Aloe vera is one of those remedies that the more you learn about it, the more you wonder why we don’t all have one bottle sitting in the refrigerator at all times and one tube of it in our medicine cabinets. Although aloe vera is pretty well known for its ability to help with burns (or if you’re a Seinfeld fan, you might think to “just put some aloe on it” if you have a rash or other skin issue), it is also a pretty impressive healing agent for our insides. But first, let’s look a bit more at the science that surrounds this medicinal plant.
Aloe vera is a succulent perennial plant that is part of the lily family. It grows in Madagascar and also parts of Africa. Because of its popularity as a natural remedy, it is also cultivated at different places around the world, including the United States and Japan.
The big succulent leaves of the aloe plant contain a clear gel that you can squeeze out of the insides of a newly-cut leaf. I have been in homes where a little aloe plant grows in the kitchen so that if someone gets burned, he or she needs to just pick off a leaf, break it open, and apply the fresh thin gel to the injured area.
With this in mind, let’s look at the ways that aloe vera may help us on the outside of our bodies.
First, it can help our skin in a number of ways. From the burns that were just mentioned to irritated skin to sunburn and scrapes, aloe vera gel has natural substances that help to stop itching, reduce pain and swelling, and bring in more blood flow to the affected area. Researchers have looked at aloe vera to determine why it may have these soothing effects on our skin and they think that it may prevent the synthesis of a vasoconstrictor called thromboxane A2, which lessens blood flow and oxygen that goes to an injury. This thromboxane A2 guy sounds like a bully of sorts, heading over to the burned skin area to do its dirty work. But aloe vera steps in, tells thromboxane A2 to rid the road, and things remain status quo. In a 1995 study of about 27 people with moderately severe burns, the group that used aloe vera healed in an average of 12 days versus 18 days for the “put some Vaseline and a gauze dressing on it” group.
Aloe vera may also help reduce the painful effects of shingles. Shingles is well-known for being extremely painful, and aloe has been found to help soothe sore shingle skin. If you apply it directly to the painful areas, it should work pretty quickly to bring about relief from the pain, swelling and itching. And if you have psoriasis, aloe vera gel has been shown to be helpful for this as well. In one double-blind placebo-controlled study conducted in 1999, 60 people with psoriasis applied aloe to their affected areas three times a day for eight months. At the end of this time, a whopping 83 percent of the patients saw substantial improvement.
In the second part of this article, we’ll look at ways that aloe vera may help us on the inside of our bodies too!