Aloe Vera : Nature’s Bonanza to Health and Beauty
Introduction to Aloe Vera
Mother nature has abundant resources to help mankind live a healthy, meaningful and natural life. From the many wonders of nature’s botanical kingdom comes a wonderful plant “Aloe Vera” aptly known as “Pharmacy of Nature” for its fantastic medicinal properties. This leaf succulent is used throughout the world for its healing properties.
The Aloe Vera plant has been known and used for centuries for its health, beauty and skin care properties. The earliest mention of the Aloe Vera plant dates back to 1500 BC where it is mentioned in the Papyrus Ebers. Two thousand years ago the Greek scientists regarded Aloe Vera as the Universal Panacea (a remedy for all ills or difficulties). Alexander the Great used the herb to treat his soldier’s wounds. After conquering Persia, Alexander the Great was counseled by his tutor, Aristotle, to secure Socotra for its Aloe production. Alexander followed his tutor’s advice, and settled Greeks on the island to protect this resource. Cleopatra used it as a moisturiser for her skin and it is said that, she even bathed in it. Ayurveda mentions Aloe Vera as “Shital (cool), Tikta, Madhur (soothing), Tridosh Shamak (balances all three doshas – gastric, acidity, cough), Viryavardhak (increases strength), Rasayan (rejuvenating).” It further states the properties of Aloe Vera as: Chakshushya (good for eyes), Balkarak (gives strength). Helps in Yakrit Vridhi and Granthi (growth), Charma Rog Nashak (cures skin diseases), Raktavikar (blood purifier), Kaphajwarhar (reduces cough), Artarjanan (brain and menstruation), Vranropan (healer).
The name Aloe Vera or True Aloe probably stems from the Arabic word Alloeh meaning "Shining bitter substance". Though “Aloe” and “Aloe Vera” represent the same plant, “Aloe” implies much more than “Aloe Vera”. “Aloe Vera” represents specie where as “Aloe” encompasses Aloe Vera as well as the other species of Aloe plants. Botanically, Aloe Vera is Aloe Barbadensis Miller, which is one of about more than 250 species of Aloe. This specie has the maximum medicinal properties.
Although being used since centuries by people the world over, Aloe Vera has lately been rediscovered to scientifically substantiate its various folk uses and properties.
Aloe Vera – Beauty & Health
Reputed as one of the herbs in the beauty arsenals of Cleopatra, Aloe Vera today is showing up as a main ingredient in cosmetics as well as in health supplements. Aloe Vera is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-pruritic. Table 1 lists the properties and effects of Aloe Vera that makes it such a marvelous natural product for health and beauty.
Table 1: Aloe Vera – Beauty & Health
§ Natural Moisturiser and Cleanser
§ Acts as an astringent, reducing wrinkles
§ Anti-biotic, Anti-bacterial, Anti-viral and Anti-fungal
§ Anti-inflammatory, reducing pain, swelling, burning and inflammation
§ Anti-pruritic, stopping itching and burning
§ Stimulates healthy cell division
§ Breaks down dead tissues, cleaning the wound
§ Detoxifies the cells and the body and helps in blood purification
§ Boosts the immune system and natural healing mechanism of the body
§ Improves digestion and helps to normalise the functions of liver and kidneys
§ Helps to control diabetes and blood pressure
§ Dilates blood vessels to improve blood circulation
§ Anti-pyretic, reducing heat of fever under an ulcer
§ Helps to treat menstrual problems
§ Boosts the metabolism of the body to provide more energy
§ Has no adverse side effects and has Zero toxicity
Table 2 contains a list of principal illnesses and discomforts that Aloe Vera helps to prevent and control.
Table 2: Positive Health Effects of Aloe Vera on
One of the key areas in which properties of Aloe Vera have been found to be most beneficial is the skin. It’s a natural daily care to eliminate spots, enhance skin tone and rejuvenate ageing skin. Aloe Vera provides relief from minor cuts and burns, abrasions, sunburns, dry chafed skin, lip rashes, acne, itching, flaking, allergy rashes, insect bites, fever blisters, diaper rash etc. and skin diseases. Case studies prove that many patients, after treatment with Aloe Vera for various skin problems, commented that their skin quality had improved and felt softer and smoother skin. This is not surprising, as Aloe Vera has been added to many cosmetic products for many years because of its known rejuvenating action. It achieves this in several different ways. Firstly the polysaccharides act as moisturiser, retaining natural moisture and hydrating the skin. Secondly, Aloe Vera is absorbed into the skin and stimulates the fibroblasts to replicate themselves faster and it is these cells that produce the collagen and elastin fibres, so the skin becomes more elastic and less wrinkled. Aloe also makes the surface of the skin smoother because of its cohesive effect on the superficial flaking epidermal cells by sticking them together. It also possesses the ability to interfere with the enzyme that produces melanin deposits in the skin, preventing the formation of 'liver spots', which tend to form in ageing skin. If Aloe Vera is applied regularly and for long period, it helps the established spots to disappear.
The specific ways in which Aloe Vera promotes a healthy skin are as under:
1. It provides natural pH protection. Medical evidences show that Aloe Vera is nature’s own skin balancer. Its predilection of needs of tissue appear to offer the perfect compliment to cleansing, removing bacteria and fungus and supplying nourishment.
2. It has deep penetrating power. The lignin polysaccharides found in Aloe Vera are believed to possess an uncanny ability to penetrate down to all the layers of the skin, carrying other nutrients to the living cells of dermis and hypodermis.
