Natural aloe vera gel, also known as Lu Hui in mandarin, is packed with tons of health benefits. Its plant is native to the Mediterranean and Africa. According to research, there are more than 500 species of aloes in the world and most of them grow mainly in Africa. This plant enjoys great popularity thanks to its easy maintenance, ornamental value, and food and medicinal uses. What’s more, it can help increase negative ion concentration, inhibit harmful microorganisms, capture dust, and purify formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and other harmful gases in the air. No doubt this is a “wonder plant”. So, what is aloe vera gel used for? What is aloe vera gel good for? How to use aloe vera gel the best way?
What is aloe vera gel?
As mentioned above, there are many varieties of aloes, among which only a dozen have medicinal value. And medicinal components and contents in different varieties are quite different. So, medicinally it mainly refers to the dried concentrated leaf juice or gel of Aloe ferox Mill., Aloe vera L., and Aloe vera L. var. chinensis (Haw.) Berg.[A. barbadensis Mill. Var. chinensis Haw.；A.chinensis(Haw.)Bak.]
Aloe vera plant is a perennial herb. Stems are very short. Succulent leaves are erect or nearly erect and cluster at the top of the stem; they are green, narrowly lanceolate, 15 to 36cm long and 2 to 6cm wide, and with long acuminate apex, broad base, and margin with small spiny teeth. Floral axis are solitary or slightly branched, 60 to 90cm in height; racemes are sparse; peduncle length is about 2.5cm; flowers are yellow or with red spots; perianth is tubular and six-lobed; stamens are 6 and pistil is 1. Capsule is triangle and loculicidal. Flowering time is from February to March.
Aloe vera contains aloin, p-coumaric acid, isobarbaloin, resin, a small amount of α-glucose, amino acids and trace amounts of volatile oil.
Aloe vera gel benefits
Actually from aloe two types of different matters can be obtained – one is the transparent juice from the fleshy leaves and the other is the sticky yellow residue called latex. This is such a popular plant that there are so many aloe vera products available nowadays, such as aloe vera shampoo, pills, extract, capsules, oil, lotion, moisturizer, drink, hair gel, and so on. They cover food, skin care, bath, and so on. Though it is traditionally used in Chinese medicine, it was introduced to China only a few centuries ago and thus has a relatively shorter application history there. In comparison, it had long been chosen as the sacrificial object of the Pharaoh in Egypt as early as 6000 years ago. That is the reason why Egyptians call it as the “plant of immortality. Traditionally it is usually used as a laxative internally and a traumatic externally. Today people are finding more health benefits from it and it is widely used in hair care, face improvement, skin care, detox, cancer fighting, age defying, acne treatment, weight loss, sunburn relief, and so on.
Modern pharmacological actions of aloe vera juice
1. Aloe anthraquinone derivatives have irritating purgative effects, which are accompanied by obvious abdominal pain and pelvic congestion, or nephritis in severe cases;
2. Its extract can inhibit the growth of S180 sarcoma and Ehrlich ascites carcinoma. In addition, it has inhibition on isolated toad heart.
3. Its water extract has inhibition on a variety of dermatophyte and human type Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Selected herbal remedies on aloe vera pure gel
From the Chinese Materia Medica, we can learn that aloe is bitter in flavor and cold in properties and covers meridians of liver and large intestine. Main functions are purgation, removing heat from the liver, and killing parasite. Essential aloe vera gel uses and indications include constipation caused by heat accumulation, headache due to liver-fire, bloodshot eyes, convulsions, parasites causing abdominal pain, scabies, hemorrhoids, and croton oil poisoning. Recommended dosage is from 0.6 to 1.5g in pills or powder.
1. Geng Yi Wan from Ben Cao Jing Shu (Commentary on ‘Shen Nong’s Classic of the Materia Medica). It is coupled with Zhu Sha (Cinnabar) to treat heat causing constipation accompanied with hyperactivity of fire in heart and liver, irritability, and insomnia.
2. Dang Gui Lu Hui Wan from Yi Xue Liu Shu (Six Books of Medicine). It is combined with Long Dan Cao (Gentian Root), Zhi Zi (Cape Jasmine Fruit), Qing Dai (Indigo), etc. to cure constipation, dark urine, dizziness, headache, restlessness, irritability, convulsions, epilepsy due to hyperactivity of fire in liver.
3. Fei Er Wan from Yi Zhong Jin Jian (Golden Mirror of the Medical Tradition). It is formulated with Ren Shen (Ginseng), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), etc. for the treatment of abdominal pain due to parasites, sallow complexion, and debility.
Aloe vera gel side effects and contraindications
Since pure aloe vera gel can relax the bowels, it will thus follow by abdominal pain and diarrhea. Unlike the laxative mechanism of insoluble dietary fiber, its laxative effect is achieved by stimulating the bowel, which will cause potassium loss in intestinal cells. Long term use of aloe gel may cause may cause kidney damage, hematuria, hypokalemia, muscle weakness and other symptoms.
Aloe vera juice poses a potential risk to pregnant and lactating women. There are reports that it might be associated with abortion and birth defects. Strictly speaking, there is no strong evidence of a link between them. But it is still highly recommended to stay away from it, just in case.
In addition, it shouldn’t be used in patients with diabetes, kidney disease, intestinal disease, and hemorrhoids since it might make the symptoms worse or cause drug interactions.
TCM wise, it should be avoided during pregnancy and patterns of deficiency of spleen and stomach and reduced appetite and loose stool.