Medicinal Use

The benefits of Aloe Vera has been known for over 5000 years. Aloe Vera is one of the most powerful plants on Earth used as a natural antiseptics that can kill bacteria and viruses. Aloe Vera is high in vitamins and minerals and is a powerful Adaptogen that helps with digestion, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Egyptians first wrote of the healing powers of the plant on their ancient papyrus texts calling it the plant of immortality. Cleopatra and Nefertiti bathed in aloe juice to retain their youth and beautiful looks. Aloe is mentioned several times in the Bible. It was used in the burial of Jesus. History and legend tells that Aristotle convinced Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socotra in order to collect aloe plants to use as medicine for his soldiers. Greek writer Dioscorides made detailed accounts of aloe’s uses. Aloe’s influence spread far and wide. In our century, we have the opportunity to read numerous books, hundreds of scientific papers and search the internet to discover the many benefits of aloe.

Research studies highlight the tremendous healing powers of aloe when used both internally and externally. Some of the benefits include: as a pain and allergy inhibitor, for inflammation, fluid retention, perspiration odours, itching, hemorrhaging and to close cuts for cell regeneration and healing, to destroy parasites, harmful bacteria and fungi in the intestinal tract, to relieve bowel tension and help produce bowel movements, moisturise skin, increase blood flow, remove toxins and dead tissue, penetrate skin to reach tendons, muscles, joints and the lymph system, and promote the growth of new tissue. It also has a normalising action on fluid levels and the acid/ alkaline balance in the body. Research has shown that aloe vera can increase the proliferation of lymphocytes and stimulate natural immunity through killer cell activity. Aloe has a strong effect on the immune system, by activating and stimulating macrophages, monocytes, antibodies and T-cells, as well as increasing the number of anti-body forming Bcells in the spleen.

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Current research on aloes in the Jodrell Laboratory focuses on unravelling their evolutionary history based on phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data. Working with an international team of collaborators in Africa and Europe, the ultimate aim of my research is to reconstruct a complete phylogeny of the aloes. Building a phylogenetic tree for a large, taxonomically complex group such as the aloes is exciting work for a plant scientist. Some of the challenges include obtaining well-preserved material from species in inaccessible or inhospitable habitats, extracting quality DNA in the laboratory, and ensuring the plant specimens are accurately identified. The research to date has shed new light on relationships among ‘true aloes’ in the genus Aloe, the tree aloes (Aloidendron), scrambling aloes (Aloiampelos) and the unusual fan-leaved Cape endemic genus Kumara (Grace et al., 2013a).

A broad sampling of species, representing the tremendous morphological and habitat diversity of aloes, is the first step in establishing an evolutionary hypothesis for these plants. This comprehensive sampling approach will enable us to reach sound conclusions on the most likely scenarios leading to the patterns of species diversity observed today, and make predictions about possible future scenarios. All aloes have succulent leaves which enable them to withstand periodic drought, but not all are found in particularly arid habitats. Some species even prefer deep shade or wet rock faces.



Aloe vera has been used for centuries and it is more popular today than ever. It is cultivated around the world as a crop for its colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma known as ‘aloe gel’. It is used for a variety of purposes in food, food supplements, herbal remedies and cosmetics.

Aloe vera leaf parenchyma (aloe gel) may be effective when used on the skin against psoriasis, burns, frostbite, and sores caused by the Herpes simplex virus. Research has shown that, taken orally, aloe gel can help to lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol, and can help to lower blood glucose levels in people with type II diabetes.

The green outer layer of the leaves of Aloe vera yields a bitter, yellow exudate which has very different properties from those of the colourless parenchyma. The bitter leaf exudate has traditionally been used as a laxative. However, research has indicated that the active constituents may have harmful effects and can interact with other medicines and herbal remedies. It should not be given to children or to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

