WHAT IS ALOE VERA?
The word “aloe” probably derives from the Arabic “alloeh” which means “bitter substance” or from the Greek “Alos” which means “sea”. It is designated with the Latin word “vera” because in the old times this variety was considered the most effective in popular medicines. It grows in tropical climates, in sandy and arid land. In appearance, aloe looks like a cactus, but it actually belongs to the lily family, like garlic, lily, asparagus or tulip. It is a succulent plant species, that is, it contains a lot of juice. Precisely that succus is loaded with extraordinary properties which makes it the undisputed queen of medicinal plants.
Between all the aloes, only a few have therapeutic properties (aloe vera barbadensis, aloe arborescens, ferocious aloe, aloe chinensis, aloe succotrina, aloe vulgaris …). Here we refer to Aloe Barbadensis Miller, also known as aloe vera (true aloe), species that focuses most studies due to their extraordinary qualities, and from which has been found by many tests and biochemical analysis, a cocktail of active molecules which interacts synergistically and is essential to the prevention and cure of many diseases and ailments.
It is very common to confuse aloes with agaves, commonly known as pitas. Unlike aloes, agaves are tough and fibrous, with strongest and sharpest spines; they only bloom once throughout their life and their young leaves are not grouped cone-shaped. Leaf of Aloe plant is composed of three parts: the skin, composed of an external part that is waxy and an internal part. The aloin, which has a yellow-green colour, is laxative, irritating and has a bitter taste. And the pulp or gel, which is the most internal, transparent and insipid part we used for juices, drinking juices and many other solutions.
How to identify a quality aloe vera?
The difference between fresh aloe vera with pulp and freeze-dried aloe vera or aloe vera extract. The aggressive dehydration processes with high temperatures and pressure, to which aloe is subjected to turn into powder, destroy its properties. These powders, usually from China, India or Mexico and after being mixed with water, are marketed as Aloe, even they are labelled as aloe from Canary Islands, just because the extract has been mixed with water in the Islands. But it is a fraud because it is not aloe from Canary Islands and therefore profits on your health are non-existent. A 90% of aloe products which are sold in the market are produced with dead aloe.
APPLICATIONS AND THERAPEUTIC USES
The aloe vera plant is used to solve many problems, mainly related to skin treatment. Here are some of its most important therapeutic applications:
Heartburn and digestion
Aloe normalizes the pH, decreases heartburn and promotes balance between gastrointestinal bacteria. Furthermore, aloe-emodin acts on the intestinal mucous membrane, regulating its correct operation, stimulating flora and improving the absorption of nutrients.
The aloe is used to treat gingivitis, mouth sores, blisters and simple herpes. The gel reduces pain, bleeding and inflammation, while is bactericidal, antiviral and antifungal.
The effectiveness of aloe vera to treat burns is due to three factors that act together. Firstly, components of the plant have a structure like acid acetylsalicylic that, combined with the magnesium also present in this plant, produce an anaesthetic effect in the treated area.
Secondly, it covers a broad antimicrobial spectrum, which promotes burn asepsis and prevents infection. And finally, it acts on prostaglandins mechanism, through which the cell maintains its integrity. Aloe vera accelerates healing burns, stimulates the growth of healthy cells in the skin and limits the production of tissue scars.
From some years ago, doctors are treating this condition with aloe creams and a balanced diet (with absolute exclusion of processed foods, sugars and animal fats) reinforced with vitamin and antioxidant complex.
UVA rays protection
Ultraviolet rays Alpha (UVA) are primarily responsible for sunburn that can cause short-term pain and, eventually, aging. The main weapon that body has to defend against UVA radiation is the skin pigment, melanin, which acts as a barricade, absorbing and scattering it. Many of sunscreens that exist in the market contain components that disperse UVA radiation in a similar way to melanin. Some of them include aloe vera to moisturize dry and damaged skin and form a protective screen against them.
It has a sedative effect due to its natural analgesic content, its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin.
In addition to its moisturizing, antiseptic, antibiotic and antibacterial actions, aloe vera gel increases up to 8 times the production of cells responsible for natural collagen. All these properties promote cell regeneration and, for that reason, this plant finds applications in curing different problems: acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, cellulitis, eczema, haemorrhoids, wrinkles, warts…
Aloe is used as a treatment for skin hyper pigmentation (skin blemishes) common in the elderly and increasingly among young people who have been exposed to sun too much. It eliminates melanin build-up which causes dark blemishes.
It is a perfect humidifier to the skin, on the one hand thanks to its ability to transport nutrients and humidify all layers by facilitating its total absorption; on the other hand, due to the polysaccharides action, which exert a barrier effect by preventing natural water loss from the skin.