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AloeVera the natural healer
Aloevera The Natural Skin Healer
Also called, "the Burn Plant" or "the Miracle Plant", aloe vera is a medicinal herb that has benefited mankind for over 400 years. In many ancient cultures, it was respected as a gift from god and referred to as "A Lily of Paradise". Now-a-days, although allopathic medicines are very effective and offer immediate relief from ailments, their long term use and complicated interactions with other medicines can cause terrible side effects. As a result aloe vera is being 'rediscovered' now.
- Cleopatra is said to have used skin lotions with aloe vera juice added to them to enhance her beauty.
- Collins and Collins in 1935, first described aloe vera in the treatment of radiodermatitis, a condition very difficult to treat.
Aloe Vera- a historical perspective
It was the invention of X-ray and atom bomb which brought Aloe into focus again; as being the best protection against radiation burns.
Due to its marvellous healing properties, Aloe is named as "the Wand of Heaven" and "the Plant of Life".
The earliest documented use of aloe vera comes from the ancient Egyptians, but it was also grown and used by King Solomon.
Alexander, the Great, conquered the island of socotra to have aloe for his army.
Marco Polo recorded applications of aloe vera plant during his visit to the Orient.
At the heart of many Aztec cures, aloe vera was the effective substance.
It was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1820.
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe is derived from the Arabic word "alloeh" which means "bitter and shiny substance", and Vera, which means "true" in Latin.
The bulk of aloe leaf is filled with a gel, 96% water with the other 4% containing 75 nutrients and 200 active compounds, including 20 minerals, 18 amino acids and 12 vitamins.
There are over 240 different species of Aloe growing mainly in dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America.
Although aloe vera is a member of the Lily family, it is very cactus like in its characteristics. It belongs to a larger plant family called "Xeroids". Aloe Vera is a perennial herb with thick, succulent, pointed basal leaves, grey-green or reddish and spotted, margins slightly pink with pale teeth and flowers yellow in terminal and elongated clusters. Aloe barbedensis miller is the species of aloe used in most cosmetic and nutritional products.
Aloe Vera- biological components
Aloe vera gel consists of the following components-
It is rich in all vitamins excluding Vitamin-D. Its gel contains beta carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, choline, folic acid, Vitamin-B12, Vitamin-C and Vitamin-E.
Enzymes contained are bradykinase, that helps reduce excessive swelling and redness when applied to skin, thus reduces pain;and lactase and phenolase enzymes, that help digest the damaged parts of wounds.
Aloe vera contains calcium, sodium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc, chromium and the antioxidant selenium.
These are found in the mucilage layer of the plant, which surrounds the inner gel; are called mucopolysaccharides. They help to enhance immunity and assist in detoxification. Aloe contains the sugars glucomannans, fructose, dextrose, galactose, arabinose, L-mannose, maltose, sucrose, lactose, D-glucose, xylose, glycoproteins and glycolipids. These sugars provide moisturizing benefit to aloe leaf gel.
There are twelve of these phenolic compounds found in the plant sap. Aloin and emodin act as pain remedies, antibacterials and antivirals. They also help block the damaging ultra voilet rays and provide sun protection to the skin.
This endows aloe vera with a penetrative effect that other ingredients get absorbed into the skin.
These soapy substances form about 3% of aloe vera gel, are capable of cleansing, and are powerful anti microbial agents against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts.
8. Fatty Acids
Plant steroids cholesterol, campesterol, beta sisosterol and lupeol in aloe gel are anti inflammatory agents.
9. Salicylic Acid
This is an aspirin like compound with anti inflammatory benefits.
10. Amino acids
Aloe gel contains 20 amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, providing 7 out of 8 essential amino acids that our body cannot synthesize.
Skin Care with Aloe Vera
Aloe makes the skin surface smooth due to its cohesive effect on the superficial flaking epidermal cells of the skin by sticking them together. It is absorbed from the skin four times faster than water and moisturizes the skin due to its water holding capacity.
