ALOE VERA: Wonder plant

Aloe vera is a miracle plant with many health benefits

Aloe Vera plantAloe vera, one of the oldest plants known to man, is a member of the Lily family. It grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. Out of the 240+ species of aloe, only four are recognised for their nutritional value.

Aloe vera is known as a "miracle plant." It has a host of health benefits, thanks to its plethora of nutrients - essential amino acids, vitamins A, C, and B-complex. These benefits emerge from a synergy between different nutrients rather than a result of one "magic" ingredient.

Aloe vera works by simply providing excellent nutrition, so that the body can take care of itself. It has no known side-effects, or contra-indications. It is relatively safe for all ages - from infants to the elderly.

Aloe vera is available as gel, spray, lotion, liquid, cream, and in capsule form.

Physicians/therapists recommend creams made from aloe vera for skin eruptions and allergies. This is not all. Gels and lotions have become popular in ayurvedic pharmacies - so much so, cosmetologists are now turning to its therapeutic powers more than ever before.

The gel of aloe vera has as many as 75 nutrients - this facilitates for its use in effective treatment of burns, cuts, abrasions, and allergic reactions. Aloe vera gel must be applied immediately in order to get relief from pain.

It is said that ancient Egyptians used aloe vera to heal battle wounds and cure infections.

Uses

Aloe vera liquid is an effective remedy for acidity, indigestion, ulcers, and inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract. This is due to the presence of anti-inflammatory fatty acids - compersterol and B-sitosterol. B-sitosterol is a powerful anti-cholesteromatic too; it helps lower harmful cholesterol levels. It is, therefore, valued as an effective heart-health remedy.

Herbalists suggest that for good benefits to accrue, you should consume at least 2-3 oz [approximately 120-180 ml] of aloe vera, at least once a day.

Muscle and arthritic pain in the joints can also be reduced by the application of aloe vera gels, or sprays, or when taken as juice.

Aloe vera is an immune system stimulant, a powerful anti-inflammatory, and an analgesic. It not only repairs damaged tissue by regenerating cells, it also helps diffuse damaged tissue - a type of detoxification process.

Aloe vera contains polysaccharides, or complex carbohydrates. Over the last two decades, research in Japan has shown that aloe vera polysaccharides resemble natural parts of the cell walls of bacteria and can, thus, stimulate immune response. In Russia, extensive studies have shown the effectiveness of aloe vera in flushing out harmful toxins from the body. Experts also suggest that aloe vera can help prolong survival time of cancer and HIV positive patients.

Beauty aid

The benefits of aloe vera extend to the production of collagen and elastin, too - both of which are necessary to prevent aging of the skin.

As a moisturiser, aloe vera is extremely popular - it removes dead cells, and softens your skin. It also reduces the intensity of pigmentation.

In other words, it lightens dark spots on your face. Whether you use aloe vera as a vital ingredient in your beauty treatment plan, or take it as a dietary supplement, its health benefits are immense.

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Deepshikha Agarwal
Deepshikha Agarwal is a Mumbai-based dietician and sports nutritionist. She writes nutrition-related columns in newspapers and conducts corporate workshops. She also teaches and conducts lectures on diet and wellness isues.

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