The Properties and Use of Fresh Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) is a succulent plant native to Africa, which is grown throughout the tropical, subtropical and dessert like regions of the world. It is valued for the thick clear gelatinous substance found within the leaves, considered to have many healing and therapeutic properties. It has been revered throughout history for its wide ranging healing properties, in diverse places including India, China, Africa and the Mediterranean. It was used by ancient Greek civilisations and referred to in ancient Egyptian texts as the ‘plant of immortality’.
It helps many systems of the body, boosting the immune system, as a detoxifying agent, and aiding digestion. It’s soothing and repairing affects on damaged tissue internally and externally means it has a wide range of applications.
This gel is chemically complex containing approximately 75 active compounds including being a rich source of polysaccharides (long chain sugars). In particular it contains mucopolysaccharides (MPS), which are normally found in all body cells. However since production of MPS stops after the age of 10, we have to rely on outside sources, and few plants can provide this as abundantly as Aloe Vera. These MPS sugars are thought to lubricate the joints, boost the immune system and line the colon. Aloe Vera is particularly rich in the MPS Acemannan which stimulates the body’s macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to produce interferon and interleukin, which helps fight viruses and other infections.
Aloe stimulates the liver to produce more glutathione, a major antioxidant and detoxifying substance that assists in the production of white blood cells.
In addition, it contains beneficial anthraquinones, fatty acids, sulphur, salicylic acid and phenols which provide anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory benefits. The anti-inflammatory effects which have been proven in scientific studies, means that it can be helpful in conditions such as arthritis or ulcers. These anti-inflammatory benefits together with the sulphur that aloe contains make it an ideal superfood to support joint health. It also restores levels of beneficial gut bacteria and improves gastro-intestinal conditions. It raises energy levels, and as an adaptogen it reduces stress and tension.
Two nonrandomized trials have suggested that blood glucose levels may be reduced by aloe vera, suggesting it may be useful for people with diabetes.
Aloe is well known for its use as an external skin treatment. Its lignin components allow it to deeply penetrate the skin, helping to heal a variety of skin disorders at a deeper level. Other components help increase the skins collagen synthesis. Aloe is especially effective as a treatment for sun burn and has been researched as a treatment for radiation burns.
Aloe is commonly used in commercial hair and skin products, as well as in health drinks. Many people are now using the fresh gel consumed blended into water, juices or smoothies. Many of the aloe products available are pasteurised using high temperatures which destroy polysaccharides, enzymes and other active nutrients. Therefore it is much better to choose raw products or fresh aloe leaves. Using the fresh aloe also ensures you won’t be consuming any extra additives or fillers that may have been added to a commercial product.
There has been some concern about the Aloin content of Aloe Vera. This is a yellow pigmented substance also known as aloe latex which is found between the green outer rind and the inner gel. Aloin is a powerful laxative and while it may be a good alternative to over the counter laxative drugs, it is not considered advisable to consume it in too large quantities. For this reason most aloe juice manufacturers whose products are made using the whole leaf, will have taken steps to remove the aloin. This is of lesser concern when using the inner gel only, as it contains little aloin. Any aloin can be further removed from the filleted gel by soaking it in water.
How to use it
Use 30 grams of fresh gel each day, the first week you use it. After that use 50 grams daily, not exceeding 80 grams. Take a break after a couple of weeks, to notice what effect the aloe has had on your body. After that it is ok to continue its daily use indefinitely.
To prepare the gel, cut off a segment a few centimetres wide, discarding the base of the leaf and the tip. Cut off the thin jagged edges. Lay it, flat side facing down on the surface, and run a knife along the inside of the outer green skin to remove it. Flip it over and run the knife along the inside of the outer rind, and your gel is ready to go. If desired soak the gel in water to remove any remaining aloin. Use immediately or store gel in the fridge for a few days in closed jar, covered in water. Adding a slice of lemon or lime will keep it fresh longer. The cut gel can also be stored in the freezer.
Fresh leaves last approximately 2 months in the refrigerator or up to 1 year in the freezer. Seal off the cut ends with plastic wrap.
Aloe lemonade – ideal for a cleansing start to the day
In a blender:
50 grams fresh aloe gel
500ml pure water
Juice of half to one whole lemon
125 grams fresh berries
Honey and/or stevia to sweeten, to taste.
Optional: Fortify this drink with Marine Phytoplankton or other green superfood
It is possible to buy certified organic fresh Aloe Vera leaves (grown in Spain) from our market stand at the Noordermarkt every Saturday. Price 9.95 euros for a large leaf approximately 60 cm long.
Article by Diana Store
Aloe Vera (Book) by Jill Rosemary Davies