Whenever I find a plant or other natural remedy that seems to possess a lot of great beneficial qualities, I want to shout, "Hey, this rocks!" That is true of aloe vera, a simple, common household plant that has been shown scientifically (and anecdotally) to offer a slew of health advantages for the entire family…including your pets!
Although you can pluck an aloe vera leaf from the plant you may have in your kitchen or on your back porch, you also can reap the benefits from aloe vera gel, juice, and/or supplements in capsule form. What are those benefits? Here are 17 reasons why aloe vera rocks.
1. Packs potent antioxidants. Aloe vera gel contains polyphenols, potent antioxidants, that team up with other substances to fight cell-damaging bacteria and other pathogens in the body.
2. Supports oral health. If you want healthy gums and teeth (and who doesn't!), then aloe vera can help. In a study of about 300 volunteers, some used a mouthwash that contained chlorhexidine while others used one with aloe vera. Both groups experienced similar benefits. Because aloe vera doesn't contain the chemicals found in conventional mouthwash, it seems to be the natural choice!
3. Soothes burns. Aloe vera has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 1959 as an over-the-counter treatment for skin burns. However, many people still think of the plant as helpful in treating sunburns but not first- and second-degree burns. There's evidence that aloe vera can reduce healing time by up to nine days among people with first and second-degree burns.
4. Heals mouth ulcers. Also known as canker sores, these unsightly, painful eruptions have been shown to respond well to aloe vera. One study, for example, found that 2% aloe vera gel significantly reduced the pain, size, and healing time of mouth ulcers.
5. Benefits people with diabetes. A limited amount of research suggests aloe vera may help reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In addition, a meta-analysis showed that aloe vera was superior to placebo in raising high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) levels as well as may be better than placebo in reducing levels of fasting blood glucose, HBA1c, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in people with diabetes and pre-diabetics.
6. Reduces skin aging. When we think about aging skin, the first words that come to mind are lines, wrinkles, and sagging. Aloe vera gel may help reduce these signs of aging. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, for example, women who used aloe vera showed significantly better reduction in wrinkles than those who did not use the remedy.
7. Speeds up wound healing. A recent study from the University of Miami shows that aloe vera speeds up the rate of wound healing. More specifically, it promotes "the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts and keratinocytes" which is a scientific way of explaining how the plant is pretty good at accelerating the rate at which wounds heal.
8. Helps dry skin. Many people experience dry skin at some time during their lives, and some people more than others. You can tackle that issue by combining aloe vera gel, a pinch of powdered turmeric, a teaspoon each of milk and honey, and a five drops of rose water. Make into a paste and apply it to the affected area. Leave it on for about 20 minutes and then rinse off with cool water. Repeat two to three times a week.
9. Prevents hair loss. Both women and men are concerned about hair loss and how to reduce or eliminate this problem. Aloe vera contains enzymes and other substances that can repair dead skin cells that are on your scalp, which in turn can help promote hair growth, improve elasticity, and condition your hair.
10. May help psoriasis. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of aloe vera for treatment of psoriasis. However, the results of a systematic review found the treatment was well tolerated and no serious side effects have been reported. Given the success using aloe vera for other skin conditions, its application for psoriasis warrants further investigation.
11. Eases insect bites. When you are bitten by an insect, chemical substances called histamines rush to the skin's surface and cause itching, redness, pain, and/or swelling. Use of aloe vera gel can provide relief. If you experience breathing difficulties, a rapid heart rate, abnormal swelling, or disorientation when taking aloe vera, seek immediate medical help.
12. Reduces gastrointestinal symptoms. Several studies have shown that aloe vera can help with gastrointestinal symptoms. One such report revealed that aloe vera syrup was effective in reducing symptoms of heartburn, flatulence, belching, nausea, vomiting, and acid regurgitation after just two weeks of treatment.
13. Relieves athlete's foot. This fungal infection is typically accompanied by dry, cracked skin. An easy recipe you can prepare quickly that will help treat athlete's foot consists of ¼ cup pure aloe vera juice plus 10 drops each of lavender and myrrh essential oils. Mix well and apply to the affected area two to three times daily. Cover the treated foot with an old sock. This is a good treatment to apply just before retiring.
14. Fights acne outbreaks. The antibacterial and astringent properties of aloe vera can prove helpful in fighting outbreaks of acne. That is, they can prevent bacteria from infiltrating and infecting your pores as well as behave by eliminating oil and dirt from the skin. Apply aloe vera gel daily for best results.
15. Battles gastric cancer. Aloe vera has demonstrated potent anti-cancer properties, including traits against gastric cancer, gastric ulcers, and problems with indigestion. In fact, several studies have reported the potential for aloe vera to be a "novel therapy for treatment of human gastric cancer" including one appearing in Oncology Letters in 2015.
16. May improve cardiovascular health. We have already touched on these benefits when we talked about diabetes. However, it is important to mention that aloe vera may help with cardiovascular health, especially since heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Research indicates that aloe vera taken orally may reduce cholesterol levels, which is an essential consideration when looking at cardiovascular health.
[Editor's Note: Our partner, Lily of the Desert, offers a variety of aloe products that can be used topically and orally. You can find out more about their products on their website.]
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