Aloe Vera

Aloe VeraAloe vera does much more than make your skin feel good and keep you regular.  Since the thirties studies have shown that aloe vera and other aloes not only ease the pain of burns, but actually help the body recover.  Aloe has even been shown to quicken the healing of X-ray burns.  No one knows how the aloe does it.  There is evidence that shows that aloe inhibits bacteria, tumors and maybe even fungus, but these things are the smallest parts of the very large picture of healing a burn.

Relief from rashes and skin irritants is a natural follow up to burns and aloe is just as successful at easing their discomfort as it is with burns.  Several doctors are using aloe to treat mouth lesions and to speed up healing after oral surgery.  Aloe also helps cuts and scrapes on the surface of the skin.

Internally, aloe may be able to help heal ulcers and has a reputation of quickly taking care of colitis and other digestive track problems.  As an Immuno-modifier, aloe shows potential.  In early tests aloe seems to limit the HIV virus’s ability to attack cells.  Treatments given to Epstein-Barr and AIDS patients have given reports of easier sleeping and higher energy levels.

Because of the many aloe products on the market and their differing qualities I’ve included a guide below.

Drug Aloe

The purgative effect of aloe is caused by a substance called aloin.  Aloin is found in the greatest quantities in the rinds of the aloe leaves.  It is made by cutting the leaves at the base and collecting the yellow juice that drips out.  The juice is then heated until it becomes a thick brown goo that is known as “drug aloe.”  Drug aloe is further refined into aloin and then put in variety of commercial laxatives.

Aloin is the cause of the harsh effects of aloe vera and oddly enough is one of the least useful substances in the aloe vera plant.  I don’t recommend it in any form or preparation since it is easily replaceable by other herbs that are safer.

Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe leaves are split open and the pulp is scraped out and made into a liquid, then bottled.  This product is available everywhere from your local grocery store to any health product distributor.  Unfortunately its quality is just about as varied as the companies that sell it.  Your best bet is to go with a company with a reputation for quality, like Nature Sunshine Products and then try it.  If the aloe vera juice is yellow and tastes bitter-sour you’ve probably got a good product.  If any of the products you are considering are labeled “distilled” or “concentrated don’t bother, both of these process remove or destroy many of the substances believed to be beneficial.  Since this product doesn’t use the outside of the leaf it contains almost no aloin and is very safe to use.  Aloe vera juice is good for both internal and external uses.

Whole Leaf Aloe Vera

Whole leaf aloe is exactly that, aloe juice made from the entire aloe leaf.  In the processing the only thing to be removed is the aloin. Because of this, whole leaf aloe contains more beneficial compounds than regular juice does.  This juice should also taste bitter and have a yellow color.  Whole leaf aloe vera is good for both internal and external uses.

Aloe Vera Gel

Gel is made from aloe vera juice and occasionally whole leaf aloe vera.  Various thickening agents are used to make it easy to apply externally.  A brownish-yellow color is your best indicator of quality.  Aloe vera gel is best for topical applications.

Traditionally aloe vera has been used for a variety of internal and external uses.  To make it easier to decide how to treat each condition I’ve grouped the conditions by how they are treated rather than a more conventional method.

External Application

Abrasions, acne, allergies–skin, boils bruises, arthritis, burns–chemical, sun and radiation, bursitis, carbuncles, chapped skin, chicken pox itch, dandruff, dermatitis, diaper rash, eczema, erysipelas, excrescence, genital herpes, hemorrhoids, insect bites, poison ivy or oak, psoriasis, rashes, seborrhea, sores, staph infections, varicose veins and warts.  These are treated by applying enough aloe vera gel, juice or whole leaf aloe vera to completely cover the affected area.

Internal Consumption

Blood in stool, colds, colic, colitis, convulsions, cough, Crohn’s disease, dyspepsia, fever, flu, food poisoning, heartburn, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels), hypertension, hysteria, indigestion, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, jaundice, malaria, menopause, menstrual cramps, nausea, parasites, piles, PMS, stomach ache and ulcers.  To treat for these take one tablespoon of whole leaf aloe vera of aloe vera juice with fruit juice or water every morning and evening.

Need Additional Treatment

AIDS, cancer and Epstein-Barr virus (chronic fatigue syndrome).  These are hard to treat and need more than just aloe vera.  Please contact a qualified health practitioner when confronting these conditions.

Aloe vera products are generally considered safe (except those that contain drug aloe) for healthy people.  However, aloe is not recommended for pregnant women because it may cause abortion.


“Aloe Vera” in The Herb Companion (February/March 1995).

“Aloe Vera” by Steven H. Horne in Nature’s Field (March/April 1994).

The Aloe Vera Story. (Provo, Utah: NuLife Publishing).

Chinese Herbal Remedies by Albert Y. Leung. (New York, New York: Phaindon Universe, 1984).

The Complete Book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness. (London, England: Viking Studio Books, 1988).

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