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In a Nutshell – Aloe Vera – Aloe barbadensis
by Jill Rosemary Davies

The Aloe has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years and is known as the ‘miracle plant’, the ‘medicine plant’, and ‘the wand of heaven’. It is thought that the leaves of a plant on the painted sarcophagus of Tutankhamun are probably Aloe. Aloe Vera or 'True Aloe' was named to differentiate it from other members of the botanical family and to identify it as the ‘healing Aloe’. A natural detoxifier, it also boosts the immune system, partly by increasing beneficial intestinal flora. It soothes and repairs damaged and inflamed tissue internally and externally. It is often seen as a ‘cure-all’ because its uses are so wide-ranging.

Contents

Introduction

Exploring Aloe Vera

A history of healing

Anatomy of Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera in action

Energy and Emotion

Flower essence

Growing, harvesting and processing

Preparations for internal use

Tonic drink

Detoxifying drink

Immune system fortifier

Daily power drink

Preparations for external use

Poultice

Lotion

SPRAY

Moisturising cream

Douche

GARGLE

Nasal spray

Natural medicine for everyone

Herbal combinations

How Aloe Vera works

Glossary

Introduction

Aloe Vera’s history stretches back about 5,000 years. It is one of the most ancient medicinal plants and the first written record of its use appears on a Sumerian clay tablet dated 1750 BC. Through the centuries and throughout the regions of the world in which it has been naturalised, Aloe Vera has been esteemed as a highly prized natural healer.

Native to Africa, Aloe Vera is a perennial succulent plant with a thick, fibrous root. It produces a rosette of fleshy leaves that grow upwards from its base, tapering to a point. Each thick leaf is edged with tiny spikes along its curving margins. Colours may vary from dull, bluish-grey to deep, bright green. A full-grown leaf can weigh 0.5–1.5 kg (1–3 lb). It is from the leaf that the soothing juice and translucent gel are extracted.

Aloe Vera is a xerophytic (drought-resistant) evergreen, which grows mainly in tropical and subtropical, desert-like savannas. Botanists classify it as xeroid, which means that if the leaves are cut, they can close off their cells to retain fluid. This makes them invaluable in the treatment of burns and wounds. It also means that the plant suffers no damage when a leaf is removed: it merely reseals itself.

Impressive sight

Often confused with the Agave, which it resembles, Aloe Vera plants can reach the remarkable height of 20 m (60 ft), although generally they grow to about 1.5 m (4.5 ft). Each plant grows about 15 leaves and blooms intermittently, producing stately erect spikes of drooping yellow, orange or red tubular flowers on a woody stem.

Definition

Botanical family: Aloeaceae. Aloe Vera was classed in Liliaceae and two other families temporarily but it has now been given its own family.

Species: Aloe Vera’s Latin name is Aloe barbadensis. The names Aloe Vera and Aloe barbadensis are synonymous, in other words they are one and the same plant. Some herbal practitioners take the name Aloe barbadensis to mean bitter aloes that come from the inner surface of the leaf skin and are used as a strong laxative. The name Aloe Vera generally refers to the plant as it is used for soothing, healing, immune support and its various other uses and benefits. Vera is Latin for ‘true’, and the plant was given this name to differentiate it from other members of the Aloe family and to identify it as the ‘healing Aloe’, although history and recent research shows that many Aloes share its healing qualities.

Other Aloes

Aloe perry, Aloe ferox, and Aloe striatula are some of the Aloe species that can be used in a similar way to Aloe Vera. Aloe latifolia, Aloe saponaria, and Aloe tenuior, all found in South Africa, are used primarily in the treatment of open wounds, worms, and parasitic skin infestations. Aloe arborescens has been cultivated for scientific use by the Russians.

Exploring Aloe Vera

There are about 300 species in the genus Aloe, which grow in hot arid climates around the world. The stiff, rugged, cactus-like appearance of Aloe Vera is as much a familiar sight in ornamental gardens and greenhouses as in areas where the plant has become naturalised.

Where to find Aloe Vera

Although native to the dry, sunny areas of south and east Africa, Aloe Vera has also become naturalised in North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the West Indies, Central and South America, Australia, the Far East and parts of the United States and Russia.

The Aloe Vera plant has also adapted well to greenhouse cultivation.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Aloe Vera enjoyed tremendous vogue among the wealthy collectors of exotic plants and many important discoveries about its properties were made during this period.

One of the most passionate collectors was the Prince Salm-Dyck (1773–1861), an amateur botanist from Germany, to whom much is owed for his meticulous observations of the Aloe Vera plant.

At one time Chatsworth House, in Derbyshire, housed one of the finest collections of Aloes. Today, the most impressive display is to be found at La Mortola, in Ventimiglia, Italy.

Commercial growers

Mexico grows 47 per cent of the world production of Aloe Vera, but it is commercially grown large scale in many countries due to high demand. Aloe barbadensis gets its name from Barbados.

The largest area of Aloe Vera cultivation is the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas. Here the excellent soil conditions – a mixture of clay, silt and sand – and the warm, humid weather allow the plants to grow steadily throughout the year, which results in a high yield of nutrients. Commercial plantations can also be found in the Caribbean and India.

Soil requirements

Being indigenous to the African Savanna, Aloe Vera thrives best in a well-drained gritty soil, with watering kept to a minimum. It needs plenty of heat and will not survive in temperatures that fall below 5°C (40°F).

Most plants grown domestically in Northern Europe and parts of North America are best suited to container planting, which enables easy transportation from house to garden.

A History of Healing

The first serious writings on the therapeutic benefits of Aloe Vera and similar species are to be found in the Ebers Papyrus written around 1500 BC, in which the Egyptians referred to the plant as 'khet-awa', meaning 'the Plant of Immortality'. For centuries, Aloe Vera was used to heal wounds and burns. Its popularity waned briefly in the 19th century but it is now enjoying a renaissance.

From the earliest times the reputation of Aloe Vera ensured its inclusion in any professional or domestic medicine chest. The ancient Egyptians recommended it for many ailments, particularly catarrh. The Arabs called it 'desert lily' and were probably the first to process the plant. Arab traders may have been responsible for the spread of Aloe Vera into what was then Persia, India and the Far East.

It is said that in 325 BC Alexander the Great was persuaded by his tutor, Aristotle, to seize the island of Socotra, in the Gulf of Aden, to obtain the Aloe Vera that grew there. Aristotle knew of the plant's remarkable healing properties and that, because it could survive unplanted for several years, it could be carried as emergency treatment for wounds suffered by Alexander's army.

In the first century AD, the Greek physician Dioscorides wrote in his Materia Medica that Aloe extract could be used to treat wounds, stomach complaints, constipation, haemorrhoids, headaches, 'all griefs in the mouth’, hair loss, insect bites, kidney ailments and skin irritations.

Worldwide use

In its native Africa, the plant was traditionally taken to remedy stomach aches and guard against infection from insect bites. Hunters would rub Aloe Vera gel on their skin to mask their scent so that they might approach their prey undetected.

