Health with Aloe VeraThe Aloe vera plant has been used for thousands of years to heal a variety of conditions, most notably burns, wounds, skin irritations, and constipation. It is grown in subtropical and tropical locations, including South Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Aloe was one of the most frequently prescribed medicines throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries and it remains one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States today. However, oral use of aloe for constipation is no longer recommended, as it can have severe side effects.
Aloe gel, made from the central part of the aloe leaf, is a common household remedy for minor cuts and burns, as well as sunburns. It can be found in many commercial skin lotions and cosmetics. Aloe contains active compounds that may reduce pain and inflammation and stimulate skin growth and repair. It is also an effective moisturizing agent. For this reason, aloe vera gel has gained tremendous popularity for relief of burns. In one study, burn sites treated with aloe healed completely in less than 16 days compared to 19 days for sites treated with silver sulfadiazine. In a review of the scientific literature, researchers found that patients who were treated with aloe vera healed an average of almost 9 days sooner than those who were not treated with the medicinal plant. However, other studies show mixed results. At least one study found that aloe actually delayed healing. Aloe is best used for minor burns and skin irritations and should never be applied to an open wound.
Preliminary evidence suggests that aloe gel may improve symptoms of genital herpes and certain skin conditions such as psoriasis. One study found that aloe vera gel displayed anti-inflammatory effects superior to 1% hydrocortisone cream or a placebo gel. Another study found that aloe vera gel combined with tretinoin was more effective than tretinoin alone for treating acne. As such, researchers claim that aloe vera gel may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions, such as ultraviolet-induced erythema.