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The aloe plant has been used medicinally for over 5000 years. Aloe was mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts for its medicinal use and depicted in Egyptian stone carvings as ‘the plant of immortality’. Other common names for aloe throughout history include ‘First Aid Plant’ and ‘the wand of heaven’.
Aloe vera is native to southern Africa. It was brought to the Americas in ...Read more the 16th century, and is now cultivated across the world. Aloe vera is a strong, succulent plant with fleshy leaves that can weigh up to 1.5kg each!
Aloe vera for the skin
Aloe vera is perhaps best known for its use in topical skin products. Aloe gel, a jelly-like substance found in the centre of the aloe vera leaf, is thought to have healing and moisturising properties. It has a tradition of use for burns, supporting wound healing, for dry, irritated or inflamed skin, and for various skin conditions. Because of this, aloe is commonly used as an ingredient in modern cosmetic and therapeutic skin products, but aloe vera gel can also be found on its own as a skin treatment.
Aloe vera for our health
When consumed as a juice, gel or other supplement, aloe vera may support many other aspects of our health too. Most supplements use mainly the gel from the centre of the aloe vera leaf, which contains many active substances, including a carbohydrate called acemannan, as well as tannins, sterols, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. This part of the aloe vera leaf may have protective effects for the digestive tract, and is thought to benefit the immune system. Aloe vera is also thought to have antifungal and antimicrobial properties, anti-inflammatory benefits, and may even support liver health and blood sugar balance. Aloe may also improve absorption of other nutrients from foods and supplements.
Aloe vera latex is a bitter sap produced under the leaf’s skin. It contains substances called anthraquinones, which stimulate the colon and have laxative properties. This part of the aloe leaf may be used in laxative or ‘bowel cleansing’ supplements but is not usually contained in other aloe vera supplements.
How do I choose an aloe vera product?
When looking for an aloe vera skin gel, we would advise choosing one with the highest possible content of aloe vera juice or gel and minimal other ingredients. Most importantly, make sure that aloe vera is always the first on the ingredients list!
If you’re looking for aloe vera juice, gel or supplement to use internally, the choice is endless! Some do contain the bitter aloe latex and are targeted towards ‘bowel cleansing’ – this is usually obvious from the packaging. If you’re looking for the other health benefits of aloe, most other good quality aloe vera juices/gels are suitable. Some use the inner leaf only, automatically excluding the bitter, laxative parts found in the outer leaf. But ‘whole leaf’ aloe vera juices/gels that have had the bitter latex gently removed are also now commonly available, and may be used for the same purpose. Some people say that ‘whole leaf’ aloe vera products may have greater benefits for the immune system. The ‘inner leaf’ juices and gels may have a milder taste, and may be gentler for those who are very sensitive. Whichever type you choose, go for an aloe vera juice that has minimal other ingredients such as preservatives.
If you would like help choosing an aloe vera supplement or skin product, or are pregnant or taking any prescribed medication, give our nutritionists a call on 0345 2222 828 (option 3).
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