Historically the Chinese used Aloes, but only in its resinous form – Lu Hui, meaning 'black deposit'. The resin, which looked like small, dark chunks of amber, was not as potent as the growing plant but was respected for its power to heal skin. During the Sung dynasty (AD 960–1276), the resin was recommended for treating eczema.

In India during the fourth century BC people believed that Aloes grew in the Garden of Eden. They called it 'musabhar' ('the silent healer') and used it to treat skin eruptions and inflammation.

Egyptian remedy

The ancient Egyptians used Aloe to relieve many ailments. The Coptic people, for example, treated a skin disease called psora with a mixture of Aloe, baked cucumber and wine. It was recorded that: 'to expel catarrh in the nose take stibium, Aloe, dry myrrh and honey. Use to annoint the nose for four days…Behold it is a true remedy.'

When the plant was introduced into the semitropical regions of the Americas, it thrived and was widely used by the peoples of those countries. In Mexico the juice was used to treat skin complaints and wounds and the pulverised inner gel of the leaves was given as a purgative; in Central and South America, Aloe Vera and similar species were also taken as a mild laxative. People also valued the juice as an effective insect repellent for both humans and animals.

Paradoxically, Aloe Vera was sold on street markets in Latin America both to promote sleep and as an aphrodisiac.

Gaining popularity

In the early Christian era, Aloe featured in all advanced medical texts. Mass translations that became available in the 17th century encouraged the Jesuit priests of Spain to carry the plant, along with the Bible, to the New World.

As Aloe Vera’s popularity increased during the 18th century so did the competition to procure it; trade wars sprang up between rival countries – the Spanish, British and Dutch in particular – to establish Aloe plantations in the New World.

By the 17th century, settlers in North America were using Aloe Vera to heal wounds and burns, a practice shared with many indigenous tribes. The Seminole people believed Aloe had powers of rejuvenation and that a 'Fountain of Youth' sprang from a pool within a cluster of Aloes.

19th century decline

Aloe’s popularity as a medicinal plant eventually waned, either because more easily obtainable remedies became available or because claims being made for the plant could not be substantiated. It is also quite likely that the gel was being adulterated and was therefore less effective. By the late 19th century, synthetic laboratory drugs had taken precedence over botanical compounds and Aloe Vera fell completely from favour.

Early research

Due to the urgent need during the 1930s to find a cure for radiation burns caused by experiments into X-ray techniques, the United States government started a program of research into the burn-healing properties of Aloe Vera. Successful experiments were carried out by Dr E. E. Collins and his son Dr Creston Collins, but because it was difficult to stabilise the juice and gel of Aloe Vera, their findings were considered inconclusive. Most research stopped until the 1960s, when improved techniques made stabilisation possible and public interest in Aloe Vera’s therapeutic properties was once more aroused.

The Aloe is reputed to be one of the very few plants that are resilient enough to grow in areas where nuclear testing has taken place.

From the early 1950s, Russian scientists have carried out extensive research, but using the juice of Aloe arborescens rather than that of Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis). They have investigated Aloe's use as a remedy for an impressive list of ailments, including eye disorders and bone tuberculosis as well as ear, nose and throat conditions and bronchial asthma.

Anatomy of Aloe Vera

The word 'Aloe' comes from the Arabic word 'alloeh', which means 'a bitter, shiny substance'. This is an apt description for the dagger-shaped leaf, which has a bitter taste and spiky edges. These attributes are a deterrent to browsing animals and insects and may, in part, account for the plant's successful colonisation.

Leaves

The inner surface of the leaf skin has a ridged lining that contains latex, or yellow sap, originating from the bundle sheath cells found here. In most preparations used for soothing and healing (those that we will mainly refer to in this book), the whole leaf is not used; it is processed to leave behind the hard outer casing of the leaf – and hence the latex. If this part is left on then the preparation can have laxative (purgative) properties, although modern processing techniques can gently filter the whole leaf gel to remove most of the irritating principles (anthraquinones) that cause this effect. 

In the centre of the Aloe Vera leaf is a clear, semi-liquid pulp, which botanists call parenchyma (tissue composed of soft, thin-walled cells). The pulp, which contains the gel, is removed in a 'filleting' process. In 'inner leaf' preparations, it is extracted with care to avoid contaminating it with the bitter sap found in the outer sections as described. 

Aloe Vera juice is prepared commercially from the gel. The juice is usually taken internally and the gel is applied to the skin.

To be effective, the gel should not be diluted, and commercially prepared juice should contain at least 98 per cent Aloe Vera juice.

Chemical constituents

It is the synergy (joint action) of the chemical constituents in Aloe Vera that makes it so effective in healing. It contains an amazing complexity of active compounds – approximately 200.

Aloe contains twelve anthraquinones (found mainly in the latex), of which aloin and emodin are the most important. It also has a phenolic compound that has stimulating effects on the bowels as well as antibiotic properties. The anthraquinones all have strong laxative effects. Aloe is also rich in many vitamins and minerals: vitamins A, C, E as well as the B vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and, unusually for a plant, B12. It has high levels of three plant sterols (including beta-sitosterol), which can lower cholesterol. It also contains many amino acids, including all eight 'essential' amino acids vital to humans. Aloe also contains many polysaccharides that stimulate immune responses, including macrophage activity. It is 98.5 per cent water. Most importantly, the chemical constituents of Aloe can vary enormously depending not just on the species but on the country it is grown in, climate, growth conditions, environmental stresses, storage time and conditions. Testing of constituents will be important for reliable results and to determine (or test its suitability for) intended use.

Constituents in the gel and juice

The anthraquinones found in the bitter sap, and in small amounts in the gel of the inner leaf, contribute to its powerful anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. The gel and juice also contain a class of long-chain sugars known as mucopolysaccharides (MPS), normally found in all body cells. Production of MPS in humans stops after the age of ten, so we then have to rely on outside sources; few plants are a richer source than Aloe Vera. It is thought that these sugars help boost the immune system, lubricate joints and line the colon. Aloe Vera is especially rich in the MPS acemannan. Research has proved that acemannan stimulates the body's macrophages to produce interferon, which stops viruses multiplying, and interleukins, chemicals which perpetuate and regulate immune responses. Another important constituent of Aloe Vera is lignin, which is found in the cell walls alongside cellulose. When using Aloe gel on the skin, the lignin allows penetration several layers deep into the skin. It is especially good at penetrating toughened, hardened, scar tissue and burnt skin, and therefore can help eczema, psoriasis and ageing skin, where loss of collagen and hydration is an issue.

Shelf life of leaves

Commercially, leaves are harvested fresh and immediately processed to keep their chemical constituents intact. For home use, the fresh leaves last for 2–3 months in the refrigerator or up to 1 year in the freezer, either as they are or with the ends wrapped in plastic wrap.

Aloe Vera in Action

Known mainly as a remedy for skin conditions and constipation, Aloe Vera is also a natural detoxifier. It is important to realise that the different parts of the Aloe leaves can be used for different purposes due to the variation of chemical constituents found in these different areas. For the purposes of this book the main focus will be on the inner gel which has been stripped or filleted away from its outer hard spiky coating and the bitter yellow exudate lining this coating. Traditionally only the inner gel has been used in external-use skin products or pulped down to make Aloe Vera drinking juice, although nowadays processing techniques exist that can produce gentle, non-laxative 'whole leaf' products. If you are buying whole leaf Aloe Vera juice for any purpose other than for bowel cleansing or constipation, check with the manufacturer that most of the bitter principles (anthraquinones) from the outside of the leaf have been removed; or simply stick with inner leaf products.

