The incredible Aloe Vera

The incredible Aloe Vera needs no introduction. Its benefits are well-known, which is why it has earned a permanent place in many a household. Be it a sunburn or a bad case of acne, aloe vera is a treatment you can always rely on. But, did you know that the humble aloe vera has so much more to offer? Aloe vera is a succulent plant and stores water in its leaves, which are thick and fleshy. The leaves produce two substances – the gel, which is more or less water with several other nutrients mixed in, and the sap, which is also known as aloe latex.

The ‘plant of immortality’, as it was called by Egyptians, also known as ‘Ghritkumari’ in Hindi, ‘Kalabanda’ in Telugu, ‘Katralai’ in Tamil, ‘Kumari’ in Malayalam, ‘Lolisara’ in Kannada, ‘Koraphada’ in Marathi, and ‘Ghrtakumari’ in Bengali can perform miracles not just for your skin, but for your hair and health as well.

Aloe Vera Benefits

Benefits For Skin

  1. Prevents Signs Of Aging
  2. Moisturizes Skin
  3. Reduces Acne And Helps Lighten Blemishes
  4. Helps With Sunburns And Reduces Tan
  5. Heals External Wounds And Insect Bites
  6. Reduces Stretch Marks

Benefits For Hair

  1. Promotes Hair Growth
  2. Reduces Dandruff
  3. Maintains pH Balance Of The Scalp
  4. Conditions Hair

Benefits For Health

  1. Reduces Inflammation
  2. Eases Heartburn And Acid Reflux
  3. Reduces Cholesterol And Regulates Blood Sugar
  4. Maintains Oral Health
  5. Builds Immunity
  6. Lowers Risk Of Cancer
  7. Helps In Treating Hemorrhoids

Benefits For Skin

Aloe vera soap and gel come loaded with several nutrients like glycerin, sodium palmate, sodium carbonate, sodium palm kemelate, sorbitol, etc. These are good for the skin and nourish your skin from within, giving you the skin that glows with health.

1. Prevents Premature Signs Of Aging

Wrinkles and fine lines are bound to appear as you age. But, other factors may expedite what is a natural process. Aloe vera helps in preventing these early signs of aging.

How To Use

A moisturizing pack made with aloe vera, olive oil, and oatmeal can make your skin smoother and softer.

What You Need

  • 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon instant oatmeal

What You Have To Do

  1. Add all the ingredients in a bowl, and mix till they form a paste.
  1. Apply the paste on your face and keep it on for 30 minutes.
  1. Rinse with cold water.

Why Does It Work

As your skin ages, it tends to get drier and loses its elasticity. This makes it more susceptible to wrinkles and fine lines. Aloe moisturizes the skin, and it also helps remove dead cells. In fact, research has proven that aloe vera improves the elasticity of skin and makes it smoother and more supple (1).

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2. Moisturizes Skin

Aloe vera gel has been touted by many as their go-to moisturizer. It has shown miraculous effects on oily and acne-prone skin.

How To Use

Aloe vera gel can be directly extracted from the plant and applied to your skin. Alternatively, there are plenty of ready-to-use aloe gels available in the market. But if you are opting for them, make sure that the aloe vera gel in it constitutes 90 to 100 percent of the product.

What You Need

An Aloe vera leaf

What You Have To Do

  1. Peel off the outer layer of the aloe leaf to get to the gel.
  1. Scoop out the gel and store it in a container.
  1. Gently massage the gel on your face. Store the rest in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera increases the water content in your skin, and leaves it hydrated without making it greasy (2).

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3. Reduces Acne And Helps Lighten Blemishes

The aloe gel can work wonders on your skin by reducing acne and clearing the blemishes and scars that get left behind.

How To Use

Aloe vera mixed with a few drops of lemon juice, can help in the reduction of acne and acne scars. Adding lemon juice is important because lemon possesses skin lightening properties that can help with blemishes (3).

What You Need

  • 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
  • 2 to 3 drops lemon juice

What You Have To Do

  1. Add the lemon juice to the aloe vera gel and combine them together.
  1. Massage the gel on your face. This is best used as an overnight treatment.

Alternative: You can even use a branded aloe vera soap as well.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera is an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent because of the presence of gibberellins and auxins. This helps reduce your acne. It also contains polysaccharides that stimulate the growth of new cells. This speeds up the healing process for acne and prevents scarring (4).

Caution

The use of lemon can increase your sensitivity to the sun (5). Using a sunblock before stepping out in intense sunlight is advisable.

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4. Helps With Sunburns

Aloe vera is widely used as an after-sun treatment because it is soothing and reduces inflammation.

How To Use

Aloe vera gel can be applied directly to the sunburned area.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera, owing to its anti-inflammatory properties, reduces the redness brought on by exposure to UV rays and soothes the skin (6). It acts on the epithelial skin layer and provides a protective layer to the skin for retaining moisture. Since aloe vera contains a lot of antioxidants and nutritional properties, the skin is able to prevent the moisture from escaping, which in turn heals the sunburn quickly.

