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Aloe Vera - Natural remedy of the month

   September 2009 


Aloe VeraWhen I was young, I don’t think anyone would have recognized the name aloe vera. Now, because of its claimed beneficial properties (and also because of various jokes involving Hello Vera!), it is probably one of the most well known plants in the UK.

Aloe Vera is a succulent plant that probably originated in arid areas of northern Africa. It is as its name suggests part of the wide aloe plant family and aloes have been used for medicinal and health properties for over 2000 years. Many ancient works, including the Bible, refer to the use of aloe. One of the first documented users of aloe vera was Cleopatra who is said to have used the gel on her skin as protection from the sun.

The plant looks a bit like a cactus; with long, spiky leaves which are rounded and thick skinned and contain a clear gel-like substance. It is this substance along with its juice that is taken from the plant to be used in a wide range of products.

Unlike many plants that are hailed for their medicinal benefits, Aloe Vera doesn’t have just one single ingredient to make it potent and healthful. Instead it contains around 15 different compound groups of nutrients, and it this wide spectrum of benefits and the way they work together that are said to give Aloe Vera its outstanding properties.

Reports and indeed controversy over the benefits of Aloe Vera are wide and varied, but all positive documentation confirm this wide range of beneficial ingredients. Along with protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, B12 and E, and essential fatty acids Aloe Vera is said to be naturally rich in:

Vitamin C - which helps maintain tone of blood vessels and promotes good circulation

Amino acids - which are chains of atoms constructing protein in our body.

Enzymes - which help rejuvenate aged tissues and promote healthy skin.

Germanium - which is a mineral that some health authorities claim therapeutic benefits for in the areas of immunodeficiency, pain, cardiac disorders, circulatory disturbances and eye problems.

Aloe vera is hailed as one of the only known natural vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12, and its many minerals are vital to the growth process and healthy function of all the body's systems.

Numerous studies worldwide indicate that aloe vera is a general tonic for the immune system, helping it to fight illness of all kinds. Various research studies are underway to explore the potential of aloe vera components to boost immunity and combat the HIV virus, and to treat certain types of cancer (particularly leukaemia). It may even have a role to play in managing diabetes. The juice is said to soothe digestive tract irritations such as colitis, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and it is commonly used for general anti-bacterial and anti-viral purposes.

However, there is still a lot of research to be done on this, and at the moment aloe vera is used mainly in skin products including cosmetics, skin lotions and moisturizers, burn gels and some sun screen creams. Aloe Vera gel is said to be very useful in a long list of different ailments including athlete’s foot, any forms of burns, muscular pains, herpes, eczema, pimples, bruises, wounds and cuts, hair loss, varicose veins, insect bites, psoriasis and acne.

At this stage of research, all one can really do is try it and see for oneself if it makes a difference. I am now growing aloe vera in a pot on my kitchen window sill and am waiting for a cut or a burn so that I can cut open one of the spiky leaves and apply the gel. It will be interesting to see the results.

However, one word of warning – aloe vera is not just an innocent plant; it does have some strong properties and especially if you are buying aloe vera juice products for internal use, it can be best to check with your doctor before taking it as there are some contra-indications in certain cases.

But for many, aloe vera is hailed as one of nature’s most generous gifts that can help in the widest range of problems.

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