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Aloe Vera - Health Benefits of Aloe

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Aloe vera L., A. perryi Baker (Zanzibar or Socotrine aloe), A. barbadensis Miller (also called A. vera Tournefort ex Linne or A. vulgaris Lamarck; Curacao or Barbados aloe), or A. ferox Miller (Cape aloe). A. vera Miller and A. veraL. may or may not be the same species. Family: Liliaceae

COMMON NAME(S): Cape, Zanzibar, Socotrine, Curacao, Barbados aloes, aloe vera

Aloe Vera is a plant that looks like a cactus, but is actually a member of the lily family. It grows in Africa, Asia and the warmer parts of America and Europe. The particular kind of Aloe Vera used for natural remedies has the Latin name Aloe barbadensis and its leaves contain a gel that is rich in therapeutic properties.

History

In the 4th millennium bc, aloe wall carvings were found in Egyptian temples. Called the "Plant of Immortality," it was a traditional funerary gift for the pharaohs. The Egyptian Book of Remedies (ca. 1500 bc) notes aloe use in curing infections, treating the skin, and preparing drugs that were chiefly used as laxatives. The Gospel of John (19:39-40) says that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes for the preparation of Christ's body. Alexander reportedly conquered the Socotra island to obtain control of its aloe resources. In ad 74, the Greek physician Dioscorides recorded aloe's use in healing wounds, stopping hair loss,treating genital ulcers, and eliminating hemorrhoids. In the 6th century ad, Arab traders carried aloe to Asia, and in the 16th century, it was carried to the New World by the Spaniards. Its clinical use began in the 1930s as a treatment for roentgen dermatitis.

Botany :- Aloes, of which there are some 500 species, belong to the family Liliaceae. The name, meaning bitter and shiny substance, derives from the Arabic "alloeh." Indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope, these perennial succulents grow throughout most of Africa, southern Arabia, and Madagascar. Although they do not grow in rain forests or arid deserts, they are cultivated in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Japan, and Americas. Often attractive ornamental plants, their fleshy leaves are stiff and spiny along the edges and grow in a rosette. Each plant has 15 to 30 tapering leaves, each up to 0.5 m long and 8 to 10 cm wide. Beneath the thick cuticle of the epidermis lies the chlorenchyma. Between this layer and the colorless mucilaginous pulp containing the aloe gel are numerous vascular bundles and inner bundle sheath cells from which a bitter yellow sap exudes when the leaves are cut.

Uses of Aloe

Aloe appears to inhibit infection and promote healing of minor burns and wounds, and possibly of skin affected by diseases such as psoriasis. Dried aloe latex is used, with caution, as a drastic cathartic.

Benefits of aloe vera

  • May help sooth skin injured by burns, irritations, cuts and insect bites.
  • May relieve itching and swelling of irritated skin.
  • May improve the effectiveness of sun screen products.
  • Aloe vera juice is used to help ease digestive complaints
  • Healing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, general itching.
  • Aloe vera juice is used to aid musculo-skeletal conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, etc.

Side Effects of Aloe

There has been one report that using the gel as standard wound therapy delayed healing. The gel may cause burning sensations in dermabraded skin.

Dosage

For constipation, a single 50-200 mg capsule of aloe latex can be taken each day for a maximum of ten days.

For minor burns, the stabilized aloe gel is applied topically to the affected area of skin three to five times per day. Treatment of more serious burns should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional. For internal use of aloe gel, two tablespoons (30 ml) three times per day is used by some people for inflammatory bowel conditions, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (see precautions below). For type 2 diabetes, clinical trials have used one tablespoon (15 ml) of aloe juice, twice daily. Using aloe in connection with diabetes should only be done under the supervision and recommendation of a qualified healthcare professional.

Toxicology

Since aloe is used extensively as a folk medicine, its adverse effects have been well documented. Except for the dried latex, aloe is not approved as an internal medication. Aloe-emodin and other anthraquinones may cause severe gastric cramping and are contraindicated in children and pregnant women. The external use of aloe usually has not been associated with severe adverse reactions. Reports of burning skin following topical application of aloe gel to dermabraded skin have been described. Contact dermatitis from the related A. arborescens has been reported.

The latex form of aloe should not be used by anyone with inflammatory intestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease , ulcerative colitis , or appendicitis. It should also not be used by children, or by women during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

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