The bitter yellow latex exudate is used for bowel remedies, including for stubborn constipation (as in Dr Christopher's and Dr Schulze's bowel formulas) because this is where the anthraquinones, aloin and emodin are, and it is these constituents that act as a purgative (laxative).

How Aloe Vera can help

Aloe Vera taken internally boosts the immune system and soothes and repairs damage to internal organs.

It boosts vitality and energy at those times when most needed. Athletes and students will find that, because Aloe Vera both detoxifies and energises, drinking the juice an hour before competitions or exams can give that extra surge of energy and concentration. However, it should be noted that too much juice drunk late in the evening will result in a sleepless night.

It helps alleviate rheumatism and arthritis. Two tablespoons of juice in half a glass of water two to four times a day provides essential nutrients and noticeably improves arthritic and rheumatic conditions after two months or so. Massaging arthritic limbs with Aloe Vera gel or cream improves circulation and reduces swelling.

Other effects:

  • It alkalises the body.
  • It relieves eye, mouth and vaginal infections.
  • It treats constipation. The anthraquinones in the sap are a potent laxative and are also found in small quantities in the inner gel. Aloe Vera juice (inner or whole leaf) also provides bulk and soothes, assisting bowel movements in this way. 
  • It helps alleviate a wide range of allergies, partly by reducing inflammatory reactions, thus controlling sneezing, wheezing and indigestion.
  • It helps wounds to heal (and is currently being researched for possible use in cosmetic surgery).
  • It soothes stings and insect bites.
  • Soothes and heals burns, scalds, sunburn, cuts and chapped skin. Keeping a plant in the kitchen is recommended for emergency first aid.
  • It relieves skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
  • It decreases unfriendly bacteria, thus encouraging the proliferation of friendly bacteria.
  • Its inner gel is healing for gut disorders, soothing and mending tissue – e.g. for irritable bowel (IBS), leaky gut, excess acid, colitis, Crohn’s disease and so on.

How Aloe Vera affects the body

Taken as a commercially prepared drink, Aloe Vera will cleanse and detoxify and improve joint lubrication. This in turn will create more energy and improve mobility. For injuries and swellings, sprains and sunburn, the high water content of the gel (98.5 per cent) carries nutrients to the site of the injury, improving cell regeneration. The anti-inflammatory and anaesthetising constituents reduce heat and pain.

Aloe Vera, sunburn and burns

For centuries Aloe Vera gel has been used to relieve burns from the sun and otherwise. Aloe Vera is not a sunblock, but it is a moisturiser and hydrator and can help reduce dehydration and burning. It is also anti-inflammatory. The pure gel can be used like an 'aftersun' lotion to moisturise skin that is dry and damaged from wind and sun – it brings instant relief as it cools and anaesthetises, and it minimises the risk of 'peeling'. Many commercial aftersun products contain Aloe Vera, a practice that developed in Australia and in southern parts of the United States where sunburn is a serious risk all year round. The effects of mild sunstroke can also be alleviated with a cooling application of cold Aloe Vera gel to the forehead and back of the neck. It can also be used for other burns in the same way – in Australia, Aloe Vera is routinely used in hospitals for very severe burns to encourage cell renewal and prevent scarring and skin tightening.

Rejuvenating skin preparations

Nefertiti and Cleopatra, two of history’s most renowned beauties, were said to have bathed in Aloe Vera and had it made into lotions to enhance and preserve their beauty.

Ongoing research within the cosmetic industry indicates that the gel increases production of fibroblasts (cells in the dermis responsible for producing collagen, which keeps skin firm and supple). As we age, fibroblasts slow their collagen production, so the skin wrinkles more rapidly. Because Aloe Vera accelerates collagen production, facial lines become less pronounced.

Aloe Vera is especially effective as a moisturiser because it carries nutrients and moisture down through all layers of the skin. Its mucopolysaccharides, which have moisture-binding properties, help to protect the skin from moisture loss.

Since it is non-allergenic and antibiotic, Aloe Vera is recommended for sensitive and problem skins overall. (It is also reputed to remove age spots.) It is always worth trying Aloe Vera gel on some skin disorders, because it is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial – the gel will inhibit the spread of infection.

It also promotes rapid cell regeneration, helping blemishes to heal without scarring – scars from chickenpox and shingles can be minimised by applying Aloe Vera gel. It can also help during the actual attack, cooling the associated heat and reducing itching. Internal use of the juice will also help treat the skin.

Internal use of gel and juice for stomach and bowel disorders

Aloe Vera can be used as either a commercially bought juice for daily intake or as a powder (made from the gel) to add to smoothies on its own or with other soothing herbs like Psyllium and arrowroot. It can be used for conditions like leaky gut, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel, Crohn’s disease and any situations where heat, inflammation and discomfort exist. It is very useful for all digestive complaints, raising or lowering hydrochloric acid levels as required. It is also good for candida yeast overgrowth, helping to rebalance beneficial bacteria. Note that for healing and soothing the stomach and bowels, an inner leaf preparation is often preferred to a whole leaf preparation, even one with most of the bitter principles (anthraquinones) removed.

When to avoid using Aloe Vera

Generally Aloe Vera is a very safe plant to use. However, the bitter yellow latex exudate on the inside of the outer leaf is purgative, so it is removed during processing for purposes other than for medicinal bowel use. As mentioned above, if purchasing a whole leaf Aloe Vera juice for any purpose other than colon cleansing or constipation, check that the bitter principles (anthraquinones) from this part of the leaf have been filtered out.

Whether you choose an inner leaf or whole leaf product, look for the IASC (International Aloe Science Council) seal of approval that denotes a good quality Aloe product. Two good companies to go for are Pukka Herbs, that makes only an organic inner leaf juice, and Lily of the Desert, that makes both inner leaf and good quality filtered whole leaf Aloe juices and gels (including an organic range).

As with all herbal remedies, care should be taken not to exceed the recommended dose.

Although the whole leaf Aloe Vera can alleviate the discomfort of piles (haemorrhoids), it can also exacerbate it, so use with caution.

Do not take Aloe Vera internally during pregnancy or if breastfeeding because of the laxative effects. (See 'Natural Medicine for Everyone' for more information.)

Long-term use of the whole leaf Aloe Vera or the latex as a laxative can lead to loss of electrolytes and potassium.

If you are using leaves from your own Aloe Vera plant, bear in mind that the yellow sap (latex) can be irritant – avoid contact with the skin.

Allergy test

Although the inner gel is very safe, there are a few people who are allergic to Aloe Vera. To find out if you allergic, dab a small amount of juice or gel on the inside of your elbow. Leave for a few minutes. If there is a stinging sensation or a mild rash develops, wash the affected part and do not use Aloe Vera.

