Aloe vera is one of the chief plants used in folk-medicine. Its healing benefits were recognized in the ancient Indian, Chinese, Greek and Roman civilizations. The Egyptians refer to it as “the plant of immortality” and it is usually among the funeral gifts buried with the pharaohs. In the traditional setting, aloe vera is used for healing wounds, relieving itching as well as swelling and it is known for its antibacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
Aloe vera is a member of the lily family and is one to two feet tall. Its leaves are succulent, with a broad base, pointed tips and spines along the edges. Its leaves contain the healing gel which is 96% water, while the remaining 4% contains Vitamins A, B, C, and E; calcium; amino acids for protein building; and enzymes used in the digestive system. It has over 240 species but unfortunately, only four of them have medicinal values. The most potent of all the species is the aloe barbadensis and it is important to note that aloe vera, which is native to North Africa as well as Spain, is also grown in the hot regions of Asia, Europe and America.
The healing potential of aloe vera stems from its ability to prevent injury to the epithelial tissues and help in the healing of injured tissues. An epithelium is a layer of cells covering the body and our largest epithelium is the skin. Aloe is very beneficial in soothing many skin ailments like mild cuts, insect stings, bruises, eczema and so on. Research has also shown that it has antifungal as well as antibacterial properties and boosts blood flow to wounded areas. It also helps in the production of fibroblast (the skin cell responsible for wound healing) and collagen (the protein that controls the aging process of the skin as well as wrinkling).
Moreover, when aloe vera juice is taken internally, it aids digestion, helps control blood sugar, boosts energy production, promotes cardiovascular health and improves the immune system. It helps in clearing toxins from the digestive system and improves the functioning of the liver, kidneys as well as gall bladder. Its anti-inflammatory fatty acids alkalize the digestive juices and guide against acidity which causes indigestion. These fatty acids are not only beneficial to the stomach but also to the small intestine and colon. However, it is not advisable for pregnant women and children under five years of age to take aloe vera internally.