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5. Heals External Wounds And Insect Bites

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory, which makes it effective against wounds and insect bites.

How To Use

Aloe vera gel can be used as a topical treatment for small cuts, bruises, and insect bites. It can also be used as an aftershave lotion to soothe irritated skin.

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6. Reduces Stretch Marks

Why Does It Work

With the passing of age, our skin expands and contracts just like elastic. When the skin stretches very far, like during the pregnancy or due to rapid weight gain, the elasticity of the skin gets damaged, which results in ugly stretch marks. These marks are nothing but small tears on the skin layers, which can be healed with the regular use of aloe vera soap.

Benefits For Hair

Aloe-Vera-Benefits-For-Hair

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7. Promotes Hair Growth

Aloe vera is not just great for your skin; it also has a number of benefits for your hair. Topical application of aloe vera can help promote hair growth.

How To Use

Aloe vera, when used along with castor oil, can help with hair growth.

What You Need

  • 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel
  • 1 tablespoon castor oil

What You Have To Do

  1. Mix the aloe vera gel and the castor oil.
  1. Gently massage the concoction into your scalp.
  1. Keep it on overnight, and rinse with a gentle shampoo.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera removes dead cells from the scalp, which allows your hair to grow (7).

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8. Reduces Dandruff

Aloe vera is a widely used ingredient in many commercial shampoos and conditioners. This is because it works wonders for dandruff and dandruff-related problems such as an itchy scalp.

Why Does It Work

Dandruff can be caused by a number of reasons. An oily scalp, accumulation of dead cells, or even an infection can be the cause. And aloe helps out on all fronts. It removes dead cells from your scalp that can clog your hair. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which fight against infections and soothe the scalp.

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9. Maintains pH Balance Of The Scalp

When the pH balance of your hair is disrupted, it can lead to endless hair problems. Aloe can help maintain the pH balance of your hair.×

Why Does It Work

The pH of your scalp is 5.5, which makes it fall on the acidic side. A lot of the commercial hair products, especially shampoos, contain surfactants which can alter the pH of your scalp and hair because they are alkaline in nature. This can result in damaged and unruly hair (8). Aloe Vera helps restore your scalp’s pH balance, which promotes healthier and better hair.

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10. Conditions Hair

Aloe vera can put even the best conditioners to shame. It is moisturizing in nature, and hence, strengthens your hair and adds shine.

How To Use

You can use aloe vera gel as a conditioner right after you shampoo, or even as a leave-in treatment.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera contains proteolytic enzymes that remove dead cells (9). It helps in cell regeneration, which helps repair your hair. It also infuses your hair with moisture, leaving it smooth and glossy.

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Benefits For Health

Glass-of-aloe-vera-juice

11. Reduces Inflammation

Consuming aloe vera juice can help reduce inflammation.

How To Use

Aloe vera juice is available commercially. But if you have a plant, there is no reason why you cannot make fresh juice on your own.

What You Need

  • 1 aloe vera leaf
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey

What You Have To Do

  1. Cut off a leaf of aloe vera.
  1. Peel off the outer layer. Make sure that you remove the aloe latex, which is the yellow sap that lies underneath the outer leaf.
  1. Scoop out the gel, and carefully wash to remove any residual sap.
  1. Place the gel in a blender. Add the water and the honey, and blend to combine all the ingredients.

Why Does It Work

One of the causes for inflammation is oxidative damage, which is caused due to the free radicals in your body that damage your cells. It is common knowledge that aloe vera is rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants bind with the free radicals and help manage the inflammation (10).

Caution

Aloe latex has laxative properties and can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

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12. Eases Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Aloe vera juice has been used in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD causes symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, and trouble with swallowing, and aloe juice is an effective cure.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties which soothe the stomach lining and the esophagus. It also helps fight against pathogens that cause gastrointestinal problems (11).

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13. Reduces Cholesterol And Regulates Blood Sugar

Although it is still in its preliminary stages, research has shown that aloe vera can help reduce cholesterol. It also helps in maintaining blood sugar, which is why it is often used as a supplement by diabetics.

Why Does It Work

Clinical trials have shown that aloe vera can reduce the concentration of cholesterol in your vital organs (12). It can also reduce blood glucose levels.

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14. Maintains Oral Health

There have been claims that aloe vera can be as effective as any toothpaste when it comes to maintaining your oral hygiene. With four ingredients, this gel-based toothpaste with aloe vera is great for your teeth. You can make it in less than five minutes, and the benefits of Aloe Vera gel make the toothpaste soothing and refreshing, which promotes dental health, helps moisturize your gums and treating wounds in the mouth.

How To Use

You can make aloe vera toothpaste at home.