Using Aloe Vera leaves in the home

Cut a leaf as close to the main stem as possible and preferably from the base of the plant where the leaves are the oldest and the most potent. The plant will seal itself and suffer no damage. To use the leaf, wash it well and slice it in half lengthwise. Apply it as it is, gel side on the area to be treated or remove the gel taking care to avoid the prickly outer skin of the leaf. Some people prefer to let the gel drain into a container in order to avoid contamination from the yellow latex. The latex will stay in the outer skin of the leaf if it is not punctured or scraped.

Case study: colitis

Rob had been suffering from pain in the lower abdomen since he was 16 and had gradually been forced to eradicate all but the blandest foods from his diet. When he was 20 he spent a year working in Australia, where he was diagnosed as suffering from colitis. Despite treatment he continued to suffer severe pain and weight loss. Friends suggested he see a herbalist, who encouraged him to cut all wheat and dairy products from his diet and take 2 tsp Slippery Elm powder, 2 tsp Arrowroot powder and 4 tsp Aloe Vera juice twice daily, placing all in a glass with extra water and drinking as a smoothie. Gradually Rob could eat a greater variety of food without discomfort and he gained a little weight. After a year he was fully recovered but continued a daily maintenance dose of Arrowroot and 25 ml (5 tsp) of Aloe Vera juice. Although he was often travelling for his job, Rob found it easy to maintain all this.

Energy and Emotion

Aloe Vera is a strong plant with the power to survive hostile conditions, including drought and even radiation, to regenerate itself and on occasion to grow to heights that dwarf people. In those countries where it grows abundantly, people consider it to be the 'father of healing'.

The feel of Aloe Vera gel fresh from the leaf is soothing and cooling, giving some indication of its ability to reduce inflammation and soothe burns. The sap is very bitter and supports the function of both the stomach and liver, while restoring balance to the body as a whole. Bitter herbs work effectively on the small and large intestine, cleansing and strengthening, which in turn regulates the immune system. Conditions that might be termed 'overheated' – high blood pressure, heart problems, constipation, inflammation and swellings – can be remedied by cooling, bitter herbs.

Energy and the mind

Aloe Vera energises and invigorates, promoting a sense of well-being and a more harmonious state between emotions and the body. This allows a release of tension, leading to an improvement in health.

Flower remedies

So dominant are the healing properties of the Aloe Vera leaf that little is known about the elegant spikes of flowers and what properties they might possess. They are associated with clarity and sharpness but there are no documented facts on their uses.

To make a flower essence – standard quantity

  • Use approx. 350 ml (1½ cups) each of spring water and brandy and 3–4 Aloe Vera flowers, carefully chosen and freshly picked. 
  • Submerge the flowers in a shallow glass bowl containing spring water.
  • Cover with freshly washed cheesecloth.
  • Leave the bowl in a quiet spot in the sunshine for three hours or next to a window if you are indoors. Try to ensure that the flowers have at least three hours of continuous sunshine. If the flowers wilt sooner than this, remove them.
  • After three hours, use a twig to lift the flowers out of the bowl.
  • Measure the remaining liquid and add an equal amount of brandy. Pour the mixture into sterilised, dark-glass bottles and label carefully.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 4 drops under the tongue four times daily or every half hour in time of crisis.

Children: Over 12 years, adult dose; 7–12 years, half adult dose; 1–7 years, quarter adult dose.

Plant spirit energies

The plant's spirit embodies every part of the plant, not just the flowers. Aloe Vera can inhabit hostile environments. It protects itself from predators with its strong and sometimes piercing leaves, their unpalatable taste and by constantly regenerating itself.

Powerful and long-living, Aloe Vera shares these qualities with us without threat to its survival. It improves life for people who suffer from debilitating, chronic complaints that reduce energy.

Growing, Harvesting and Processing

Aloe Vera has few natural enemies but requires protection against frost and wind. However if the plant conditions are suitable, it is a sturdy plant: it is not prone to disease and it is pest-resistant. Conscientious Aloe Vera growers do not use chemical sprays, fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides, preferring organic methods of cultivation. There have been successful experiments in growing Aloe Vera hydroponically (in a nutrient solution).

Growing Aloe Vera

Commercial

Cultivated on vast plantations, Aloe grows well all year round. It propagates very rapidly with new plants or ‘pups’ growing from the root of the mother plant. These can be planted in open fields within nine months. Depending on weather and soil conditions, a plant will reach maturity in three to five years.

Aloe Vera is cultivated in well-drained, gritty soil that is a mixture of clay, silt and sand. The weather must be warm and humid, never below 5°C (40°F). Three or four species of Aloe are cultivated commercially, but Aloe Vera (also known as Aloe barbadensis) is the main species used for healing.

Home-grown

Although it is possible to grow Aloe Vera from seed, this is a long and not entirely foolproof exercise. Many nurseries sell Aloe Vera plants and it is best to buy a sturdy plant that is at least 18 months old because it takes two to three years to reach its full medicinal potential. Alternatively, obtain a rooted offshoot from a friend and bring it to maturity.

Aloe Vera is fairly hardy, but it is indigenous to temperate and subtropical zones so it should be kept indoors unless temperatures are quite high. The plants need plenty of space, so plant in dry gritty soil in a fairly large pot with adequate drainage. They need re-potting when they send out new shoots. If the shoots are left with the mother plant none will thrive, but wait until shoots grow to 5 cm (2 in) high before transplanting. Water well, and then abstain for three weeks, which will force each shoot to produce extra roots, thus ensuring more robust plants.

If the soil becomes excessively dry in hot weather, stand the pot in water until the soil is only just moist, making sure it is well drained when removed. If possible, use rainwater or purified water because Aloe Vera is sensitive to fluoride (often present in tap water) – this may cause brown spotting on the leaves, which in turn may harm its biochemistry. Aloe Vera plants enjoy warmth, but direct sunlight on their leaves may turn them brown. However, insufficient sun will make the leaves droop and flatten. Lack of water results in inward-curling leaves that are not plump with gel. Bruising causes leaves to have brown marks and dried edges. Any of these problems may occur if the plant is placed too close to a radiator or other direct source of heat.

The bitter taste of Aloes will keep the house and any plants growing near them free from insects.

Harvesting

Commercial

Leaves are ready for harvesting when they weigh 450–700 g (1–1½ lb) each and reach roughly 60 cm (2 ft) in length. The whole process of harvesting is done by hand, making it highly labour-intensive. The majority of Aloe Vera products come from companies that have a massive production level and total control over the process, from planting through to harvesting and processing. When harvesting, only two or three leaves are removed from the base of the plant at a time, and are cut at a point just high enough to ensure that the young inner leaves are not damaged and can go on to produce the next year's harvest.

Home-grown

There is no specific time for harvesting Aloe Vera. Provided that the plant is sturdy and of sufficient age, a leaf can be removed whenever the need arises. However, it is best not to start cutting leaves until the plant is about three years old. When cutting a leaf, take care to cut it close to the stem to ensure that it will reseal itself, and choose one at the bottom of the plant because it will be more medicinally potent. This will also maintain the handsome appearance of the Aloe Vera plant.

Processing

Commercial

In the hotter months, processing takes place on the same day as harvesting, but in cooler months it may occur up to 24 hours later.

