More home gardeners are growing Aloe vera in their homes for their beauty, but also for the extracts derived from different parts of the plant. As the costs associated with Aloe vera rise in the marketplace, knowledgeable users are deciding to try growing Aloe vera in their home environment. It can be fun, easy, and very rewarding to grow any plant in the home setting, and growing Aloe vera allows a grower personal access to the parts of the plant traditionally used for natural remedies. There is also a darker side to Aloe vera use as well however. Some believe that the use of Aloe vera can negatively affect the user. I have already reviewed the basics of growing Aloe vera in the home setting, so this article will focus on benefits and consequences that can be derived from the use of Aloe vera as a beauty supplement as well as a natural remedy and healer.
Basics of the Aloe Vera Plant:
The botanical name for Aloe vera is Aloe Barbadensis Miller. It is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. The plant’s leaves are fleshy and grow in a triangular fashion having serrated edges. The plant is an evergreen perennial and originated in the Arabian Peninsula, growing in mostly tropical climates. Do not let this deter you however, the Aloe vera plant can be grown in the home environment with the right lighting, and with the right ambient temperature and care. It is often grown indoors as a potted plant, and on top of the acclaimed medicinal benefits, it can be pleasant to observe and intrinsically rewarding to nurture. The plant has the capacity to grow anywhere from 20 inches and higher, but in the home setting it is normally less. It can be grown as an ornamental plant and is well received for its unique flowers, form, and succulence. The species is hardy and can survive with little water, in rocky soil, and in areas of high sun and heat. These qualities make the Aloe plant one that new gardeners and home growers can grow with some success as they get their feet wet, and their thumbs green, in their early stages of learning to grow big at home!
Disclaimer on the Aloe Vera Medicinal Qualities and Benefits:
It should be noted that the Aloe vera plant has been studied and the research is varied and controversial. Statistics and data can be skewed in ways that bend to the inclinations and desires of the individual(s) carrying out the research, and so results and summations should be reviewed and considered carefully. There is minimal evidence based research that supports the effectiveness or safety of using Aloe vera extracts for cosmetic or medicinal purposes, and some research implies that their are negatively associated consequences to using Aloe vera as well. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the perceived benefits, but also some of the negatively associated side effects, commonly discussed in conjunction with Aloe vera plant use. I grow Aloe vera in my home, but do not currently utilize any extract from the plant for medicinal treatment or as a beauty supplement. My growing purpose is to admire the plant’s beauty, and appreciation of the growing process.
Benefits Associated with Aloe Vera:
Despite the varied opinions of utilizing Aloe vera extract, what is certain is that the health and beauty industry has numerous products that include Aloe vera. Inclusion of Aloe vera extracts is part of a flourishing industry due, in part, to associated health benefits. Aloe vera is said to have antiviral and antibacterial properties and the extract is primarily utilized for beauty or medicinal reasons.
Regarding the use of Aloe Vera for beauty, the gel extract is applied to the skin for purposes of exfoliation, restoration, and supplemental nutrition for the skin. It is reported that Aloe Vera is rich in Vitamin E, C, and beta carotene. The plant’s vitamins are promoted when the gel is utilized for skin nourishing, and part of an anti-aging beauty regimen. Several popularly reported beauty-related uses for Aloe Vera include applying the gel extract to dry skin, as a scrub for cleansing, or as an application to treat acne. Two other reported benefits relate to weight loss and hair loss.
Aloe Vera and Weight Loss – A simple engine search will bring up countless number of marketplace products including Aloe Vera extract aimed at helping individuals with weight loss. The majority of individuals using Aloe Vera for weight loss are doing so in three primary ways. Some are consuming Aloe Vera Gel, some are consuming Aloe Vera supplements, and some are consuming Aloe Vera juice. One thing I have determined in my research of Aloe Vera use, is that each person should consult their personal doctor prior to utilizing Aloe Vera for purposes of weight loss. Once again, for clarity, it is important for each person to consult their physician prior to ingesting any Aloe Vera product or extract for purposes of weight loss. Research out of the Cleveland Clinic reports that some people have experienced side effects after using products with Aloe Vera for weight loss. Since side effects can vary based on individual and circumstance, the details of which are beyond the scope of this article. I will note that minimal evidence based research is available on this topic and the best course of action is to consult with a physician.
Aloe Vera and Hair Restoration – It should be noted that according to The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is not enough evidence based research available on the use of Aloe vera to confirm or deny the effectiveness of Aloe vera for most of the purposes for which people use the extracts. Hair loss restoration is one such area. Aloe vera is used not only to strengthen and condition hair, but also to regrow hair in some cases.
In addition to the reported beauty and care benefits, Aloe vera is also known to be utilized for medicinal and curative purposes. Some medicinal and curative uses include topical treatments for burns, hemorrhoids, cold sores, frostbite, skin wounds, and psoriasis. My mother-in-law has used her Aloe vera plant’s gel to sooth burns and areas of skin irritation for decades. She states this practice is effective, and I am told that she is aware of Aloe’s benefits based on shared family knowledge and purchased books on natural/home remedies. It should be noted that her use is not based off of evidence backed research. Additionally, Aloe vera has also been used to improve conditions relating to bowel disease, fever, and even osteoarthritis.
A research article from Laboratory Animal Research analyzed the effects of topical application of Aloe vera gel to support healing skin wounds on rats. The data analysis revealed that the topical application of Aloe vera gel on the skin wounds of rats led to a significant healing process increase. According to this study, the application accelerated the healing process for the rats compared to other forms of treatment that included application of thyroid hormone and silver sulfadiazine.
Negative Consequences Associated with Aloe Vera:
One of the biggest negative associations that I have come across linked to Aloe vera research relates to Cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, use of oral Aloe may cause an increase in cancer risk. It should be noted that even the American Cancer Society seems to be unsure based on their inclusion of the word “may” in their statement. As a result of this potential risk, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends that individuals avoid Aloe Vera ingestion in oral form. Additionally, other possible negative side effects linked to consuming Aloe vera include, diarrhea, as well as possible liver or renal problems.
Based on the current data analysis, the use of topical aloe is deemed safer than the oral consumption of Aloe vera leaf extracts. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) shares that a 2-year National Toxicology Program study on the oral consumption of nondecolorized whole leaf extract of Aloe vera found evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats and that decolorized whole leaf Aloe vera extract consumption did not reveal harmful effects.
The NCCIH also reports those orally consuming Aloe vera have indicated side effects including, diarrhea, cramps, lower glucose levels and even cases of acute hepatitis. It should be noted however that once again, the evidence is not comprehensive, conclusive, or definitive. The NCCIH gathers information and data by reviewing publications and searching Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. More evidence based research needs to be conducted in order to have a more comprehensive summation of the benefits and negatively associated consequences of utilizing Aloe vera extracts orally and topically.
Aloe Vera Conclusions:
Speaking with a physician first is key prior to initiating any type of beauty based or curative treatment plan. One should review all topical, and or, orally consumed extracts or products with a physician prior to initiating a treatment plan. Based on the research, which is minimal and lacks comprehensiveness and research proven outcomes, I feel confident in seeking advice and direction from a physician and medical professionals prior to making any decisions on the use of Aloe extracts. This article is a supplement to a previous article written on growing the Aloe vera in the home environment. Aloe vera is a beautiful plant to grow and I feel confident in saying that it is rewarding to grow and care for this plant in an indoor grow environment. So despite the question marks that remain regarding the effects of using Aloe vera extract as a beauty product or natural home grown remedy, I can say with sureness that growing the Aloe vera plant is a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor.