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Aloe, a Super Succulent

 

With kids in the house it's a good idea to keep aloe on hand. For minor burns, natural medicine such as aloe may be helpful after the burn is cleaned with soap and cold water and gently dried. Aloe is also a stimulating laxative, but it is very powerful and should be used with caution.

Parts used and where grown
The aloe plant originally came from Africa. The leaves, which are long, green, fleshy, and have spikes along the edges, are used medicinally. The fresh leaf gel and latex are used for many purposes. Aloe latex is the sticky residue left over after the liquid from cut aloe leaves has evaporated.

Active constituents
The constituents of aloe latex responsible for its laxative effects are known as anthraquinone glycosides. These molecules are split by the normal bacteria in the large intestines to form other molecules (aglycones), which exert the laxative action. Since aloe is such a powerful laxative, other plant laxatives such as senna or cascara are often recommended first.

Topically, it is not yet clear which constituents are responsible for the wound healing properties of aloe. Test tube studies suggest polysaccharides, such as acemannon, help promote skin healing by anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and immune-stimulating actions. Aloe's effects on the skin may also be enhanced by its high concentration of amino acids, as well as vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and essential fatty acids.

Aloe has been used to treat minor burns. Stabilized aloe gel is applied to the affected area of skin three to five times per day. Older case studies reported that aloe gel applied topically could help heal radiation burns, and a small clinical trial found it more effective than a topical petroleum jelly in treating burns. However, a large, modern, placebo-controlled trial did not find aloe effective for treating minor burns.

Two small controlled human trials have found that aloe, either alone or in combination with the oral hypoglycemic drug, glibenclamide, effectively lowers blood sugar in people with type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.

An aloe extract in a cream has been shown effective in a double-blind, controlled trial in people with psoriasis.

How much is usually taken?
For constipation, a single 50–200 mg capsule of aloe latex can be taken each day for a maximum of ten days.

For minor burns, the stabilized aloe gel is applied topically to the affected area of skin three to five times per day. Treatment of more serious burns should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

For internal use of aloe gel, two tablespoons (30 ml) three times per day is used by some people with conditions such as ulcerative colitis (see precautions below). For type 2 diabetes, clinical trials have used one tablespoon (15 ml) of aloe juice, twice daily. Treatment of diabetes with aloe should only be done under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.

Are there any side effects or interactions?
Except in the rare person who is allergic to aloe, topical application of the gel is generally safe. For any burn that blisters significantly or is otherwise severe, medical attention is absolutely essential. In some severe burns and wounds, aloe gel may actually impede healing.

The latex form of aloe should not be used by anyone with inflammatory intestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or appendicitis. It should also not be used by children, or by women during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

In people with constipation, aloe latex should not be used for more than ten consecutive days as it may lead to dependency and fluid loss. Extensive fluid loss may lead to depletion of important electrolytes in the body such as potassium.

 


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