For inner leaf-only products, careful filleting takes place to remove just the gel from the inner leaf. Leaves are taken to conveyer belts where they are washed and the tops and bottoms removed. Then the leaf is ‘filleted’ – cut lengthwise and the outside rind removed to reveal the gel. This is usually done by hand to avoid damaging the leaf and to make sure the channels beneath the skin of the leaf (containing the yellow bitter exudate) are not punctured – if this happens, the gel will be contaminated with bitter, purgative sap.

For producing whole leaf products, or bitter aloes products for use as a laxative by herbal practitioners, this filleting process takes place but it includes the bitter yellow exudate in the ‘sap capsules’ just inside the leaf. This substance contains the anthraquinones and phenolic compounds that relieve constipation. For whole leaf products not designed for use as a laxative, the gel then goes through gentle processing to remove the bitter compounds.

When filleting has taken place, the rind is used as an organic fertiliser, while the jelly-like pulp is ground to a near-liquid state and piped into stainless steel vats for processing. The last step is stabilisation, which inhibits oxidation of the gel and preserves nutrients. This does not interfere with the plant's healing properties but does ensure that the gel retains its freshness. All Aloe Vera products contain a preservative (although in Aloe Vera juices, this should be less than 1 per cent). Some are pasteurised, but this heating process is thought by many to destroy valuable enzymes and change the structure. Several companies use a heat-free cold pressing process, which does not cause chemical reactions and loss of active constituents.

Home-grown

Leaves are either used immediately or can be sealed in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to three weeks, or frozen for three months and then filleted.

Preparations for Internal Use

Nowadays, commercially prepared Aloe Vera juice, gel and powder are pure, long-lasting and convenient to use. According to which part of the plant is harvested and for what purpose, there can be varying internal uses.

With most of the preparations below, you can use an inner leaf Aloe Vera juice or a whole leaf preparation that has been filtered to remove the most of the bitter compounds (anthraquinones) from the latex. However, if you have a sensitive digestive system or a tendency towards loose stools, or if you are trying to soothe and heal the gut, it can be advisable to stick with an inner leaf Aloe Vera juice. 

Morning tonic drink

The drink is best consumed fresh to ensure the maximum benefits. However, you can make the vegetable drink in advance without adding the Aloe Vera juice and seasoning and keep it in a refrigerator for up to eight hours. Before serving, blend in the Aloe Vera juice, then season to taste.

To make a soothing tonic drink or smoothie

  • 175 g (6 oz) fresh, organic, raw green vegetables, especially cabbage, kale and other brassica family like watercress and mustard sprouts, roughly chopped..
  • 115 g (4 oz) organic carrots, roughly chopped.
  • Freshly ground black pepper, plus ginger and thyme leaf if desired.
  • 20–50 ml Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf or filtered whole leaf).
  • Enough spring water to ensure the mixture is of a drinking consistency.
  • Put into a food processor or Vitamix. blender, blend and season to taste, adding in ginger and thyme leaf for extra flavour if desired.
  • Use immediately or keep in the refrigerator for up to three days if necessary.

Detoxifying drink

This easy-to-prepare drink is best consumed fresh. Lemon juice is a tremendous cleanser and detoxifier, clearing the stomach of excess acid, scouring the blood and cooling and clearing the skin. Apple and Aloe Vera also cleanse and detoxify. All three ingredients are rich in antioxidants, which fight infection and inflammation. This drink relieves allergies and skin problems and treats constipation. It also boosts the immune system.

Buy not-from-concentrate organic apple juice, or make your own. Making your own juice allows you to include the seeds and other fibrous parts of the apple, which means more of the pectin, which has detoxifying properties, will be included in the juice. To make fresh apple juice, wash and chop six organic medium-sized apples (no need to peel or core) and feed into the juicer. Collect the juice.

To make a detoxifying drink

The below makes 1 glass.

  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) apple juice (organic).
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf or filtered whole leaf).
  • Freshly squeezed juice and zest of half a lemon (organic).
  • Mix together and consume immediately.

​Immune system fortifier drink

This drink strengthens and supports the immune system, helping the body to fight coughs colds and other infections. It has no components that could over-exert the immune system and works purely as a supportive tonic, used for thousands of years in China. Aloe Vera’s polysaccharide constituents modulate the immune system, so this combination has a very balancing effect. The Reishi mushroom, which is widely available as a powder, is renowned for its fortifying support to the immune system. It is sometimes known by its Latin name, Ganoderma lucidum. Organic red grape juice which you can buy or make flavours the drink and it is rich in powerful antioxidants and other constituents that help the immune system to fight infections. This drink should be drunk immediately or within eight hours.

To make an immune system fortifier drink

  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf or filtered whole leaf).
  • 200 ml organic red grape juice.
  • 100 ml spring water.
  • 1–2 tsp Reishi mushroom powder.
  • Place all ingredients in a liquidiser and mix well.
  • Drink immediately.

Weight loss and daily power drink

Aloe Vera juice added to Dr Schulze’s Superfood Plus powder is a powerful addition to meals or meal replacement. Aloe and Superfood Plus both provide energy without significantly increasing calorific intake. It can replace up to one meal a day for a month if you want to regulate your weight but still receive adequate nutrients. It will keep for up to eight hours in the refrigerator. Aloe Vera aids the digestive process by ensuring nutrients are broken down and assimilated and is a recognised aid to weight loss.

To make a daily power drink

Makes one large glass.

  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon.
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) Superfood Plus powder.
  • 700 ml (2 ½ cups) organic fruit juice, not from concentrate (or use half fruit juice and half spring water).
  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf or filtered whole leaf).
  • Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until thoroughly blended.
  • Pour into a large glass and drink immediately.

Additions

You can also add in our EnergiRevive Powder to aid adrenal restoration for those who need extra support.

Preparations for External Use

Aloe Vera gel is an outstanding herbal remedy for skin conditions. You can apply it on its own or use it in poultices, ointments, lotions and creams to soothe and moisturise.

Poultice for burns, leg ulcers and bedsores

A poultice is often the best way of ensuring that the healing herbs penetrate deep into a sore or wound, bearing in mind that the ‘speciality’ of Aloe Vera, due to its lignin content, is to penetrate deep into the skin's layers. The combination of Marshmallow, Comfrey and Aloe Vera speeds up the healing process to allow the quick formation of new cells (the allantoin in the Aloe Vera promotes rapid cell division) and is valuable in the treatment of minor burns, leg ulcers or bedsores. If you wish, add powdered Slippery Elm to further protect the skin and add substance to the mixture, or you can also add Lavender powder.

Caution: Always seek medical advice for a severe ulcer or bedsore to ensure that infection does not arise and any shock is dealt with professionally. Always run cold water on a burn for twenty minutes. For serious burns, or if larger than a 50p coin, contact a doctor or call an ambulance immediately.