3. It sloughs off dead cells from the epidermis. The proteolytic enzymatic activity is important in helping to slough off the dead cells, in creating a natural base on which tissues can form, in preventing the skin from becoming tough and leathery, in helping the pores to breathe and in unlocking the doors for beneficial products to cleanse and condition.
4. It feeds the skin with natural nutrients of paramount importance. It is a veritable storehouse of vitamins, minerals, reducing sugars and other natural nutrients that seem to flood into the system on an as-and-when-needed basis.
5. It stimulates healthy new cells through the activity of the amino acid complex. New cells are able to multiply rapidly at a normal healthy rate since amino acids are the building blocks for new cell formation.
6. It increases “natural” moisture. A significant advantage of young healthy glowing skin, is its ability to draw moisture from environment to lower levels of skin and to make it work to keep skin fresh, healthy and youthful.
How Aloe Vera works?
Although Scientists have not yet discovered all the secrets of how Aloe Vera works - they do realise that it is the “specific mixture of ingredients” in Aloe Vera that are responsible for giving the plant its wide range of healing powers.
Aloe Vera is a treasure chest of beneficial ingredients. It contains polysaccharides, glycosides, organic acids, plant hormones, plant sterols, amino acids, simple carbohydrates, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. It also contains folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, copper, chromium and zinc. These ingredients although beneficial individually, work synergistically to impart enormous medicinal properties to Aloe Vera.
Aloe Vera plants produces at least 6 antiseptic agents: Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamic acid, phenols, and sulphur. All these substances have the property to kill or control bacteria, fungus and viruses giving Aloe Vera the ability to eliminate internal and external infections. The Lupeol and salicylic acid are very effective painkillers.
Aloe Vera contains anti-inflammatory fatty acids, campesterol and plant sterols which are responsible for highly effective treatment for burns, cuts, scratches, abrasions, allergic reactions, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, acid indigestion, ulcers, plus many inflammatory conditions of the digestive system and other internal organs, including stomach, small intestine, colon, liver kidney and pancreas. The polysaccharides in Aloe Vera create a barrier that prevents moisture loss from the skin.
B-sitosterol is also a powerful anti-cholestromatic, which helps to lower harmful cholesterol levels. Aloe Vera contains at least 23 polypeptides, which helps to control broad spectrum of immune system diseases and disorders. The polypeptides, plus the anti-tumour agents Aloe emodin and Aloe lectins, explain its ability to control cancer.
To summarize, Aloe Vera can be used both internally and externally. It is obtained from the plants pulp containing approximately 200 biologically active substances, which can be broken down into the following groups:
· Vitamins - Antioxidants, A, C, B1, B2, B5, B6, D and Folic acid. Help to regulate metabolism.
· Minerals – Trace. For healthy growth
· Enzymes - Several different types. Improves digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as elimination of waste.
· Sugars - Immune system and detoxification
· Anthraquinones – Helps in gastrointestinal absorption, pain relief, anti bacterial, anti viral.
· Lignin - Helps other constituents penetrate skin.
· Saponins - Soapy substance, cleansing, anti bacterial / microbial.
· Salicylic Acids - Asprin like, anti inflammatory and analgesic
· Amino Acids – “Building Blocks” of the body.
· Fatty Acids - Anti inflammatory
Aloe Vera has the ability to heal, alleviate, and eliminate a monumental list of human diseases and disorders. A lot has been written and said on Aloe Vera. Though yet debated, the truth is that this plant does work! There are many satisfied users to support it, for it has amazingly changed their life. Therefore, its truly deserves the name, “Pharmacy of Nature”.
A Word of Caution for all Aloe Vera Users:
Identification of the right specie
Out of 250 species of Aloe, Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the specie, which has maximum medicinal properties.
Proper Location and Maturity
Aloe Vera being a semi-arid zone plant when grown in warm, desert like environments like Kutch and Rajasthan, gives optimum growth of its properties. The plant should be harvested only after complete maturation i.e. min. 36 months.
Perfect Processing And Quality Monitoring
Only properly stabilised Aloe Vera retaining all the nutrients should be used for medicinal purposes.
International Aloe Science Council Inc., USA has a stringent certification program to ensure Quality Aloe Vera products.
1. “Aloe Vera, A Scientific Approach” by Robert H. Davis
2. “Internal Uses of Aloe Vera”, By Ivan E. Danhof, M.D., Ph.D.
3. “Aloe Vera Produces Anti-Inflammatory, Immune Strengthening Effect On skin” By Steven R. Schechter N.D.
4. “Aloe Vera-A Natural Solution to Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Viruses and Fungi” By David E. Williams, M.D.
5. “The External use of Aloe”, By J. E. Crewe M.D. Minnesota Journal Of Medicine, October 1937
6. “Aloe Vera In The Treatment Of Burns and Scalds” By J. E. Crewe M.D. Minnesota Journal Of Medicine, August 1939
7. “Aloe Vera and other Topic Anti-bacterial Agents in Wound Healing” By John P. Heggers, Ph.D. & Wendell Winters, Ph.D.
and various other sources.
By : Manesh Shah and Purvi Shah
Manesh Shah a chemistry graduate with postgraduate diploma in Analytical chemistry is researching in Aloe Vera and Ayurveda for the past 10 years. He was invited by Ministry of Science and Technology, China as an all-expenses-paid guest to represent India in the workshop on Aloe Vera.
Purvi Shah a chemical engineer is involved in product development, manufacturing and marketing of Aloe Vera Health Care Products for Nu Ayur Care.
Nu Ayur Care
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 A famous medical book written in Egypt. This book lists scores of remedies or “cures” for a host of diseases, infections, and accidents.
 Pruritic: Marked by itching