One of the most important functions of aloe is to aid the digestive system, as poor digestion can be responsible for many diseases. Our food comprises proteins, carbohydrates and fats that must undergo a process of digestion, which consists of breaking down complex substances into simpler ones so they can be absorbed and used by the body. Aloe is able to assist the body by providing the active properties of a large range of amino acids, monosaccharides, fatty acids and enzymes that act as catalysts in breaking down complex foods so the body can assimilate the nutrients more efficiently. Considerable in-vitro and in-vivo research has been done with the concentration of mucopolysaccharides (MSPs) found in aloe vera. MSPs are long-chained sugar molecules, which are found naturally in every cell of the body, however, around the time of puberty, the body stops producing them. When taken internally, they have been shown to have immune stimulating effects. The MSPs of aloe vera interact with the body’s immune system, enhancing rather than over-riding this system. MSPs interject themselves into the cell membranes of the body resulting in much greater cell fluidity and permeability, allowing toxins to flow out of the cells more freely and nutrients to flow in. These nutrients include electrolytes and water, so the MSPs are able to facilitate absorbtion in the gastro-intestinal tract. The overall effect on the body is a rise in energy and cell metabolism activity which leads to a feeling of wellbeing. MSPs also act to protect cells from invasion by microbes such as viruses by setting up a protective barrier, which forms a lining on the colon and keeps toxic wastes from entering the body. MSPs will also lubricate the joints and relieve pain by dilating capillaries, which increases the supply of oxygen and blood to the area. Aloe vera’s properties are extraordinary and have been used to treat man’s many ailments from A to Z. Its uses and the conditions it may relieve include: abscesses, abrasions, acne, allergies, AIDS, anemia, arterial insufficiency, arthritis, athlete’s foot, asthma, bad breath, baldness, blisters, bed sores, bladder infections, blood pressure, bruises, bronchitis, burns, bursitis, bunions, bed wetting, boils, bone fractures, candida, canker sores, cancer, carbuncles, cataracts, cramps, chilblains, chemotherapy side effects, chapped skin and lips, coughs, colds and cold sores, colic, constipation, cystitis, conjunctivitis, colon cleanser, complexion enhancer, chicken pox sores, lowers serum cholesterol, convulsions, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, dandruff, dysentery, depression, dry skin, dermatitis, denture sores, detoxifier, duodenal ulcers, oedema, Epstein Barr virus, earache, fevers, fungus, frost bite, fluid retention, gastrointestinal problems, genital herpes, gangrene, gingivitis, glaucoma, gynaecological diseases, gall ailments, heat rash, headaches, hemorrhoids, heart burn, high blood pressure, hang-overs, hives, heat exhaustion, insomnia, ingrown toenails, indigestion, insect bites, inflamed joints, jaundice, kidney infections, leprosy, laryngitis, lupus, liver ailments, leukaemia, lacerations, multiple sclerosis, mouth ulcers, moles, migraines, menstrual pain, nausea, nervous stress, nappy rash, obesity, psoriasis, prostatitis, pancreas problems, pimples, problems caused by protozoa (ringworm, fungi, virus), prickly heat, periodontal disease, radiation burns, rashes, scar tissue, skin lesions, stings, styes, sprains, sores, scalds, stretch marks, shingles, staph infections, sunburn, sore throat, stomach ulcers, sports injuries, sinus, sun spots, spurs, tonsillitis, tendonitis, trachoma, tuberculosis, tiredness, tropical ear, ulcers, vaginitis, venereal sores, varicose veins, worms, worts, wounds, X-ray burns, yeast infection and zoster (shingles).


Aloe vera has six antiseptic agents (sulphur, lupeol, salicylic acid, cinnamic acid, urea nitrogen and phenol) which act as a team to provide antimicrobial activity thus eliminating many internal and external infections. The pain relieving action is due to the effective analgesics in salicylic acid, magnesium and lupeol. Fatty acids also have a pain reducing, allergy and inflammation relieving effect, and work to lower harmful cholesterol levels.

Alpe vera extract makes that blood that’s left in the body function as if it were a full supply of blood. It delivers oxygen more efficiently to the organs in the body that need oxygen to stay alive, most notably the brain and the heart. This has been well proven, and in fact aloe vera extract is now a part of a first aid medical product that is being marketed to the U.S. military for precisely this purpose.

If you use aloe vera and you increase the viscosity of red blood cells, then you effectively take a quantity of red blood cells that wasn’t functioning at its optimum efficiency and transform them into something very efficient. You effectively increase the working surface area of the entire blood supply. And that explains exactly why this extract can help a hemorrhaging patient who has lost a tremendous amount of blood continue to live and function even on a much smaller volume of blood.

What does all of this mean to you as a person who might be a heart patient or a person with atherosclerosis who is looking to enhance your cardiovascular health? It means simply that if you eat aloe vera gel, then you may be doing yourself a huge favor in terms of your cardiovascular health. Very likely you are increasing the viscosity of your blood at the cellular level. You’re increasing its ability to carry oxygen, and to diffuse that oxygen into the organs in your body.

Theoretically, by increasing the viscosity, you are effectively halting the plaque buildup in your arteries, because there aren’t groups of red blood cells floating around in your system that get stuck on the micro tears and abrasions that appear along the walls of your arteries.


As a general tonic, aloe vera can be taken regularly for stamina and well being. Cut one or two large leaves from the base of a plant, and allow to stand half an hour for the yellow sap just under the skin to drain. Take care not to get this sap on clothes, as it can stain. To make an infusion from the leaves, cut them into 2cm chunks and place the pieces into half litre size glass jars with lids (or other containers), filling the jars about one third. Top up the containers with cold water and put them in the refrigerator. Leave to steep eight hours or overnight. Pour off one half to one glass of the aloe infusion and drink first thing in the morning and also the same amount before each meal and at bedtime if desired. After draining the infusion from a jar, refill the jar with water. This is where it is beneficial to have several jars prepared, so that the jar just refilled goes to the back of the shelf in the refrigerator, and the jars are continually rotated. This allows enough time for each jar to steep before being used. The infusion can be drunk whenever you feel thirsty.

