The leaf of the aloe vera plant has an estimated annual market of over $13 billion (1). This number is only set to grow.
There are hundreds of studies that talk about aloe vera and its purported benefits. Most of them are proven, and a few are still being investigated.
The plant has been used for thousands of years. It has remained quite popular in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine and even in Western medicine.
Its use in cosmetics and other products started way back in the 1970s (2). The gel from the plant can treat inflammation and correct skin disorders. Research has a lot to state on its effects on diabetes and weight loss as well. Let’s look at the benefits of aloe vera in detail.
Table Of Contents
What Is Aloe Vera And How Does It Work?
Aloe vera is as a short-stemmed shrub that is often called a wonder plant. The genus contains over 500 species, most of which occur in North Africa.
Aloe vera is the scientific name (aloe is the name of the genus and vera is the name of the species). It is widely used today in foods, cosmetics, herbal remedies, and food supplements.
Apart from parts of Africa, aloe plants are also spread across the Middle East and various islands in the Indian Ocean. The plant has been used historically. Records mention its use dating as far back as the 4th century BC (3). That is over two thousand years ago.
The most prominent use of aloe vera is in treating skin conditions and wounds. The oral intake of the plant (its gel or latex) can promote digestive health and greatly aid the treatment of diabetes and infectious diseases (4).
The plant contains over 75 powerful constituents – these include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, saponins, salicylic and amino acids, and sugars (5).
Aloe vera is one of the very few nutritionally replete plants in the world. What it can do for you is as incredible as its nutritional profile.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is one of the few nutritionally densest natural foods available. It is replete with important vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. These fight inflammation, strengthen immunity, and treat chronic ailments like diabetes. Aloe vera also has excellent applications in enhancing your skin health.
1. Fights Inflammation
In studies, aloe vera produced anti-inflammatory effects better than conventional medicine. In one study involving 40 volunteers, aloe vera gel was better at fighting inflammation and redness than hydrocortisone cream (6).
In another study, aloe vera extracts reduced edema in rat paws. This was attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera. Results showed that aloe vera might also inhibit inflammation (7).
The anti-inflammatory properties of the plant may also help in the treatment of osteoarthritis (8). Aloe also prevents the gastrointestinal irritant effects of NSAIDS. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for pain relief in cases like arthritis.
Aloe vera can treat chronic non-cancer pain, especially the one caused by osteoarthritis (9). Applying the gel of the plant on swollen and inflamed joints can provide great relief. This gel can improve joint mobility and reduce pain.
2. Promotes Digestive Health
Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most painful digestive issues. Studies show that aloe vera can ease its symptoms. In one report, the use of aloe vera was linked to reduced pain and discomfort in individuals who had irritable bowel syndrome (10).
The report also stated that aloe vera could ease the pain associated with constipation (10). Though it was unable to improve the frequency and urgency of stool in these individuals, it did show significant improvement in the condition.
The latex of the aloe vera plant is commonly used as a laxative. The latex contains anthraquinone glycosides, which are responsible for this effect. Subjects with chronic constipation showed visible improvement when treated with a novel preparation containing aloe vera (4).
Some factors that saw improvement include stool consistency and bowel movement frequency.
But since the safety of its latex is yet to be established, we suggest you use aloe latex only after consulting with your doctor (4). The latex is extracted from right under the plant’s skin and is yellow.
Aloe vera can also treat the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) with almost no side effects. Its effects were found to be better than omeprazole and ranitidine, two drugs often prescribed for GERD (11).
The plant also protects your gastrointestinal lining from the ill effects of excess stomach acid. It exhibits what researchers call ‘gastric acid anti-secretory activity’. Thanks to this activity, aloe vera protects the gastric mucosa from other injurious agents in low concentrations (12).
Oral aloe vera can also relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis. In a study, oral aloe vera taken for four weeks produced better results than placebo (13). The plant can also promote healing of gastric ulcers and hemorrhoids (14), (15).
3. May Strengthen Immunity
Aloe vera improves the functioning of cell macrophages, which are important components of the immune system (16).
Research is scant, but according to one report, a preparation containing aloe vera powder boosted immunity in individuals with Alzheimer’s (17).
The preparation, a dietary supplement made with aloe vera powder, enhanced immunity and cognition in 34 adults diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Treats Diabetes
Use of oral aloe vera may help reduce fasting blood glucose levels (18). In individuals, intake of aloe vera had reduced fasting blood glucose levels by 46.6 mg/dL.
