959.

[v] Manvitha K et al "Aloe vera: a wonder plant its history, cultivation and medicinal uses". J Pharmacogn Phytochem. 1 Jan 2014.

[vi] Atiba A et al T"The effect of aloe vera oral administration on cutaneous wound healing in type 2 diabetic rats" J Vet Med Sci. 2011 May;73(5):583-9. Epub 2010 Dec 17.

[vii] Atiba A et al "Aloe vera oral administration accelerates acute radiation-delayed wound healing by stimulating transforming growth factor-β and fibroblast growth factor production" Am J Surg. 2011 Jun;201(6):809-18.

[viii] Zari S et al "A review of four common medicinal plants used to treat eczema" J Med Plants Res. 2015: 702-711.

[ix] Goudarzi M et al "Aloe vera Gel: Effective Therapeutic Agent against Multidrug-Resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa Isolates Recovered from Burn Wound Infections." Chemother Res Pract. 2015 ;2015:639806. Epub 2015 Jul 22.

[x] Seung Wook Hong et al "Aloe Vera is Effective and Safe in Short-term Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis" J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Aug 29. Epub 2018 Aug 29.

[xi] Langmead L et al "Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis" Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003 Apr;90(4):371-7; quiz 377-8, 421.

[xii] Triantafillidis J et al " Favorable results from the use of herbal and plant products in inflammatory bowel disease: evidence from experimental animal studies" Ann Gastroenterol. 2016 Jul-Sep;29(3):268-81. Epub 2016 Feb 20.

[xiii] Soyun Cho et al "Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo" Ann Dermatol. 2009 Feb;21(1):6-11. Epub 2009 Feb 28.

[xiv] Lissoni P et al "A randomized study of chemotherapy versus biochemotherapy with chemotherapy plus Aloe arborescens in patients with metastatic cancer" In Vivo. 2009 Jan-Feb;23(1):171-5.

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