The healing properties of Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a succulent prickly plant of the Lily Family which grows in warm, frost-free climates and which has been known for centuries as a potent medicinal plant.

Any nearly pure Aloe vera liquid products, whether called Gel, Juice or Whole Leaf Extract, comprise the fluid obtained by breaking up the structure of the Aloe leaf and separating off the solid residues to leave a more or less clear solution. These liquid products are mainly taken by mouth and they are the preferred form of Aloe vera to be used whenever significant internal medical problems are to be addressed. These products can be very effective in a large number of conditions, some of them very serious medical conditions, as will be detailed below. Aloe vera is also used extensively in the form of creams to be applied topically for treating bites, stings, cuts and abrasions as well as many kinds of strains and sprains affecting muscles and joints that can be accessed from the surface. These topical products can also be very effective when used for these specific purposes. This makes them especially applicable for many forms of First Aid and to sports injuries. Care should be taken with both types of product to ensure the highest possible content of genuine unadulterated Aloe material.

Aloe vera is also included in other formulations, such as cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoos, etc. Application in these forms to the skin, scalp or gums may be of benefit, though clear evidence of this is often lacking and the content of Aloe in these products is often extremely low. Among these products, cosmetics such as face creams have the best claims to efficacy because Aloe has been shown to penetrate well into skin, to stimulate the immune system beneath the skin, and to facilitate the actions of other accompanying agents. However, a sufficient content of real Aloe in such products is, of course, a prerequisite.

How does Aloe vera work?

One really major action of Aloe vera is the relief of inflammation. Medical science now knows a great deal about the nature of the inflammatory processes which occur in tissues when they are injured. These are known to be interrupted and diminished when Aloe is used. The result is that the pain, soreness, redness and swelling diminish and pass of much more rapidly than would otherwise be the case. This has long been responsible for the fine reputation which Aloe has for application to the skin, particularly in acute conditions, but the anti-inflammatory effects is just as available internally to help with internal trauma, surgical wounds, including dental surgeries and ordinary tooth extraction, as well as with inflammations arising from internal ailments. Scientifically, the efficacy of Aloe in this role has been established in burns, radiation burns, cuts and other wounds, dentistry and in ear, nose and throat surgery.

Immune System Stimulation
The second really major action of Aloe is that of increasing the activity and effectiveness of the immune system. Much is written these days about the importance of having one’s immune system in good health. As a result one may be able to resist infections much better and discourage tumours from developing. One may avoid those diseases in which a disordered immune system attacks the body, as in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, Grave’s disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anaemia, scleroderma and others. One may also perhaps, be able to avoid developing allergies and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome. The functions of many different cell types within the immune system are known to be improved by Aloe, but one of the most dramatic is the increase in the work of those cells which actively engulf and then digest bacteria. Aloe vera has been demonstrated scientifically as effective against infection and tumours. One ingredient of Aloe vera is a licensed medicine in the USA in the veterinary treatment of fibrosarcoma (a form of cancerous tumour) in cats and dogs. Also arthritis in animals has been shown to be relieved by Aloe as have human cases of asthma. These are both diseases with strong connections to the immune system.

Tissue Healing
A third major action is increasing the healing powers of tissues that have been damaged. This is most obvious at the surface, where one can easily watch the acceleration of wound healing. This action has been fully authenticated by scientific studies. However, it is clear that, whilst one can see only the surface, the healing action of Aloe, just like the anti-inflammatory effect, is capable of acting through the whole body, in the deep organs as well as the superficial tissues. It works by stimulating these cells to multiply rapidly to replace damaged cells. This is especially true of the cells called ‘fibroblasts’ which are responsible for forming scar tissue. The combination of anti-inflammatory and healing effects make Aloe vera outstandingly suitable for many First Aid applications.

Digestive Effects
A fourth major action is one which tones up the principal functions of the digestive system. Experiments have shown that after using Aloe the output of digestive enzymes and the bacterial population of the intestines is improved. There is also less putrefaction of food in the intestines. Gastric and intestinal acidity/alkalinity is also improved. These represent potent factors contributing to good trouble-free digestive function. There is very good scientific evidence supporting the use of Aloe vera against peptic or duodenal ulcer. The nature of Aloe vera’s actions also clearly indicates that it can reasonably be expected to assist in other gastro-intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. The immune system effects and the anti-inflammatory effect are important here too. Efficacy in these named conditions is lacking strict scientific proof at present, but Aloe vera is very widely held as being effective in these cases by the public and by alternative practitioners.

Anti-Diabetic Effect
It has been clearly established that Aloe vera counters the excessively high blood glucose levels which are characteristic of adult (non-insulin-dependent diabetes). In many cases this brings the blood glucose down within the normal range. There is very good scientific evidence favouring the use of Aloe vera in Adult Onset Diabetes (Type II Diabetes).

Naturopathic Cleansing
This is not really a separate effect from the stimulation of the immune system, though it is worth noting because it has its own specific health benefits. A strongly active immune system means that the immune system cells are more enthusiastically scavenging through the body to engulf, digest and carry away tissue debris and toxins of all kinds. Immune system stimulation is therefore synonymous with increased clearing and cleansing throughout the body. Whilst it is not recognized in orthodox medicine that toxicity and lack of cleansing are what counts most in generating chronic illness, it is paramount as a vital tenet of holistic and naturopathic medicine. Most alternative practitioners well versed in the function of the immune system agree that this action of Aloe vera can be expected to counter underlying states of chronicity. It therefore protects the body against chronic conditions generally. In this connection one can quote the instance of heart disease. An Indian study confirmed the benefits of Aloe vera to 5000 patients with heart and arterial disease. One of the most extraordinary aspects of the study was that all 5000 such patients were still alive and well after 6 years.

How to use Aloe vera
Most of the conditions discussed here require internal use of Aloe extracts, juices or gel. Where the condition is on the surface a well formulated cream may be used, as mentioned, or the area may be wrapped and bound in cloths soaked in liquid Aloe.

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Naturopathic Nutritional Medicine is an immensely powerful tool. It is consistent with and works well alongside modern biochemistry, which studies in detail the metabolism inside the cells. It looks at all the ways in which the nutrients interact with and support metabolic processes. Modern biochemistry makes it clear that the nutrients are all required together, not just as individual items. It addresses the balances between them and their actual availability inside the cells. It addresses the enzyme reactions that they support.

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