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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herb of the Week- Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is Mothers Natures medicine cabinet wrapped up in a plant.

Aloe acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and makes an excellent energy tonic

There are over 250 species of Aloes in the world, mostly native to Africa. They range in size from little one inch miniatures to massive plant colonies consisting of hundreds of 2 foot diameter plants.
Although most Aloes have some medicinal or commercial value, the most commonly known is the Aloe barbadensis... better known as Aloe vera.

All Aloes are semi tropical succulent plants, and may only be grown outdoors in areas where there is no chance of freezing (USDA zones 10-11). However, they make excellent house plants when they are given sufficient light. Container grown Aloe plants benefit from spending their summer outdoors.

Using pure aloe vera gel from its plant form is best, as its cellular activity tends to be reduced when mixed with other chemicals.
Growing your own aloe vera plant can be fairly easy as its only requirements are lots of warm sun and little water. It does not like cold temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cold, drafty areas. It takes the aloe vera plant about 4 years to reach full maturity of about two feet tall, which is when the gel from an aloe vera leaf holds its greatest benefits. Be sure to transplant it to larger pots as it outgrows it's current one.

Older specimens may even bloom, producing a tall stock covered with bright colored coral flowers.

The nectar from Aloe flowers is a favorite food for hummingbirds!

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) Benefits

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

Some of the minerals found in Aloe Vera include calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, chromium, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc. This is because the plant tends to grow in areas where soils are rich in these minerals and its roots are able to absorb them and deliver them to us in a very available form.

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 leukemia). It may even have a role to play in managing diabetes by improving blood glucose levels.

The juice is said to soothe digestive tract irritations such as colitis, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. Aloe's ability to encourage the release of pepsin (a gastric juice enzyme necessary for digestion) when the stomach is full is a possible reason for its ulcer-healing effects (Journal of the American Osteopathic Society, 1963, vol.62).

In one study, oral use of Aloe for six months helped mitigate asthma symptoms in almost half of the participants. Eleven of twenty-seven patients studied who drank Aloe reported feeling better at the end of the study. Researchers think that results might be due to stimulation of the immune system, as well as naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agents in Aloe vera.

In 1994, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Aloe vera for the treatment of HIV. On-going studies worldwide show that Aloe taken in highly concentrated doses can stimulate the production of white blood cells that may help fight viruses and also tumours.

Aloe vera contains protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, B12 and E, essential fatty acids and is naturally rich in:

Vitamin C which helps maintain tone of blood vessels and promotes good circulation and is essential to the health of the adrenal gland which supports our body in times of stress.

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

Enzymes, which are the life-principle in every live, organic atom and molecule of natural raw food, rejuvenate aged tissues and promote healthy skin.

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

Aloe vera juice is said to be one of the finest body cleansers, cleaning morbid matter from the stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen, bladder, and is considered the finest, known colon cleanser. Studies have shown that it is healing and soothing in the relief of indigestion, stomach distress and ulcers. People claim relief from arthritis, bladder and kidney infections; leg cramps, constipation, hemorrhoids, insomnia, and for vaginitis, it is said to be an excellent vaginal douche.

It is also used to ease heartburn, ulcers, diverticular disorders, and other types of digestive upset. It is used as an anti-inflammatory and may be taken internally as a remedy for certain digestive complaints as certain compounds in Aloe vera reduce the secretion of stomach juices and the formation of lesions.

Animal studies and anecdotal reports claim that drinking Aloe vera juice or taking it as a tablet or capsule can reduce swelling and inflammation in arthritic joints.

In 1997, University of San Antonio researcher Jeremiah Herlihy, Ph.D., conducted a study to observe any negative effects of drinking Aloe daily. Rather than exhibiting negative effects, however, test animals receiving daily Aloe showed a remarkable reduction in leukemia, heart disease, and kidney disease. Dr. Herlihy concluded, "We found no indication of harm done to the rats even at high levels." In fact, the Aloe-drinking animals actually lived 25 percent longer than those in the control group (IASC Conference, Texas, 1997).