To make a poultice – standard quantity

  • 1 part each powdered Marshmallow root and Comfrey root, and 1½ parts powdered Slippery Elm bark.
  • Aloe Vera gel and olive oil (or any other suitable pure organic vegetable oil – almond oil is renowned for use on the skin). Use ¾ Aloe Vera gel to ¼ chosen oil, and use enough to make a pliable paste – as a guide, for 40 g (1½ oz) of powder you will need 50 ml (2 fl oz) of Aloe Vera gel and olive oil.
  • Put the herbs in a bowl and mix the liquid in.
  • Once made up it quickly solidifies and you want this to happen on the area affected, not in the bowl, so quickly coat the affected area first with a thin layer of olive oil and cover with a pastry-thick layer of paste.
  • Cover with clean cheesecloth (or other fine cloth or sterile bandage), secure with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave for 24 hours.
  • Re-apply every 24 hours until the burn, wound or ulcer is healed.

Soothing lotion

This soothing lotion is ideal for relieving sunburn or to keep in the kitchen as a first-aid remedy for minor burns and scalds. (Always run cold water on a burn for twenty minutes first.) Aloe Vera gel is soothing, cooling and helps the skin to regenerate; St John’s Wort cold-pressed oil is antiseptic, soothing and anti-inflammatory.

To make a St John’s Wort & Aloe lotion

Simply mix the St John’s Wort oil half and half with Aloe Vera gel, shake well and apply frequently to burns, peeling skin, chickenpox, shingles and other.

Spray for burns

A spray can be useful on a burn because it avoids touching the area and provides instant cooling action.

Caution: Always run cold water on a burn for twenty minutes. For serious burns, or if larger than a 50p coin, contact a doctor or call an ambulance immediately.

Formula: 500 ml (2 cups) Aloe Vera juice, 8 drops organic lavender essential oil, 250 ml (1 cup) Witch hazel water.

Mix the ingredients together and put in a spray atomiser. Label and store in a refrigerator for up to six months.

RECOMMENDED USAGE:

Spray directly on the burn, reapplying when pain returns.

Aloe Vera contains allantoin which promotes rapid cell division, creating rapid skin re-growth. It naturally soothes and helps to diminish the heat and inflammation of burns. Lavender is the only essential oil that is beneficial for burns when used neat. It soothes, cools and accelerates healing while preventing infection. The Witch hazel water soothes, heals, and astringes, further reducing the likelihood of infection, and complementing the other two herbs.

Case study: burns

While deep-frying food, the fat spattered onto Janet's hands causing minor burns. Janet’s neighbour, Karen, who was with her at the time, put her hands under running cold water for twenty minutes, then cut a leaf from her Aloe Vera plant, cut it in half lengthwise and immediately laid it, gel-side down, on Janet’s hands. The burns were painful but minor and Karen instructed Janet to use the tube of Aloe Vera gel she had given her, overnight and for the next day or two. The next day Janet was amazed to see that not only had the pain stopped but the skin was cool and there was no breaking or blistering. She applied more gel and then also Calendula oil to continue the speedy healing process.

Aloe Vera moisturising and hydrating cream

Here is a gentle moisturising cream that, when used over a period of time, will improve the quality of the skin, eradicate small scars and age spots and smooth out facial lines, whilst hydrating the skin at a deep level. Those with collagen loss will also find Aloe Vera good at aiding its renewal.

How to make the moisturising cream

Buy a basic organic skin cream that is not too runny. Mix it in a larger jar with as much Aloe Vera gel as you can while it is still easy to apply. The new cream/lotion will take time to sink into the skin but will do so more quickly if the skin is warm and the pores open.

Aloe Vera douche

This douche is useful for all kinds of vaginal infections, including candida, thrush and other more chronic, persistent problems. Aloe Vera juice will soothe and heal vaginal mucous membranes and promote a positive immune system reaction in the area.

To make a vaginal douche – standard quantity

  • 500 ml (2 cups) undiluted Aloe Vera juice (prefer inner leaf only).
  • Strain the Aloe Vera through a colander or sieve lined with clean cheesecloth. This may be unnecessary with some Aloe juices, but any little pieces will clog the douche.
  • Follow the instructions that come with a douche kit, using the Aloe Vera juice. (Douche kits are available from some health food stores as well as pharmacies.)

Aloe Vera as an anti-perspirant

You can use Aloe Vera as an anti-perspirant. Just put some juice in an atomiser, keep it refrigerated for up to three months and use as required. The antimicrobial components work to reduce odour and bacteria whilst the naturally cooling components feel good and reduce ‘sticky’ feelings, and the natural sealant in Aloe decreases escaping sweat without blocking pores.

Aloe Vera juice and Propolis gargle and mouthwash

This mouthwash is ideal for any infection, soreness or inflammation of the throat, gums or mouth, including mouth ulcers and gum disease. Propolis is astringent and highly antimicrobial. The Aloe Vera gel is anti-inflammatory and soothing. Both are antiseptic.

To make a gargle/mouthwash – standard quantity

  • Use 50 ml (2 oz) Aloe Vera juice, 10 ml Propolis tincture, and ¼ tsp fine sea salt. 
  • Mix together and use straight away, or keep any remaining mixture refrigerated.

Recommended usage:

Use once daily, or up to four to five times daily if having dental work done or if you have existing gum/teeth issues.

Aloe Vera nasal spray

Aloe Vera nasal spray is useful for nasal polyps, colds and allergies. Goldenseal disinfects and reduces inflammation. You can buy empty pump sprays from pharmacies.

How to make a nasal spray – standard quantity

  • 50 ml Aloe Vera juice and 10 ml (2 tsp) Goldenseal tincture. If you cannot find Goldenseal tincture then substitute with Barberry tincture.
  • Pour the two herbs into a clean glass and stir well.
  • Transfer the mixture into an empty pump spray. Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Recommended usage:

Tilt the head back and spray into each nostril up to five times daily.

Natural Medicine for Everyone

For centuries, Aloe Vera has been a great and gentle healer and is believed to be safe for most people. Ideally choose organic, cold-pressed, unpasteurised and look for the IASC seal of approval.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Opinions vary on whether Aloe Vera can and should be used in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some herbalists believe that the inner leaf is safe as the laxative substances in the sap will not be present. We advise to consult a qualified herbalist if you wish to use Aloe Vera internally when pregnant or breastfeeding. A good quality Aloe Vera gel for topical use is safe, but choose one with minimal preservatives and other ingredients.

Children

Children may benefit from Aloe Vera in several ways.

Applied to external injuries, it is gentle and effective and heals without scarring; the novelty of using it straight from the leaf may be a distraction from the pain.

Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf ) is a gentle, non-habit forming treatment for constipation, while it may also, paradoxically, dispel minor bouts of diarrhoea. Older children and teenagers, particularly those undergoing the stress of examinations or competitions, will benefit from an Aloe Vera drink an hour or so before the event. This will give a boost of energy and concentration. It can help children who suffer from allergies. It helps to improve the immune system, gut and inflammatory responses.

Note: Consult a qualified herbalist before using Aloe Vera juice internally for children under 12.

Elderly people

Some of the progressive conditions associated with ageing may be inhibited by the persistent use of Aloe Vera. Arthritic and rheumatic conditions are noticeably improved by drinking the juice and massaging with the cream or gel. Aloe Vera juice helps in the treatment of many ailments associated with ageing such as high blood pressure, heart conditions and diabetes, as well as bowel, liver, kidney and digestive disorders. Aloe Vera juice energises and the gel improves ageing skin.