Aloe vera also had had an effect on glycated hemoglobin levels (18). Glycated hemoglobin is a measure of blood glucose in the last 2 to 3 months.
Similar effects were observed in individuals with prediabetes. Use of aloe vera not only reverted impaired blood glucose levels in 4 weeks but also alleviated their abnormal lipid profiles (19).
Aloe vera was also effective in increasing insulin sensitivity in these individuals (19). The plant contains glucomannan, hydrophilic fiber, and phytosterol that are responsible for these effects.
Interestingly, pulps of aloe vera leaves without the gel were found to be effective (20). Those with the gel had shown hyperglycemic (elevated blood glucose levels) effects in rat studies.
Using aloe vera for diabetes treatment is quite simple. You can take a teaspoonful of aloe juice twice a day. This regularizes insulin flow and lowers blood sugar levels.
You may also apply aloe vera gel to diabetic boils and inflammation.
5. Can Aid Weight Loss
In obese rats, administration of dried aloe vera gel powder could reduce body fat mass. The powder could achieve this by stimulating energy expenditure in the rats. The study concludes by stating aloe vera to be a potential ingredient for the prevention and improvement of diet-induced obesity (21).
Dietary aloe had also reduced obesity-induced inflammatory responses in the human body (22).
Further studies also confirm the anti-obesity effects of aloe vera. Rats with diet-induced obesity were studied for 90 days after being administered with aloe vera gel powder. They showed a modest decrease in body fat. More importantly, the gel powder had significantly reduced subcutaneous and visceral fat weight (23).
This study also concludes by stating that aloe vera could stimulate energy expenditure.
Interestingly, the studies highlight not only on the good effects of aloe vera on obesity but also on the associated metabolic disorders. The plant also has beneficial effects on serum levels of glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides (23).
6. May Treat Interstitial Cystitis
Interstitial cystitis is also called painful bladder syndrome. It is a chronic bladder health issue characterized by pain and pressure in the bladder area.
Aloe vera is identified as a nutraceutical that works wonders in individuals with interstitial cystitis. It is a naturally occurring mucopolysaccharide that is often used to treat symptoms of interstitial cystitis (24).
Use of aloe vera might be helpful in treating some cases of the disease. But we recommend you speak to your doctor as more research is warranted in this regard (25).
Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that aloe vera might irritate the bladder. This could especially be true in case of the juice as it is preserved using citric acid. Hence, please check with your doctor before you consume aloe vera juice.
7. Promotes Oral Health
Studies on periodontitis show that aloe vera can help in its treatment. Periodontitis is an oral infectious inflammatory disease. Ingestion of aloe vera relieved the related symptoms (26).
Aloe vera reduces bleeding and swelling of the gums. It works as a powerful antiseptic in areas of the mouth that are hard to reach through normal cleaning. The plant extracts also work to treat the cracked or split corners of the mouth (26).
Aloe gel also facilitates powerful healing and can be used after tooth extraction (27).
Aloe vera showed equal effectiveness as Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic commonly used in mouthwashes (28).
A particular aloe vera tooth gel was found to be effective in controlling bacteria that cause cavities. This effect was far superior to commercially available toothpaste (29).
Aloe vera gel could be the best alternative for people with sensitive teeth or gums. The gel has no harsh abrasives that are present in most commercially available toothpastes (30). The gel also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
If you use oral dentures and experience sores in specific areas, aloe vera can be of help. The plant gel can treat the sores, thanks to its antiviral effects (31).
The gel also inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, which is the most common bacterial species in the oral cavity (31). Mouthwashes containing aloe vera were also found to reduce dental plaque effectively (32). Further studies support the effective use of aloe vera in treating plaque-induced gingivitis (33).
8. Might Prevent Some Forms Of Cancer
Studies show that aloe vera can inhibit the proliferation of human breast and cervical cancer cells. It also works synergistically with cisplatin, a drug used in cancer chemotherapy (34).
However, research on aloe vera and cancer is controversial. Some studies show that aloe vera might aggravate cancer in certain cases. We shall look into those details in a later section of this post.
9. Helps Treat Acne
A formulation containing aloe vera was found to be more effective in treating acne than a regular OTC cream. When 60 patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris were treated with the aloe vera formulation and the OTC cream, those using the former experienced a greater reduction in acne severity and scars (35).