There is no single ingredient that makes Aloe vera potent and healthful. Researcher Robert Davis, Ph.D., an endocrinologist-biologist, explains that fifteen different compound groups of nutrients work together to make the plant effective. This means that Aloe vera's effects cannot be synthesized easily in a laboratory. On the upside, this makes the plant useful across a wide spectrum of circumstances. And because the various elements that make Aloe effective are nutrients rather than drugs, Aloe juice may complement medical treatments. In fact some cancer patients state that Aloe vera seems to reduce nausea, increase energy, and may help to minimize low blood counts caused by chemotherapy or radiation.

Aloe vera may help adults, children, and even pets receive more value from daily foods and supplements.

Apply the gel from an aloe vera leaf directly onto skin abrasions, cuts, sunburns, scalds, blisters, cold sores, rashes, and insect bites to help fight bacteria and avoid infection. The gel also has the ability to soothe pain and regenerate skin cells to promote healing with no or little scaring. Apply aloe gel 2-3 times a day to the area/wound until it is healed.

Use aloe vera gel for general skin care. Use the gel alone or along with your favorite skin cream to help better soften and moisturize the skin. Because aloe regenerates skin cells it is also known to reduce wrinkles, eczema, acne, sun/age spots, and other blemishes. It is also gentle enough to use to care for the tender skin after radiation therapy.

The gel taken from the aloe vera plant can also be combined with wheat-germ oil and safflower flower to reduce bruising.

Applying aloe vera gel to the scalp is a good treatment for dandruff, seborrhea (dermatitis), psoriasis and hair loss that has resulted from these conditions.

Use the gel from an aloe vera plant to substitute your commercial hair gel; rub or comb small amounts through your hair and style as usual.

Apply aloe vera gel directly to damaged or diseased gums to reduce inflammation, pain, and to promote healing. Include aloe gel in dental hygiene regimens to help fight tooth decay and reduce plaque.

To create an eyewash, dissolve ½ tsp of powdered aloe gel in one cup of water. To accelerate the healing process add one teaspoon of boric acid. Pour the solution through a coffee filter before applying to the eyes.

Because the gel of the aloe vera plant is known to absorb quickly into the skin and reduce inflammation and pain, it also works well on sprains, strains, muscle pains and arthritic pain. Apply aloe gel along with a cold compress to the sore area 2-3 times per day.

Aloe gel is believed to provide relief from stomach disorders, kidney ailments, and headaches, just to name a few of aloe's internal healing benefits.

Using the yellow juice, called latex found just beneath the surface of the leaves can serve as a powerful laxative.

The gel from aloe vera also contains magnesium lactate that serves as an antihistamine, which may help to relieve sinus and chest inflammations caused by allergies.

Because aloe can have a strong laxative affect do not ingest the yellow latex found in the skin of the leaf or be cautious of the amount taken as a laxative. It is best to ingest aloe by gently blending the gel, taken from between the leafs, in a blender with juice or water.


If you are using oral corticosteroids, such as beclomethasone, methylprednisolone, or prednisone, it is important not to overuse or misuse Aloe vera juice. A potassium deficiency can develop, and you may experience toxic effects from the medication.

Although it is removed, in practice Aloe vera juice may sometimes still contain tiny quantities of the laxative compound found in aloe latex. Should you begin to have cramps or diarrhea do not ingest any more of the juice.

Allergies to aloe vera are very rare. Yet any food can be a potential allergen. Test a small amount on the inner arm to see if any reaction takes place. If no irritation on the skin is observed then it is generally tolerated. If ingestion causes diarrhea, then reduce the amount you ingest, increasing use slowly over several days until the desired amount is tolerated.

General Safety Advisory

The information in this document does not replace medical advice.

Before taking an herb or a botanical, consult a doctor or other health care provider -- especially if you have a disease or medical condition, take any medications, are pregnant or nursing, or are planning to have an operation.

Before treating a child with an herb or a botanical, consult with a doctor or other health care provider.

Like drugs, herbal or botanical preparations have chemical and biological activity. They may have side effects. They may interact with certain medications. These interactions can cause problems and can even be dangerous.

If you have any unexpected reactions to an herbal or a botanical preparation, inform your doctor or other health care provider


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