You’ve probably heard of Aloe Vera because you’ve been really horribly sunburnt before – I know I have. The thick, mucilaginous gel is cold and soothing on red, hot, and maybe blistered skin. Aloe Vera is great for sunburn topically, it assists in wound healing, has many anti inflammatory benefits, it’s also a great anti-fungal and great for avoiding hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose level).
A relative to the succulent family, and originating from Africa, Aloe Vera or Aloe barbadensis, is a robust plant that is grown and cultivated all around the world. It has been well known and used for centuries– there are references to its use in the Bible and in the ancient Egyptian era. Cleopatra was possibly the first ‘model’ for Aloe Vera if you like– her beauty is testament to the use of Aloe Vera on her skin as it is very hydrating and is rich in Vitamin E, so it’s great for maintaining or restoring youthful, glowing skin.
Aloe Vera is also rich in polysaccharides– these are complex carbohydrates which yield energy for the body to store and use over time. Chemically, a polysaccharide is a type of carbohydrate structure which produces a long chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. They are stored in the liver as a substance called glycogen which produces glucose when the body needs it and releases it into the blood stream or the muscles for quick absorption and for a quick fix of energy.
When food is eaten, the body reacts to the amount of carbohydrate it has received by signaling an increase in blood glucose level. The pancreas then releases insulin to bring the body’s blood glucose level back down to a normal level. The polysaccharides that have entered the body through the food consumed are all strung together by a condensation reaction and stored in the liver as that same glycogen which the body uses to access energy during times of need.
You’re probably thinking, “So how does this relate to Aloe Vera”?
Well, all of the benefits of Aloe Vera can be attributed to the polysaccharides present in the clear gel of the plant’s leaves. For this reason, Aloe Vera is not only great for use on the skin externally, but also internally. It provides a direct polysaccharide source for storing glucose in the body as glycogen for energy use.
Aloe Vera polysaccharides are also great for repairing and strengthening the intestinal wall. The sticky gel inside the leaves of Aloe Vera is fundamental to the way Aloe Vera behaves inside the stomach – it is sticky and binds to the intestinal wall to strengthen and repair it aiding in digestion by regulating elimination time and decreasing the amount of unhealthy gut bacteria. Aloe Vera is actually a great prebiotic (helps probiotics work more effectively).
Antioxidants – Aloe Vera is rich in antioxidants, the substances that bind with free radicals preventing those nasty, reckless singular molecules (free radicals) that look for their pair amongst our healthy DNA molecules. If successful, free radicals will bind with one of our healthy molecules and create and replicate bad DNA. This is how disease can begin, especially inflammatory diseases (ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis etc). The polysaccharides present in Aloe-Vera have antioxidant free radical scavenging potential.
Vitamins – Aloe Vera is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 and Vitamin E. The B Vitamins as well as Vitamin E support healthy, taut and elastic skin. The B Vitamins provide amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Protein is crucial for producing collagen – the secret to youthful skin. Vitamin E is incredibly hydrating and nourishing for the skin, making it perfect for healing sunburn and other wounds as well as providing general skin moisture and suppleness.
Aloe Vera as a food is best enjoyed in beverages. Cut open one of the leaves and squeeze out the contents into a smoothie or juice to attain it’s benefits. Topically, Aloe Vera actually works best when applied to the skin without rubbing it in. Simply cover the affected wound, burn or rash and let the plant work it’s magic as a natural bandage rather than rubbing it in like a moisturiser.