Saturday, March 2, 2013

Helpful Herbs: Aloe Vera

When you think of Aloe Vera most of us think about putting that green gel on after a sunburn.  But did you know that real aloe vera is  not a gel but a juice (the gel like stuff you see has thickeners in it.) Not only does aloe feel good on a sunburn, it has a number of benefits, being today's "Helpful Herb."

Cancer Protection
The full effects of ingestion of aloe vera juice are still being studied. But these these two studies found aloe to be chemoprotective:

Skin Health
This study outlines the many promising effects of aloe:
"It can be effective for genital herpes, psoriasis, human papilloma virus, seborrheic dermatitis, aphthous stomatitis, xerosis, lichen planus, frostbite, burn, wound healing and inflammation. It can also be used as a biological vehicle and an anti-microbial and antifungal agent and also as a candidate for photodynamic therapy of some kinds of cancer."

This study found that regular application of aloe helped to heal second-degree burns!

This study touts aloe as a "potential wound-healing and anti-inflammatory agent."

And finally, this study may explain why aloe helps so much with a sunburn, by boosting the skin's immune function:

Blood Sugar Health
This study looked at a standardized aloe vera extract, and how taking this as a supplement may help regulate blood sugar in those with Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes: 

And another study found that an aloe vera extract aided in liver and kidney health in diabetic rats: stating: "the results of the present study provide a scientific rationale for the use of Aloe vera as an antidiabetic agent."

Finding Aloe
Because aloe vera juice has such a high water content, it must be preserved somehow.  Most of the jars that you'll find will have thickeners and preservatives.  However, there are juices that have no preservatives, you'll just need to keep them refrigerated and use them quickly.  (Here is one.) Of course, you can always grow an aloe plant (make sure it's aloe barbedensis) and squeeze the juice right from the leaves.  Always use caution if using on an open wound. While aloe is a great healer, you don't want to introduce bacteria in to the open skin.  If you have an open wound, please visit with your doctor about treatment.  

[This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.]


Anonymous said...

I have aloe dried in capsules. Is this a beneficial way to internally take aloe or should I just opt for the juice?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

It could be very beneficial, especially if it's a standardized extract. It would depend, though, on the particular capsule, if there were any additives, what the strength is, and what your needs are.

Victoria said...

I love your site, it has lots of helpful information! After reading this post I am a little confused in what to look for when buying preservative-free products that contain Aloe Vera . You mentioned that aloe vera needs a preservative when used, however I noticed in many of your products, such as the shampoos and facial cleansers, that there isn't a preservative (that i am aware of). Can you please help me understand - perhaps I am misunderstanding something. I just want to make sure that I am buying safe products - Many thanks!!

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks so much for your question! Yes -- we do have a touch of aloe in the shower gels, shampoos, and facial cleansers. The alkalinity of the soap keeps it safely self-preserving.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Victoria said...

Thank you for your reply! I do have one further question/concern....what shelf life do such self-preserving products have with alkalinity being the stabilizer? If I bought your shampoo for instance, do you think the alkalinity would remain at the right/safe level for at least 3 months to prevent mold/bacteria growth? Thanks again in helping me understand this.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

I can't speak for other products, but the shelf-life of our shampoos and shower gels are 2 years. Even after 2 years, it's more about the oils turning rancid and not bacterial growth.