ALOE VERA (ALOE BARBADENSIS)
Medicinal use and Health Benefits
Man has used aloe for over 5000 years. Egyptians first wrote of the healing powers of the plant on their ancient papyrus texts calling it the plant of immortality. Cleopatra and Nefertiti bathed in aloe juice to retain their youth and beautiful looks. Aloe is mentioned several times in the Bible. It was used in the burial of Jesus. History and legend tells that Aristotle convinced Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socotra in order to collect aloe plants to use as medicine for his soldiers. Greek writer Dioscorides made detailed accounts of aloe’s uses. Aloe’s influence spread far and wide. In our century, we have the opportunity to read numerous books, hundreds of scientific papers and search the internet to discover the many benefits of aloe.
Research studies highlight the tremendous healing powers of aloe when used both internally and externally.
Some of the benefits include: as a pain and allergy inhibitor, for inflammation, fluid retention, perspiration odours, itching, hemorrhaging and to close cuts for cell regeneration and healing, to destroy parasites, harmful bacteria and fungi in the intestinal tract, to relieve bowel tension and help produce bowel movements, moisturise skin, increase blood flow, remove toxins and dead tissue, penetrate skin to reach tendons, muscles, joints and the lymph system, and promote the growth of new tissue. It also has a normalising action on fluid levels and the acid/ alkaline balance in the body. Research has shown that aloe vera can increase the proliferation of lymphocytes and stimulate natural immunity through killer cell activity. Aloe has a strong effect on the immune system, by activating and stimulating macrophages, monocytes, antibodies and T-cells, as well as increasing the number of anti-body forming Bcells in the spleen.
One of the most important functions of aloe is to aid the digestive system.
Poor digestion can be responsible for many diseases. Our food comprises proteins, carbohydrates and fats that must undergo a process of digestion, which consists of breaking down complex substances into simpler ones so they can be absorbed and used by the body. Aloe is able to assist the body by providing the active properties of a large range of amino acids, monosaccharides, fatty acids and enzymes that act as catalysts in breaking down complex foods so the body can assimilate the nutrients more efficiently. Considerable in-vitro and in-vivo research has been done with the concentration of mucopolysaccharides (MSPs) found in aloe vera. MSPs are long-chained sugar molecules, which are found naturally in every cell of the body, however, around the time of puberty, the body stops producing them. When taken internally, they have been shown to have immune stimulating effects. The MSPs of aloe vera interact with the body’s immune system, enhancing rather than over-riding this system. MSPs interject themselves into the cell membranes of the body resulting in much greater cell fluidity and permeability, allowing toxins to flow out of the cells more freely and nutrients to flow in. These nutrients include electrolytes and water, so the MSPs are able to facilitate absorbtion in the gastro-intestinal tract.
Aloe vera has six antiseptic agents:
Sulphur, lupeol, salicylic acid, cinnamic acid, urea nitrogen and phenol which act as a team to provide antimicrobial activity thus eliminating many internal and external infections. The pain relieving action is due to the effective analgesics in salicylic acid, magnesium and lupeol. Fatty acids also have a pain reducing, allergy and inflammation relieving effect, and work to lower harmful cholesterol levels.
Gels from Aloe vera have been compared to those derived from other aloe species and with other plants belonging to the family Asphodelaceae. Bulbine frutescens, for example, is used widely for burns and a host of skin afflictions. Aloe vera extracts might have antibacterial and antifungal activities, which possibly could help treat minor skin infections, such as boils and benign skin cysts and may inhibit growth of fungi causing tinea. For bacteria, inner-leaf gel from aloe vera was shown in one study to inhibit growth of Streptococcus and Shigella species in vitro. In contrast, aloe vera extracts failed to show antibiotic properties against Xanthomonas species.
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