Herbal Combinations

Herbal combinations are used where the effect of a single herb needs to be helped in a particular way.

Caution: Aloe Vera juice as well as some of these other herbs should not be used if pregnant or breastfeeding – consult a qualified herbalist prior to use. If you have a serious medical condition or are taking medication, you must also consult your doctor or a qualified herbalist before using these combinations.

Allergies

This tincture or tea will ease the discomfort of hay fever, mucus build-up in the sinuses and lungs and irritated eyes. It can also ease allergies caused by animals.

Tincture formula 

Equal parts of Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf or filtered whole leaf), Plantain leaf, Nettle root and Elderflower tincture.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: Take 5 ml 3–4 times daily.

Tea formula

Use the same ingredients as for the above tincture except as a tea (i.e. using dried or fresh herbs), steeping for 10 minutes and taking the Aloe Vera separately to avoid heating.

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 2–3 cups daily with a total of 50 ml Aloe Vera juice.

Aloe Vera mobilises the immune system and soothes inflamed tissues. Plantain is rich in antihistamines and reduces the inflammation associated with allergies. It also reduces excessive mucus and soothes mucous membranes. Nettle relieves breathing problems created by allergic reactions and is especially helpful for allergic rhinitis, hay fever, asthma and itchy skin conditions because of its antiallergenic, tonic, and astringent constituents. Elderflower is renowned for soothing coughs and allergies. It helps tone impaired linings of the nose and throat and increases their resistance to pollen, dust and infection.

Gentle colon cleansing formula

A safe way to ease the discomfort of constipation, without using strong or purgative herbs. These herbs are gentle, powerful and non habit-forming.

Formula: 2 tbsp powdered, dried Psyllium husks, 1 tsp Yellow Dock root powder, ½ tbsp Aloe Vera gel powder, with spring water or fruit juice if preferred.

Mix the powders and store in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. To use, put 5 g (1 tsp) into a glass and add at least 200 ml water or juice. Stir and drink immediately. If you allow it to stand before drinking, the Psyllium husks will expand in the glass instead of the colon and the mixture will have to be eaten like a pudding; not so pleasant.

Recommended dosage:

Adult: 5 g daily of mixed powders.

Yellow Dock improves bile flow, which is vital for bowel performance; its anthraquinone content acts as a gentle laxative and cleanser. Aloe Vera has similar properties to Yellow Dock and also soothes and helps repair any bowel tissue damage caused by persistent constipation. Psyllium provides bulk to support bowel movements. 

Case study: arthritis

Margie Dean, a retired secretary in her 60s, found that as a result of her work her neck and fingers were becoming very stiff with arthritis. Her physiotherapist gave her a series of exercises to promote flexibility and suggested that she try Aloe Vera. At the time Margie could barely turn her head and her fingers were curled to an extent that she could not pick up a knife and fork. She agreed to take 20 ml (4 tsp) Aloe Vera juice four times daily. She also applied the gel, cold from the refrigerator, to her hands and neck and massaged into the painful areas. The worst of the pain began to ease almost immediately and after two months she started to experience the full benefits. Now she can turn her head easily from side to side and pick up a pen without difficulty. Margie has reduced her Aloe Vera to a maintenance dose of 20 ml (4 tsp) twice a day. In tandem she also improved some aspects of her diet to remove acid-forming food and drinks.

Leaky gut formula (use organic herbs)

Complementary practitioners believe that as a result of many potential factors, including digestive conditions such as candida (yeast overgrowth in the gut), the intestines can become inflamed and hyper-permeable. They leak, behaving more like a colander than a secure bowel, allowing toxic substances to be released into the body. This can result in rashes and other allergic reactions.

Formula: 1 part Echinacea root tincture, 1 part Artichoke leaf tincture, 1 part Barberry root tincture, 2 parts Meadowsweet flower and leaf tincture, 4 parts Aloe Vera juice (prefer inner leaf only to avoid any risk of the bitter exudate causing irritation). Also use one probiotic capsule (or equivalent powder) per serving – choose a good quality product that contains acid-stable, human strain bacteria.

Put the four tinctures into a sterilised container and add the Aloe Vera juice. Alternatively, add the Aloe Vera juice just before serving to keep the formula fresh. To do this, you would mix together approximately 5 ml combined tincture and 5 ml Aloe Vera juice to make a serving of 10 ml (2 tsp).

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 10 ml (2 tsp) twice daily, with the probiotic powder mixed in, or take a probiotic capsule independently.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. For children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Echinacea supports the immune and digestive systems, which is vital for a gut that is overwhelmed by harmful fungi and bacteria. Artichoke tones the digestive system. Its strongly bitter substances increase saliva flow and the production of pancreatic and stomach juices. Barberry contains berberine and hydrastine, which have an antimicrobial action, and the herb also supports the digestive system including the liver. Meadowsweet promotes the re-growth of healthy gut tissue and balances digestive juice production. Aloe Vera is first class at soothing inflammation, supporting the immune system and healing fragile gut walls. It also assists digestion, partly by promoting growth of good gut bacteria. The probiotic capsule is extra support for this. The gut normally contains good bacteria that can assist with digestion, but with someone who has candida or other microbial overgrowth, these bacteria can be overwhelmed by harmful microorganisms.

Immune system recovery tonic (use organic herbs)

This formula is very useful in the treatment of conditions that impair the immune system, such as post-viral fatigue syndrome and glandular fever (mononucleosis). It is also excellent for aiding recovery after a long or exhausting illness.

Formula: 1 part Astragalus root tincture, 1 part Siberian Ginseng root tincture, 3 parts Aloe Vera juice (inner leaf or filtered whole leaf).

Mix the tinctures together. (This can be done in advance.) Add the Aloe Vera juice just before serving to keep the formula fresh. To do this, you would mix together approximately 4 ml combined tincture and 6 ml Aloe Vera juice (or 5 ml/1 tsp of each, to make things easier) to make a serving of 10 ml (2 tsp).

Recommended dosage:

Adults: 10 ml (2 tsp) two to three times daily.

Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. For children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist. 

Astragalus and Siberian Ginseng are tonic herbs, which support and nourish the entire body in a very balanced and regenerative way, so that it can recover and repair without becoming exhausted. Aloe Vera is rich in mucopolysaccharides, which also support the immune system.

How Aloe Vera Works

Prized by the ancient Egyptians, Aloe Vera contains nearly 200 named constituents, of which 75 are known to be active healing compounds. It can treat a wide variety of internal and external problems and can penetrate deeply into the skin and mucous membranes to soothe and fight infection.

Bitter aloes are made from the dried, purified sap obtained from the latex – the thin layer of tissue directly beneath the skin of the outer leaf. This bitter yellow substance contains resins, anthraquinones and anthraglycosides, or aloins. It has a strongly purgative effect when taken internally and is usually used as a laxative. 