Aloe vera has skin soothing properties and is hence added to most skin moisturizers specifically meant for acne treatment (36).
Studies also show that products formulated with high concentrations of aloe gel are more effective in treating inflammatory conditions. Adding aloe vera gel to Ocimum oil enhanced its acne-fighting ability (37). Increased aloe contents had further improved acne lesions.
Here’s how you can use aloe vera to treat acne. Apply the gel directly to the acne at night and wash your face in the morning.
Mixing aloe vera with some lime juice also helps. Do this in 8:1 ratio (8 parts of aloe vera to 1 part of lime juice). Spread this mask on your face. Avoid applying it to the eye area and other sensitive parts of your face. Leave it on for 10 minutes and then wash your face thoroughly.
10. Can Fight Signs Of Premature Aging
Intake of aloe gel improved facial wrinkles in subjects (38). After three months of aloe supplementation, the facial wrinkles and skin surface roughness decreased in the subjects.
Aloe could also increase elasticity in photoaged skin. It achieved this by increasing collagen production. Studies conclude by stating that oral aloe gel supplementation could be a novel method to combat the early signs of aging (38).
Aloe vera contains acemannan, a biologically active compound that promotes collagen synthesis (39). This way, aloe vera may have a role to play in delaying the signs of aging.
11. Moisturizes Skin
Aloe vera is one of the best natural ingredients to boost skin moisture. Cosmetic preparations containing higher amounts of aloe vera could offer better skin hydration over longer periods (40).
The gel can also be used to complement treatments for dry skin (40).
Aloe vera also can be used to treat pigmentation and reduce the appearance of stretch marks (41).
The moisturizing properties of aloe vera may also help treat skin inflammation and minor irritations and burns (42). Another reason we recommend aloe vera for skin is its safety. In its case, very rare cases of contact allergy have been reported (42).
Topical application of aloe vera might be effective for treating herpes and psoriasis (43). We need more research on this, though. The plant can also relieve itching and inflammation associated with poison ivy (44).
12. Promotes Wound Healing
Wound healing could be one of aloe vera’s biggest benefits. It accelerates the healing process by promoting the proliferation of fibroblasts (cells that produce collagen) (45).
Similar results were observed in other rat studies. The topical application of aloe vera improved the healing of cutaneous wounds (46).
Aloe vera heals scabies too. Scabies is a contagious skin disease marked by severe itching and raised red spots. A study had found aloe vera to be as effective as benzyl benzoate in treating scabies (47).
The plant has also been used historically as an effective treatment for cold sores (48). We need further research, though, on how it can be used to treat the condition in modern times.
Aloe vera also heals radiation-induced dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is an after effect of the radiation therapy that individuals receive (49). These healing effects of aloe vera were more evident in individuals undergoing high-degree radiation therapies.
13. May Improve Hair Health
How aloe vera promotes hair growth is still being researched upon. But it does improve scalp health. Treatment with aloe vera was found to reduce the itchiness, scaliness, and size of the scalp area affected by seborrheic dermatitis (50).
The nutrients in aloe vera may promote hair and scalp health. The effects can outweigh most of the commercially sold shampoos that often don’t give results.
Aloe vera also improves blood circulation (51). This may promote the health of hair roots, thereby strengthening your tresses.
These benefits show us why aloe vera is indispensable in our daily routine. The plant manages to rejuvenate the different facets of your health – both inside and outside.
We have briefly discussed the nutrients present in aloe vera. Now, let’s get to the details.
What Is The Nutritional Profile* Of Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera contains over 75 active nutrients. These include the following:
- Vitamins, including A, B12, C, E, folic acid, and choline.
- Minerals, including calcium, copper, chromium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, potassium, zinc, sodium.
- Enzymes, including aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, and peroxidase.
- Sugars, including monosaccharides and polysaccharides.
It also contains anthraquinones, fatty acids, hormones, and amino acids (20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids).
*values sourced from a report by the Indian Journal of Dermatology, aloe vera: a short review
The nutrition profile should be reason enough for us to start including aloe vera in our diets. But how?
How To Include Aloe Vera In Your Diet
Aloe vera is a fun and easy addition to a host of food preparations. Here are a few pointers that can help:
- You can eat aloe leaves as a snack between meals.
- You can also drink the aloe gel.
- Add the gel to your evening smoothie.
