Aloe Vera is a medicinal herb used internally for constipation and externally to relieve pain and stimulate healing of burns, wounds, sunburn a.d. possibly frostbite. Traditionally it has been known to influence digestion and reduce or eliminate worms. Other traditional uses have been in treating stomach disorders, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, amenorrhea, or suppressed menses, menstrual complaints, infections, herpes simplex viruses, .and skin diseases. It is also used as a beauty aid for the skin.
The aloe plant, a member of the lily family, is a common household plant originally from Africa. The most common and widely known species of aloe plant is aloe vera. Aloe vera plants have dark green leaves that look like small cacti but are soft and supple. The gel from aloe vera is a thin, clear, jelly-like substance found in the inner portion of aloe leaves. Aloe vera has played a role in medicine since the 4th century B.C., when ancient Greek doctors obtained it from the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean. In the 10th century A.D., its remedial powers were recommended to the British king Alfred the Great by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Muslims who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca are entitled to hang an Aloe plant over their doors as a talisman against evil. Aloe is a lily-like, succulent shrub with little if any stem. It produces about 25 fleshy, gray-green leaves in an upright, dense rosette. In Europe, Aloe is used almost exclusively as a digestive aid and laxative. Elsewhere, the gel from the inner leaf is a popular ingredient in many skin preparations and cosmetics. The laxative component of the plant works by preventing the absorption of water from the bowel, thus increasing the volume of its contents and hastening their passage. This component of Aloe also kills bacteria and is active against a variety of viruses, including herpes, chickenpox, and flu. The gel from the inner leaf, usually called Aloe Vera, has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties. However, tests of its medicinal value has been quite contradictory. Some researchers have found that it speeds wound healing, others have reported that it actually interferes with healing. It seems to protect skin from the effects of frostbite, and has been proven effective against common psoriasis.
The constituents that cause the cathartic laxative effects of aloe latex are known as anthraquinone glycosides. These molecules are split by the normal bacteria in the large intestines to form other molecules (aglycones), which exert the laxative action. Various constituents have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as to stimulate wound healing. Preliminary evidence also suggests an antibacterial effect. Because of its nauseating taste, it is generally used in powder or pill form when taken for a purgative. It also tends to gripe and cause a constipative reaction, so that it should be combined with a carminative for best results. The fresh leaves of the aloe can be split to expose the gelatinous juice and then rubbed on the skin for sunburn, wrinkles, headache, insect bites, skin irritations, and minor cuts, ulcers, sores, herpes, jaundice, bursitis, canker sores, sore gums, and scratches. The fresh juice is also said to help heal wounds by preventing or drawing out infection, and for poison ivy. Rub the scalp with aloe and it keeps the hair from falling out. A tea made from the dried juice makes a good wash for wounds and for the eyes.