The Herbs Section
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The herb Aloe - supplement information
Aloe, or Aloe vera (Latin), has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years. Ancient Egyptians used aloe to treat skin problems and constipation, and research has proven that aloe is effective as both an anti-inflammatory and laxative.
Today, aloe is often used to treat burns, scalds, scrapes, and sunburn, and is the active ingredient in a number of natural alternative laxatives. Commission E, a group that evaluates herbal medicines for the German government, recommends aloe as a laxative.
Aloe contains carboxypeptidase and bradykininase, compounds that reduce inflammation, swelling, and redness of wounds, as well as the pain and itching experienced as the wound is healing. Aloe can help fight infection in wounds; studies have shown that, like its close relative garlic, aloe helps destroy bacteria and fungi, including E coli and strains of staphylococcus, streptococcus, and candida. In one study, Aloe vera 0.5 % hydrophilic cream was proven to be an effective treatment for genital herpes. However, those with serious injuries should not use aloe; although aloe has been proven to speed the healing of superficial wounds, it actually slows the healing process when applied to deep wounds.
Aloe is an effective treatment for psoriasis, a skin condition that causes red, raised, itchy patches. In one Swedish study, 83 percent of participants using aloe 0.5 % gel experienced significant improvement of their psoriasis symptoms, while only 7 percent of participants using a placebo reported any relief. Another study found lotion containing 30 % aloe to be an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis when applied to the affected areas twice daily for four weeks.
Aloe is being studied for its potential as a treatment for certain types of cancer. Alo A, a medically active complex sugar in aloe, may inhibit tumor growth by preventing the inflammation needed for the tumor to develop its own blood supply. Some studies indicate that aloe may protect against liver, lung, and skin cancer as well. Aloe juice has also been studied for its effectiveness as a treatment for diabetes. Initial studies performed with animals showed that aloe juice reduces blood sugar (glucose) levels. It is not certain whether aloe juice provides these same benefits to humans.
Aloe juice has also been suggested as a possible treatment for inflammatory bowel disease and ulcers. It is thought that the anti-inflammatory and bacteria-killing properties of aloe might help keep the digestive tract healthy. Anecdotal reports suggest aloe juice may help ease the symptoms of colitis and Crohn’s disease. The usual dose for aloe juice is 250 milligrams in capsule form or 50 to 200 milligrams of the dried juice per day.
Aloe is also found in its “stabilized” form in gels and many shampoos and skincare products. While these commercial products may provide the user with some benefit, the preserved form of Aloe vera is generally considered less effective than its natural counterpart. If you purchase Aloe vera gel, make sure to get the kind that is 100 percent natural.
Of course, the best way to ensure that you have a supply of fresh, medicinally effective aloe on hand is to buy the plant—it’s easy to grow, and requires very little care. To help soothe wounds, slice a leaf lengthwise, squeeze the gel onto the wound, and let it dry.
Some people report allergic reactions to topical aloe. In addition, you might want to avoid laxatives containing aloe latex, because this substance can cause severe intestinal cramps and diarrhea. Aloe latex, also called cathartic aloe, should be avoided by people that have gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcers, and colitis, because it has been shown to aggravate these conditions.
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