- Add aloe vera gel cubes to other ingredients like tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, sea salt, and garlic in a blender. Blend well, and your salsa is ready, which you can serve with tacos or chips
- Adding aloe vera leaves to a salad works wonders too (you can also add the gel).
You may also relish aloe juice. You need an aloe vera leaf and a cup of any desired fruit juice. Slit one edge of the leaf and scoop out the gel (you may store this gel in a jar and refrigerate it for future use). Add two tablespoons of this gel to the fruit juice and blend and serve.
You can have aloe vera juice daily. You can pick the aloe leaves from your nearest supermarket or online at Amazon.
You will also get the following aloe products at your nearest health store or online:
- Gel – Buy it here!
- Juice – Buy it here!
- Supplements – Buy it here!
- Powder – Buy it here!
- Oil – Buy it here!
If you thought you could only use aloe vera as part of your diet, you are wrong. The magical plant has other interesting applications too.
What Are The Other Uses Of Aloe Vera?
Apart from what we discussed, there are other ways you can make use of the goodness of aloe vera.
- You Can Use Aloe Vera To Keep Your Produce Fresh
Applying a very thin layer of aloe gel to your produce might do the trick. A Cambridge study looked at tomato plants coated with aloe gel. This coating was found to block the growth of harmful bacteria on the vegetables (52).
Similar effects were observed in the case of oranges as well (53).
- You Can Use It As A Mouthwash
We have discussed this already. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the gel can help in maintaining your oral health. Aloe vera could be a better alternative to most chemical-based mouthwashes.
Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that you can use aloe vera to treat tattoo wounds. However, there is no study to support this.
Aloe vera is used in skin creams, shaving creams, soaps, gels, toothpaste, shampoos, and several other products. This only means it is always safe for use, right?
Any Concerns With Aloe Vera?
- May Increase Cancer Risk
Some studies show that consumption of decolorized aloe vera leaf extract may increase the risk of cancer (54). Though these studies were conducted on rats, the findings are worrisome. Hence, please consult your doctor before using any form of aloe vera to supplement cancer treatment.
- Can Be Harmful During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
Ingestion of aloe vera during pregnancy can have toxic effects on the embryo and fetus (4). Not much is known about its effects during breastfeeding. Stay safe and avoid use.
- May Cause Allergies
Intake of aloe vera may cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and rashes in some individuals. If you notice any of these symptoms, please avoid use (55).
- May Cause Hypokalemia
Ingestion of aloe vera may cause potassium levels to go too low. This can lead to seizures and electrolyte abnormalities (55). These effects can be more pronounced during chemotherapy. The mechanism behind this is not yet well understood.
- May Cause Liver Inflammation
There have been cases of aloe use causing liver inflammation (55). If you have liver issues, please avoid aloe preparations and consult with your doctor.
- Possible Drug Interactions
Aloe vera may interact with thiazide diuretics and corticosteroids (4). Avoid intake of aloe if you are taking these drugs. Consult with your doctor for more information.
Talking about dosage, you can use aloe vera liberally for treating skin and hair conditions.
For constipation, some evidence suggests taking ¼ grams of dried aloe vera juice. You can use 5 ml to 15 ml of the juice a day to aid diabetes treatment. But this evidence is only anecdotal. Please talk to your doctor for the proper values.
There are hundreds of studies on aloe vera. We have covered a few of them in this article. But aren’t they enough to tell you how aloe vera can be a magnificent addition to your everyday routine?
Just be careful about the contraindications. Read and reread them. Apart from them, you can use aloe vera with no apprehensions – and reap its fullest benefits.
Do you already use aloe vera? How did you find it? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How much sugar does aloe vera juice contain?
A 4-ounce serving of aloe vera juice contains almost no sugar. Unlike most other juices, aloe juice could be a healthier option if you are looking to consume less sugar.
How to store aloe vera?
You can refrigerate the leaves by wrapping them neatly in a plastic wrap. You can also store the gel in an airtight container and refrigerate it.Yes,
you can freeze aloe vera.
Can you take aloe vera on an empty stomach?
Yes, ideally, it must be taken on an empty stomach. Mixing 20 ml of the juice with a glass of water is a good way to go about it.
How long does aloe vera take to work?
There is very less information on this. But as per some reviews, you may notice changes within 2 to 3 weeks.
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- How To Make Aloe Vera Juice At Home?
- 26 Wonderful Benefits Of Aloe Vera Juice (Ghritkumari Saar)
- How Does Aloe Vera Help In Treating Acne/Pimples?
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