Legend has it that it was the wise Aristotle who persuaded Alexander the Great to conquer an island, called Socotra, off the east coast of Africa. The reason for this further war effort was a plant, with which the island was covered. This plant was characterized by fleshy leaves, filled with a medicinal gel, considered a true elixir of youth and a miraculous cure for the body. This plant was aloe vera, which Alexander the Great used to cure his army, tired by bloody battles. As often happens, tradition had already understood what science then, two millennia later, was able to demonstrate. Nowadays, aloe is considered a plant with interesting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, useful both internally and externally thanks to the 75 bioactive substances contained, but let's try to understand better.
Aloe and skin
Aloe gel is considered a real cosmetic and healing remedy. Topically, the aloe gel helps keep the skin hydrated, counteracting dry skin and itching. Not only that, in case of sunburn or burns, applying the aloe gel is soothing and regenerating for the tissues (Darzi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021). Finally, the aloe gel promotes the wound healing processes and counteracts the aging processes, since it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin (Darzi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021). You can apply fresh aloe gel, obtained from a cut aloe leaf, directly to the skin, even on the scalp, or you can buy it in specialized stores. Alternatively, you can use cosmetics that contain aloe gel.
Aloe and acne
Aloe gel is also useful in case of acne! In fact, this remedy is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial but also capable of counteracting hyperpigmentation, a condition that often occurs in case of acne due to the skin's reaction to inflammation but also to the use of anti-acne treatments that cause photosensitization (Zhang et al , Front Med, 2021). You can make a mask with green clay and aloe gel. In a small bowl, mix two tablespoons of clay and as much aloe gel, blended if extracted at home from a freshly cut leaf, as needed to obtain a creamy mixture. You can add a drop of tea tree essential oil with antiseptic action and a drop of chamomile essential oil, which soothes irritated skin. Apply to your face and leave on for ten minutes, then rinse and continue with your treatment.
Aloe, stomach and intestines
Aloe, when used internally, is gastroprotective. In fact, as evidenced by scientific research, its gel is antimicrobial and is useful in fighting the Helicobacter pylori bacterium, even if it is resistant to treatment. In this way, aloe helps prevent and fight gastric infections, soothes and reduces ulcers (Darzi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021 - Radha et al, J Tradit Complement Med., 2015). Not only that, aloe gel also counteracts stomach acid (Panahi et al, J Tradit Chin Med, 2015). And that's not all, in fact, aloe can also be useful in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, helping to calm cramps and inflammation (Hong et al, JNM; 2018).
Aloe and immune system
Acemannan is a substance present in aloe vera gel and which is characterized by antiviral properties, capable of interacting with the immune system and stimulating the production of white blood cells type T, specialized in recognizing cells infected by virus (Darzi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021). Finally, the anti-inflammatory action of aloe helps strengthen the immune system. Indeed, a constant level of chronic inflammation weakens our defenses (Radha et al, J Tradit Complement Med., 2015).
Aloe and its antioxidant and anticancer properties
The compounds present in aloe vera have shown interesting antioxidant properties, capable of counteracting the damage of free radicals and the aging processes of the body, and an anticancer effect. In particular, it has been observed that aloe can help to counteract the proliferation of cells with degeneration and to induce their apoptosis, that is, programmed death (Darzi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021). Not only that, these actions are also favored by the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe (Darzi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021). In fact, in the long term, chronic inflammation is fertile ground for an increase in free radical damage and cellular degeneration, as well as for an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and depression. In any case, aloe, although beneficial, should not be considered a cure capable of removing any tumors on its own. For this you need to rely on medicine, but aloe can certainly be part of a healthy and balanced diet, aimed at preventing mutations and degeneration.
Aloe, other properties
Aloe, warnings and side effects
Before using aloe vera gel topically, it is advisable to perform a test on a small part of the skin. In fact, itching and erythema may occur in predisposed people (Zhang et al, Front Med, 2021). As for internal use, do not prolong the treatment and limit yourself to using the gel for a few weeks, as problems such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps may occur. Also ask your doctor for advice if you are taking medicines as aloe could interact with these drugs. Finally, the trade of some aloe-based supplements has been banned in Europe since March 2021. These are not all aloe-based products but only those that exploit its laxative properties as, containing aloin, it is not excluded that they could result toxic in the long run. On the market, however, there are aloe-based preparations subjected to processing aimed at eliminating aloin and which are specially designed to be consumed internally, alone or added to smoothies and centrifuged. Avoid in pregnancy and breastfeeding.