The clear gel found in the leaves can be applied straight to the skin, while the juice – and sap – can be drunk or taken internally. Aloe vera is packed with 200 different essential nutrients, such as digestive enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and compounds that help promote skin calming and repair, including antioxidants.
So should we all invest in aloe vera? It might be time to make room in your first aid kit…
1. It cools irritated skin
Aloe vera is used in many medicinal and cosmetic skin creams, thanks to its healing properties. It contains salicylic acid, which has a soothing and anti-inflammatory action, polysaccharides to promote skin repair, and glycoproteins to reduce pain and inflammation. No wonder aloe is so effective at relieving sunburned skin.
It can also help with cuts, burns, grazes and rashes – including heat rash – and alleviates the symptoms of skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. A clinical trial by the Feinburg School of Medicine in Chicago also discovered that aloe vera could strengthen the skin, reduce wrinkles, and relieve redness and itching in those suffering from contact dermatitis.
2. It can fight wrinkles
Cleopatra was said to be a fan of aloe vera, using it as part of her skin care regime, and now science has backed her beliefs. A study published in the Annals of Dermatology found taking aloe vera supplements could help reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity and boost collagen production.
Applying fresh gel to the face may also help firm the skin, reduce puffy ‘eye bags’ and calm irritated acne.
3. It can relieve IBS symptoms
Aloe vera juice helps soothe and heal an irritated digestive tract. It has natural detoxifying abilities and can improve bowel regularity – although too much may have a laxative effect. It helps inhibit unfriendly bacteria and yeast in the gut too.
Evidence published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice also suggests that the anti-inflammatory effect of aloe vera juice can help treat gut conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, easing symptoms including bloating, pain and constipation.
4. It can ease arthritis
Many arthritis sufferers swear by a daily dose of aloe vera juice to help ease painful joints. And in 2008, Korean researchers discovered an ethanol extract of aloe really could help reduce the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
Try mixing the juice with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and ginger – also shown to ease arthritic joints – for a great pain-busting remedy.
5. It can calm cystitis
Cranberry is often the go-to natural remedy for cystitis, but aloe vera can help here too. Research by the Urology Wellness Centre in the US revealed that taking aloe capsules reduced symptoms in nearly 90 per cent of patients with interstitial cystitis (chronic irritable bladder syndrome), and they disappeared completely in nearly half of patients.
To add aloe vera to your daily diet, trying taking capsules, adding the gel to smoothies, or enjoy the latest ‘smart’ drink – aloe vera water. You’ll get all of the goodness but without having to grapple with any spiky leaves.
Looking for more natural remedies to boost your wellbeing? Our women’s health section could help.
This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.