It is the inner pulp of Aloe Vera that is mainly responsible for the juice's and gel's internal and external healing effects. Anthraquinones, found primarily in the latex and also found in minute quantities in the gel, are to some degree responsible for Aloe Vera’s anti-inflammatory and anaesthetising effects when applied to swellings, stings, sprains and sunburn.

External use

There are many reasons why Aloe Vera works so well externally. One is that it promotes rapid cell regeneration. Another is that Aloe Vera contains enzymes that cause chemical changes, thus intensifying healing. Its lignin content, as well as the ability of Aloe gel to lower the surface tension of water, means that when Aloe gel or other topical products are applied to the skin, the amino acids, vitamins, minerals and other constituents are carried deep into the dermal layers to heal and soothe. Aloe Vera also helps to get rid of dead skin cells, thus helping to regenerate cell growth and promote healthy tissue.

Although many claim that commercial products are more potent than the raw gel because they have higher concentrations of Aloe Vera’s active ingredients, for most people the fresh gel gives excellent results.

Internal use

Taken internally as a drink, Aloe Vera juice triggers a healing response for which a combination of constituents are responsible. The juice cleanses and detoxifies the digestive system and thus influences other organs and systems. It has proved to be very effective in the treatment of stomach ulcers: instead of simply reducing production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach as most ulcer drugs do, it coats the stomach lining. Aloe Vera can raise or lower hydrochloric acid levels as needed – it is known as 'amphoteric' because it has a normalising and balancing effect. Low hydrochloric acid levels are common and a contributing factor in allergies. For stomach or duodenal ulcers or generally healing and soothing the gut, it may be best to prefer an inner leaf-only Aloe juice to avoid any risk of the bitter exudate causing irritation.

Aloe Vera restores balance in the digestive system in several ways. It acts as an alkalizing agent (where needed), it reduces yeast overgrowth that destroys normal gut flora, and it penetrates the walls of the digestive system to remove harmful bacteria. Once balance is restored and beneficial flora reinstated, inflammation is reduced and the body is able to break down and absorb nutrients properly once more. Painful disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid indigestion, colitis and candida benefit from Aloe Vera.

By raising energy levels and promoting a sense of well-being, Aloe Vera reduces stress and tension, often the underlying cause of other complaints.

Aloe Vera’s effects on the body

  • Cleanses and detoxifies; can be a laxative but also helps diarrhoea (inner leaf).
  • Helps to boost and restore energy levels.
  • Supports the body's immune system.
  • Anaesthetises and cleanses damaged tissue and accelerates cell growth and regeneration.
  • Anti-inflammatory action helps to reduce heat and swelling, allowing natural healing to take place.
  • Restores levels of beneficial gut bacteria and stabilises gastrointestinal conditions.
  • Delivers complex nutrients to all parts of the body, which in turn triggers specific healing responses.
  • Heals all kinds of skin disorders.
  • Alleviates arthritis and rheumatism.
  • Reduces and lowers fat levels and bad cholesterol in the blood.
  • By lowering cholesterol levels it improves heart heath.
  • It is a natural vermifuge, helping to remove worms and parasites from the body.
  • Calms the nervous system as it is so rich in B vitamins and magnesium.
  • It is a general antimicrobial enabling the destruction of bacteria, fungi and viruses. It is antiseptic and germicidal.

Research

Research into the natural healing properties of Aloe Vera has been carried out mainly in Russia and the United States. Medical and pharmaceutical research in Russia has been dictated by economic forces (plant medicines are less expensive than conventional drugs) and scientists there, to some extent, have been free of the pressures put on Western research scientists. For years Russian scientists have been using Aloe Vera to treat patients suffering from diverse problems. For example, in addition to Aloe Vera’s well-known benefits, Russian scientists have noted that it can bring about improvement in bone tuberculosis and broken bones; inflammatory gynaecological conditions; paralysis caused by polio; ear, nose and throat conditions; and bronchial asthma. They have also found that it can help retard the ageing process.

Scientists in the United States and Russia have carried out extensive research into all types of burns including thermal burns. Aloe Vera contains constituents that, as well as healing the burn, are both cleansing and antibacterial. A cream has been developed in the United States containing 70 per cent Aloe Vera juice extract, which prevents partially damaged tissue from dying and allows new epidermal cells to close off the areas, thus promoting healthy new skin beneath the scab rather than scar tissue.

Experimental research into the healing potential of Aloe Vera began in the United States in the 1930s in the search for a cure for radiation burns but it developed into a pharmaceutical race to isolate the plant’s active constituents, which would be commercially reproduced to alleviate a wide range of conditions.

Finally, Aloe Vera has a role in the treatment of cancer. It seems that it causes the release of tumour necrosis factor (TNF), a substance that blocks the blood supply to cancerous growths. Also, a study at the University of Okinawa in Japan showed that drinking Aloe Vera juice regularly may be effective in preventing the onset of lung cancer in people who smoke.

Internationally, scientifically validated research studies are continuing to make new discoveries into the healing powers of Aloe Vera.

Glossary

Allergic rhinitis

An allergy to a number of everyday substances, such as house dust.

Amphoteric

Ability of a substance to treat opposite conditions as required; has a balancing and normalising effect.

Antibacterial

A substance that destroys bacteria.

Anit-inflammatory

Reduces inflammation.

Antimicrobial

Destroys or inhibits the growth of microorganisms.

Capillaries

The smallest blood vessels in the body, which carry blood in a fine network to all the body’s tissues.

Cholesterol

A fatty substance found in animal tissues and body fluids. A vital component of cell membranes and the myelin sheath that insulates nerves.

Collagen

A protein that is the principal fibrous component of connective tissue in the body. It forms an important part of the skin, tendons and bones.

Enzymes

Organic catalysts composed mainly of protein found in all living systems. Vital for biochemical reactions.

Fibroblasts

A cell in connective tissue that is responsible for producing fibres.

Folic acid

A member of the vitamin B complex occurring naturally in green plants, fresh fruit, liver and yeast. Now considered to be an important supplement during pregnancy.

Herpes zoster

The virus that causes chickenpox and shingles, a painful rash.

Homeostatis

Process of maintaining the body in equilibrium, despite external changes. Homeostatis is the primary aim of most organs of the body.

Interleukin

Signalling molecules produced by immune system cells, that stimulate or regulate the immune response.

Interferon

A protein produced in response to a virus infection and that stops the virus from replicating.

Inulin

Carbohydrate that stimulates the function of the immune system. It is filtered from the blood stream by the kidneys and tests for inulin are made to monitor kidney function.

Immunity

Capacity and function of the body to fend off foreign bodies (fungi, bacteria, viruses), and/or to disarm and eject them.

Laxative

A substance that stimulates the bowels to empty.

Macrophages

Cells that are part of the immune system that engulf cell debris and foreign particles, and also stimulate other immune cells to respond.

Psoriasis

A chronic skin disease in which scaly pink patches form on the scalp, knees, elbows and other parts of the body.

purgative

A strong laxative.

Tincture

Remedy prepared by chopping up herb and soaking in a mixture of alcohol and water.

Topical

A treatment that is applied directly to an affected area on the surface of the body as opposed to being taken internally.

Verruca

A growth or wart on the sole of the foot, caused by infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV).


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