Aloe vera is a shrub (that looks a little like a cactus) whose stems contain a healing gel that has been used for centuries. So what is aloe vera good for? It’s mainly used topically to treat skin conditions but can also be ingested to help with other health issues, including diabetes and hepatitis.
Aloe Vera Benefits
There are several reported benefits and uses of aloe vera, including:
- As a natural antioxidant
- As protection against UV rays (and ultimately as an anti-aging supplement)
- To help heal flesh wounds, including cuts and burns
- To help fight cavities when used as a tooth gel
- To relieve constipation
- To treat foot ulcers as a result of diabetes
- To improve learning and memory
Benefits for the Skin (Applied Topically)
The most common use for aloe vera is to treat skin conditions by applying it topically to wounds. It helps the skin heal faster, with some studies finding it can help burns heal much faster than conventional medication (up to 9 days faster).
It’s commonly used to treat skin conditions, such as:
- Sunburn (helps soothe and heal sun-damaged skin)
- Cuts and abrasions
- Dark spots
- Dry skin
- Psoriasis and eczema
- Stretch marks and minor scars
- Bug bites
Aloe Vera Can Be Used on Your Pets Too!
Aloe vera in its natural form is safe to use on pets, such as your dog’s paws. Use it the same way you would apply it to your own skin, breaking the stem and applying the internal gel directly to their skin.
Health Benefits when Ingested
Aloe vera can also be taken internally, either as food, in a capsule/powder form, or as a juice. People take aloe vera to help with:
- Digestive issues (aloe vera helps to balance stomach acidity levels)
- Immunity (it acts as a natural prebiotic)
- Vitamin intake (aloe vera helps your body to absorb nutrients)
- Constipation (although the FDA has not approved aloe vera to treat constipation)
- Weight loss
- Diabetes and prediabetes (helps to lower blood sugar levels)
- Lowering cholesterol levels
How to Use Aloe Vera
There are many different ways to use aloe vera—it all depends on what you’re using it for.
Using Aloe Vera On the Skin
The best way to use aloe vera on the skin is to go directly to the source and use the plant in its natural form. Simply break off one of the stalks on the plant to reveal the gel on the inside.
For general maintenance, cleanse your skin with the aloe vera, then rinse off. To treat wounds or bug bites, clean and dry the affected area first. Then, place the aloe vera gel over the wound and leave it on for 15 minutes to overnight (depending on how severe the damage is). You can bandage the area with the aloe gel to keep it in place.
You can also mix aloe gel with water and use it as a spray that you don’t need to watch off your skin.
If you’re using a cream, lotion, or gel that contains aloe vera, follow the directions on the product label. Some products have more aloe vera than others, so you may not need to use a lot of it.
Taking Aloe Vera Supplements
Consult your doctor before taking any new supplements, including aloe vera. You need to know how much dosage is OK for your particular situation and any dangers involved.
The amount of aloe vera you should take will depend on several factors, including:
- What you’re taking it for
- Underlying conditions you may have
- If you’re taking other medications
Can Aloe Vera Be Dangerous?
Aloe vera is generally considered safe when used topically. However, some people may notice some adverse effects, such as skin irritations.
Aloe vera should not be used topically:
- On severe burns or deep cuts
- If you have an adverse reaction from the aloe
Are You Allergic to Aloe Vera?
If you’re allergic to tulips, onions, or garlic, you may be more prone to an aloe allergy. Apply a small amount of aloe vera to the skin first to test for unwanted reactions.
Ingesting aloe vera comes with more potential health issues for certain people, such as:
- Cramping and diarrhea (as it acts as a laxative)
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Negative interactions with medications
Aloe vera should not be ingested by:
- Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (it may cause birth defects or miscarriages)
- Children (may cause stomach pains, diarrhea, and cramps in children under 12)
- Those with heart disease
- Those with intestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease, intestinal obstructions, or ulcerative colitis (it may make your symptoms worse)
- Those with kidney problems (can lead to kidney failure)
Remember, always consult with your doctor before taking aloe vera as a supplement.