What You Need

  • 3 tsp. of Aloe Vera gel (freshly extracted)
  • 5 tsp. of baking soda
  • 5 tsp. of vegetable glycerin
  • Freshly chopped mint
  • Eucalyptus oil or Peppermint essential oil
  • Glass jar
  • Plastic container

What You have to Do

  1. Find some fresh Aloe Vera. You can consider buying Aloe Vera gel, but freshly extracted Aloe Vera gel is more potent, and has no additional chemicals in it. Proceed to extract the gel from the Aloe Vera plant.
  1. To extract the gel, you need to chop the Aloe Vera’s spikes and slit the fleshy parts open using a sharp knife.
  1. Now, proceed to scrape the gel off using a knife or a spoon.
  1. Beat the transparent gel to a pulp with the back of the spoon or the flat side of the knife.
  1. Chop the mint leaves up finely. Alternatively, you can consider using some eucalyptus essential oil or peppermint essential oil.
  1. Now add the baking soda, glycerin, mint or the eucalyptus essential oil to the glass jar and mix well.
  1. Let the mixture settle down and store it in the glass jar, or use a plastic container if you travel often.
  1. Your Aloe Vera toothpaste is ready to use.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera gel, owing to its antibacterial properties, can help fight against cavity-causing bacteria. It also helps with diseases that cause gum inflammation, particularly periodontitis (13).

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15. Builds Immunity

The intake of aloe vera can boost your immune system.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera propels cells to produce nitric oxide and cytokines, which help with your immune system (14).

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16. Lowers The Risk Of Cancer

The impact of aloe vera on the immune system is closely linked to its antitumor and anticancer properties.

Why Does It Work

Aloe vera boosts your immune system, which indirectly helps your body fight against tumors. Studies have also shown that it can shrink the size of tumors and increase the survival rate of those with cancer (15).

Caution

Aloe latex is considered to be unsafe for consumption (16). It can cause gastrointestinal problems, and can be lethal in higher doses.

The aloe gel should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women. It may aggravate any intestinal conditions and kidney problems. Aloe vera lowers blood sugar, so diabetics and people who are about to undergo surgery should monitor their blood sugar levels.

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17. Helps In Treating Hemorrhoids

When it comes to the natural treatment of piles, Aloe Vera is very popular. Its many beneficial properties give this amazing plant the ability to heal this painful condition.

Why Does It Work

Its anti-inflammatory properties diminish inflammations inside and out and help in alleviating bowel irregularities and intestinal problems. It makes stool soft and easy to pass, thereby reducing the pressure brought on by strain. Anthraquinones, one of Aloe Vera’s key ingredients, help in stimulating contractions on the walls of the digestive tract.

How To Use

If you have Aloe Vera plant growing in your home, you are in luck. It is what you need to gain relief from burning, itching, irritation, and pain caused by hemorrhoids. You can use it in the following ways

Break the leaf’s bottom part and apply the gel that you get from it directly on the affected area. Use your index finger to gently and evenly massage the gel on the affected area.

The gel can also be applied inside with the help of a syringe to treat and heal internal hemorrhoids. It helps in reducing pain as well as bleeding.

The gel can be applied as often as required. However, remember not to apply it after a bath, after bowel movements, or before going to bed.

Caution

Using Aloe Vera topically does not come with any significant side effects. However, consuming it could cause blood sugar levels to go down – so diabetic patients should be cautious if they are taking it as a remedy for piles.

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How To Select And Store Aloe Vera

Aloe-vera-water

The aloe vera plant thrives in hot and dry climatic conditions. So, if you want your plant to grow properly, it is important that the plant receives enough sunlight and warmth. While it certainly needs water, too much of it can actually hamper its growth and cause it to rot. One of the signs that you are watering your plant too much is when the leaves turn yellow. This indicates that the leaves are saturated with water, so you should cease watering the plant for a while. You also should not use fertilizers on the soil the aloe vera plant grows in. Rather than helping the plant, it may hamper its growth.

For harvesting the gel, it is best that you use the outermost leaves. They tend to be fleshier than the newer ones, and therefore contain more gel. Make a clean cut with a sharp knife as close to the base as possible. Then, place the leaves upright for a while so that the sap drains out. This is a very important step if you are planning on consuming aloe vera. After the leaves have been cleared of the sap, peel off the outermost green layer. This leaves you with the clear gel, which you can scoop out with a spoon. If you are planning on ingesting the aloe vera gel, do so immediately. For topical application, it can be stored for a longer time in the refrigerator.  Always use a sterilized container to store your gel in order to keep it from spoiling. For a longer shelf life, you may add a few drops of vitamin E to it.

Aloe vera is a very versatile plant, and all its benefits probably cannot be summed up. Do you know of any more benefits it has to offer? Or interesting things that can be done with it? Do let us know in the comments section below.

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