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For thousands of years, humans have used the aloe vera plant in various ways—as a wound and burn dressing, as an embalming fluid, and as a beauty aid to help keep the skin soft. And in the U.S., the plant, which is thought to have originated in Egypt and the Middle East, was commonly used as a laxative as early as the 1800s. These days, the most popular aloe vera uses benefit the skin, but due to its natural healing properties, it can be used for so much more.
The aloe plant itself is packed with water and contains significant amounts of vitamins B, C, and E, as well as folic acid. Plus, it’s a good source of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
So, now that we know a little bit more about aloe vera, let’s review its top five health benefits.
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1. Aloe vera helps burns, wounds and rashes heal faster.
We already know that aloe vera is effective at soothing sunburns, but it can also help heal both minor and post-surgery wounds. One study found that women whose C-section wounds were dressed with 100 percent fresh aloe vera gel for 24 hours after surgery showed significant improvement in healing compared to the control group.
Daily aloe vera use can also greatly improve the symptoms of those living with mild-to-moderate plaque psoriasis. A recent study found that aloe vera may be more effective than the prescription cream triamcinolone acetonide.
Aloe vera has also been shown to help blisters and cold sores caused by the Herpes simplex virus to heal faster due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Dentistry.
2. Frequent aloe vera use can benefit your heart.
Studies show that consuming aloe vera decreases LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while increasing HDL “good” cholesterol levels by lowering the liver’s cholesterol production by as much as 30 percent. But the benefits don’t stop there. Aloe vera’s high vitamin C content can help lower blood pressure, while other nutrients present in it can dilate capillaries and boost blood oxygenation. And when combined with psyllium fiber, a recent study showed that it can decrease the frequency of angina attacks and stabilize the heart’s rhythm. For more details, check out our article, “6 Health Benefits of Aloe Vera Juice for Your Heart.”
HOW TO USE ALOE VERA
Aloe vera is commonly applied or consumed via a topical ointment, tonic or supplement. But which form is best for the condition being treated? Follow these general guidelines.
Apply aloe vera gel/topical ointment directly onto skin for:
- Burns and wounds
- Blisters and cold sores
If you prefer to extract the gel directly from the aloe plant, follow these tips.
Drink aloe vera juice according to your doctor’s instructions for:
- Heart health
- Immune health
- Digestive health
Aloe vera juice should be refrigerated immediately after purchasing to ensure a long shelf life.
Aloe vera supplements can often be used in place of the juice for most of the benefits mentioned above (except for hydration). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult your doctor.
3. It helps relieve ulcerative colitis symptoms.
A study conducted in 2004 showed that aloe vera had a positive effect on patients with active ulcerative colitis. Those who took 100 mL of aloe vera gel twice daily for four weeks saw significant improvement in symptoms, and 30 percent saw clinical remission after four weeks. There are, however, some important things to remember. While aloe vera uses can include constipation relief, it’s not generally recommended because it can cause abdominal cramping or diarrhea, so check with your doctor before using aloe vera to treat your digestive issues.
4. It may help your acne prescription medications work better.
We’ve learned that aloe vera has healing properties that are beneficial to wounds and burns, but a recent study showed that it can also help heal acne. Dermatologists often prescribe topical retinoids to treat mild-to-moderate acne, but in this study, tretinoin cream was combined with aloe vera gel to assess its effectiveness. The combination reduced both inflammation and the number of lesions present on the skin better than a placebo or tretinoin cream alone. The combination therapy was also less irritating to the skin.
5. It can reduce dental plaque and gingivitis.
Over the last few years, aloe vera has gained popularity as an active ingredient in all-natural tooth gels to cleanse your teeth and gums, and fight cavities. In fact, researchers have found that some varieties of aloe vera tooth gel can be just as effective as commercial toothpaste at fighting germs found in your mouth. Not all aloe vera tooth gels are made equally, though. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, a stabilized form of aloe vera gel must be used in order for it to be effective. Look for a seal of quality by the International Aloe Science Council on any dental products containing aloe vera.