Aloe: The Wonder Herb

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The use of Aloe vera is being promoted for a variety of conditions of late. Aloe, a cactus like plant that grows readily in hot, dry climates has been long known for its therapeutic and medicinal benefits in several cultures including Greece, Egypt, India, Mexico, Japan and China. Common names in India include ghrit kumari, ghee kanwar, kumari, ghee kunvar.

Only the leaves are used for medicine, but different parts of the leaves can be used for different purposes. It is not surprising to find households who have replaced traditional antiseptic and anti burn lotions by aloe vera gel.

The goodness of this plant lies in its impressive nutritional composition.  It contains 75 potentially active constituents including vitamins (B1, B2, B6, Choline, Folic acid, C etc.), enzymes, minerals (Calcium, Sodium, Chlorine, Manganese, zinc, Copper Iron , Magnesium Etc. ), sugars, lignins, saponins, salicylic acid and amino acids . 

Aloe gel contains compounds that speed the healing process by stopping or alleviating pain and inflammation. They also stimulate skin growth and tissue repair and are also known to boost the immune system. Research also suggests that aloe vera has strong laxative effect owing to its anthroquinone content, helping people with constipation. 

Other studies have shown that aloe gel helps to decrease serum cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) in patients with high cholesterol. It has also been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Both these benefits may be due to the phytosterol (plant cholesterol) content. It seems possible that the herb may prove to be a useful adjunct to diet, exercise, and medication for type 2 diabetics and patients with high cholesterol.

Besides, healing burns, skin infections, reducing blood lipid and sugar levels, aloe gel has also been emphasized to have anti-inflammatory properties thus protecting people suffering from arthritis, asthma and other inflammatory disorders like IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's Disease etc.).

Athough, aloevera is generally well tolerated and no toxic effects are known, individual sensitivities may exist. In certain sensitive people, it may trigger gastrointestinal disturbances, skin rashes, or interact with other medications in sensitive individuals. Therefore, aloe should be taken with care, under the supervision of a qualified practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine. It's use for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers has not been established scientifically. 

The clinical use of aloe vera is supported mostly by anecdotal data and historical use, although preliminary scientific evidence seems promising. However, controlled trials are essential for defining effectiveness of this popular herb more conclusively.