As a moisturizer
Besides water, the other main ingredients of aloe vera gel are a combination of polysaccharides. These natural sugar like molecules give aloe gel its gelatinous consistency and hold water molecules together, making aloe a good moisturizer. These sugars create a barrier that prevents moisture loss from the skin. Aloe vera accelerates collagen making process and reduces wrinkles. Components in aloe help the skin to rejuvenate itself at a cellular level making it more soft and pliable. It possesses the ability to interfere with melanin pigment deposition in the skin, preventing the development of 'liver spots' and if applied for long enough, make established spots to disappear.
Aloe for healing wounds
Aloe vera contains Glucomannan, a special complex sugar composed of mannose units, that help repair damaged tissues. Plant hormones in aloe called "gibberellins" accelerate healing by stimulating cell replication. These combined actions make aloe a uniquely potent healing herb.
Antibiotic effect of aloe vera
Aloe vera is effective in eradicating bacteria like salmonella species, streptococci and staphylococci from the skin surface. Its contents include antibiotics- aloin and aloetic acid. Aloe emodin is bactericidal; cinnamic acid is a germicide; bradykinase stimulates the immune system; and acemannan stimulates macrophages, the immunity enhancing cells.
- Aloe vera promotes healing of burns and superficial wounds, but should not be used on deep or surgical wounds of puncture.
- Skin application of aloe helps treat sunburn, frostbite, radiation injuries, some types of eczemas, psoriasis, cuts, insect stings, poison ivy, ulcerations and abrasions.
- Aloe is effective in relieving pain and irritation of herpes.
- The sap of aloe leaf decreases pain and hastens healing in herpes zoster breakouts, a condition associated with severe pain and blisters along the distribution of nerves caused by varicella zoster virus, the culprit behind chicken pox.
- Aloe helps in faster healing after cosmetic procedures, as full- face dermabrasion.
Aloe vera Clinical Applications
Aloe vera has vast medicinal properties as being an antiviral, antifungal, anti inflammatory, lowering blood glucose and controlling diabetes, and healing frostbites.Its uses in skin diseases include:
1. Aloe vera in Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder, ocuring commonly in persons between ages 10 and 25, and may present soon after a streptococcal throat infection. Aloe contains lignins, that help it penetrate deeply into the skin, gibberlins that reduce inflammation and promote wound healing,along with salicylic acid and polysaccharides, that help to cure resistant plaques of psoriasis.
2. Aloe vera in Irritant Contact Dermatitis
Gloves coated with aloe vera can improve occupationally acquired dry skin and irritant contact dermatitis.
3. Aloe- a solution for stretch marks
Aloe gel applied daily to the belly will minimize dryness and help maintain skin elasticity to minimize the intensity of stretch marks.
Skin hyperpigmentation is caused by overproduction of melanin pigment, which is synthesized by the action of tyrosinase enzyme. Aloesin compound in aloe vera inhibits this enzyme activity and assists in removal of hyperpigmentation and aging spots.
5. Atopic Dermatitis
Aloe, being an excellent natural moisturizer, helps restore the skin barrier, and has steroid sparing effects in atopic and allergic reactions.
6. Aloe vera as a Sunscreen
Aloe vera contains natural anthraquinones and glycosides, that effectively block the damaging ultra violet rays. Aloe also plays a role in lightening the skin by preventing free radical induced damage, thus preventing inflammation and the resulting hyperpigmentation. Aloe also blocks the photo immunosuppression of skin, that is lowering of skin immunity due to prolonged sun exposure.
Drug Interactions of aloe vera
Aloe vera enhances the effect of locally applied steroids and allows a reduction in the amount of steroids being used.
Precautions while using Aloe vera
Stinging and dermatitis ( skin allergy) may occur in individuals sensitive to aloe. Before using any aloe based skin cosmetic, make sure to do a patch test on your back or behind the ear lobe. If the area where aloe is applied shows redness or swelling or itching within 24 hours, then you are allergic to it, and should preferably avoid using any cosmetic that has aloe as an ingredient.