the plant with a myriad of benefits
Written by Paul Musset, Doctor in Pharmacy | published on | updated on 08/04/2020
Aloe vera - while almost everyone has heard of it, very few are fully aware of its benefits and its wide range of potential applications. Let us reveal the multitude of practical and delicious secrets of this succulent plant.
So, what is the aloe vera plant?
History and origins
Aloe vera is thought to originate from Africa and some of the islands in the Indian Ocean. It has grown in the wild there for several thousand years. It is now farmed on an industrial scale in many different countries, including the USA, Mexico and the Philippines.
People have harnessed the many beneficial properties of aloe vera for more than 5,000 years. In Ancient Greece, aloe vera was a key ingredient in the treatment of ulcers, while in Egypt, it was used for its beneficial skincare properties. And it even made the journey to China some 4,000 years ago to be used in phytotherapy remedies.
What can be produced using aloe vera?
Aloe vera can be used to produce a number of different substances, each with its own distinct uses.
- One of these is latex, the bitter yellow sap found just underneath the bark. Aloe vera latex contains aloin, a molecule which has laxative properties, and can therefore be used to treat constipation. Aloe vera latex should only be consumed in moderation, as excessive doses can be toxic for the stomach.
- The gel is extracted from the pulp of the aloe vera plant and can be used internally or externally. It has a wide range of beneficial properties for the skin, but it is also an excellent food supplement for the body.
A rich, complete composition
Aloe vera leaves contain over 75 active compounds, 20 minerals, 20 amino acids and 12 vitamins and this explains why it has such a wide range of uses in cosmetic products, food supplements and complementary therapies for a variety of ailments.
What are the benefits of aloe vera?
How can this plant be used?
Aloe vera is mainly used on the outside of the body. The gel creates a film comprising 99 % water with a pH of 4.5, which is the same as the skin, making it an incredibly useful skincare product. It allows the quick, simple and effective treatment of a range of skin problems.
Aloe vera can also be taken internally, particularly as an ingredient in food. The inner part of the leaf is edible. This is the aloe vera pulp, which is entirely translucent and which is used to extract the gel. This part of the plant can be eaten as it is, but we advise that you combine it with other ingredients (in a smoothie, for instance), as it is rather bland. Aloe vera can also be added to hot food (such as soups), but this should only be done at the end of the cooking process in order not to destroy its enzymes.
The many benefits of aloe vera
Contributes to the effective functioning of your intestines
Aloe vera juice, ideally consumed raw, has antiseptic properties that prevent the proliferation of viruses and bacteria in the digestive system. It is also an anti-inflammatory and has a soothing effect on the digestion, reducing stomach pain and heartburn.
Effectively tackles skin problems
When applied to the skin, aloe vera is known to reduce facial acne and help to treat the symptoms of genital herpes. It also effectively speeds up the healing process.
Aloe vera contains aloe leucine, a substance that stimulates cellular regeneration and accelerates the healing of ulcers.
Combats diabetes and dental plaque
The plant reduces the blood’s glucose levels and stimulates the production of insulin. Drinks containing aloe vera pulp come in the form of juices or gels. The antibacterial properties of aloe vera help to reduce dental plaque when used as a mouthwash.
One of Cleopatra's beauty secrets
Known for her lavish use of cosmetics, Queen Cleopatra relied on more than just donkey milk to maintain her legendary beauty. According to ancient fragments of papyrus, she also used to massage her skin with aloe vera gel to rejuvenate it and restore her radiant complexion. She also used it as drops to enhance her eyes.
Aloe vera - a key player in the cosmetics world
Aloe vera for the hair
When it comes to haircare, aloe vera has a number of beneficial properties. Beautiful hair needs hydration. At 99 % water, aloe vera provides perfect deep-down hydration to your hair. Apply aloe vera gel to your damp hair, or straight onto your irritated scalp. Aloe vera is suitable for both greasy and dry hair and can even stimulates hair growth. To use aloe vera, either buy readily available products (shampoo, masks) or extract the gel from the pulp yourself and apply it to your hair.
Aloe vera for the skin
Aloe vera has soothing properties. It is therefore very useful for those suffering from psoriasis or eczema, as it can help to reduce itching. By harnessing its soothing properties, it can be used to treat burns, radiation dermatitis and sunburn. Soothing aloe vera gel is a very effective way of relieving the itchiness caused by insect bites. Aloe vera also has the advantage of being suitable for both dry and greasy skin, thanks to its hydrating and sebum-regulating properties. Aloe vera is used externally to treat the skin, as a gel extracted from the pulp of the plant and applied topically to the skin.
Aloe vera for daily use
A wide range of daily skincare products contain aloe vera.
Start by moisturising your skin deep down using creams formulated with aloe vera. These can be applied to both the face and the body. Then nourish your hair and your scalp using a shampoo containing aloe vera.
Aloe vera has a myriad of benefits for the whole body, from the skin, the hair and the digestion to treatments for diabetes. Aloe vera may have been around for thousands of years, but its popularity is sure to continue.
Three key takeaways in relation to aloe vera:
- Aloe vera produces two distinct substances: latex and gel. The former comes from the bark, while the latter from the centre of the leaves.
- Aloe vera can be applied externally and consumed internally.
- One of aloe vera’s major benefits is its lack of unpleasant side effects, allowing it to be used and enjoyed by everyone.