After 10-12 days, the used aloe can be emptied into the compost, and a new batch started with fresh leaves. If the jars are not used for a number of days the liquid may ferment. Discard and start a fresh batch. Each time the jars are refilled, the infusion will get milder and weaker, but it will still benefit the body. The flavour is mildly bitter during the first days, but then the infusion will taste like crystal clear spring water. In fact, many people use this method of infusion to purify drinking water, particularly in countries where water is untreated. Some people use this procedure to remove the chlorine taste from treated water by placing a peeled chunk of aloe (with the yellow sap washed off) into a large jug of water in the refrigerator. As liquid is taken out to drink, the jug is topped up again. After several weeks of use, a new chunk of aloe can be started in a clean jug of water. Aloe vera may be prepared as 100% juice, stabilised with vitamin C. Pick large leaves, cut the skin off, rinse the yellow sap off with water and place the clear gel in a blender. For 3 cups of gel, add 1 teasp. of vitamin C powder and blend at low speed. Place in a covered container in the refrigerator. Take 2-5 tablesp. daily, mixed with water or added to fruit juice, which helps to disguise the gooey texture and makes it easier to swallow. The pure juice, taken regularly, is recommended as the most effective way to reap the medicinal benefits of aloe.


Aloe Vera is a gelatinous plant food, just like seaweeds and chia seeds. The main benefit to consuming gelatinous plant foods in your diet is that these gels move through the intestinal tract absorbing toxins along the way and get eliminated through the colon. This will help the proper elimination of waste from your body and help the detoxification of your body.

The polysaccharides in aloe vera juice stimulate macrophages, which are the white blood cells of your immune system that fight against viruses. Aloe is also an immune enhancer because of its high level of anti-oxidants, which help combat the unstable compounds known as free-radicals, contributing to the aging process. (Free radicals are a bi-product of life itself, it is a naturally occurring process but we can overload ourselves with unnecessary free-radicals by living an unhealthy lifestyle). Aloe is also an antipyretic which means it used to reduce or prevent fever.

In cancer patients, immune modulating polysaccharides increase the body’s production of tumour necrosis factor, which is a natural chemical that functions to shut off the blood supply to malignant tumours. Another aloe derivative, Alexin B, possesses powerful anti-cancer activity against lymphocytic leukemia. We may hear more about candelabra aloe in the future, as the herb farm was recently able to assist a research group by air-freighting 2000 plants to Sardinia to be grown for research.

Because of aloe’s well-known healing properties for the skin, aloe is one of the primary compounds used in the cosmetic industry. It is a known vulnerary, (meaning it helps heal wounds) and is great for applying topically to burns, abrasions, psoriasis and even to bug bites. Aloe acts as an analgesic, acting to help relieve pain of wounds. It’s feels especially good to cut a stem of aloe, place it in the fridge and rub it on sun burnt skin – the immediate soothing effect feels like an absolute lifesaver. Aloe is also an antipruritic: A substance that relieves or prevents itching. Aloe vera is an astringent: which causes the contraction of body tissues, typically used to reduce bleeding from minor abrasions. Due to aloe’s high water content (over 99% water) it is a great way to hydrate, moisturize and rejuvenate the skin and fits within my general guideline: “Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat!” Aloe increases the elasticity of the skin making it more flexible through collagen and elastin repair. Aloe is an emollient, helping to soften and soothe the skin. It helps supply oxygen to the skin cells, increasing the strength and synthesis of skin tissue and induces improved blood flow to the skin through capillary dilation.

Tonic Recipe

To prepare the Tonic Recipe, blend in a mixer or mincer whole leaves to make 300g, add 500g of natural honey and 750ml of red wine. Put the mixture in a dark bottle and keep in refrigerator. The daily dose is 50ml of the mixture half an hour before breakfast, lunch and the evening meal. Gel from the candelabra leaf has been found to give relief when applied topically for shingles, arthritis and inflammation. Martin, a local retiree recently shared with me that he had severe arthritic pain in his wrists and knees, but after applying poultices of candelabra, the pain was completely relieved. He has been sharing his experiences of candelabra with everyone he meets with painful arthritis. Aloe vera is a valuable plant with many healing benefits. Never underestimate the power of aloe.


Natural capital

Aloes feature on stamps, coins and logos and are arguably as iconic in Africa as flat-crowned acacia trees. Many aloes flower during the dry season when the landscape is bleakest, providing spectacular floral displays and an important source of nectar for birds. A close look at the uses recorded for Aloe and related genera has shown that, although many species are used for home remedies, their value is greatest in veterinary medicine (Grace et al., 2009).

The enormous industry which brings Aloe vera to supermarket commodities, cosmetics and foods, is centred on the carbohydrate-rich succulent leaf tissue from cultivated Aloe vera plants. Surveys of the diversity of constituent sugars have shown interesting taxonomic and phylogenetic patterns (Grace et al., 2013b) and have stimulated further research with colleagues at the University of Copenhagen to investigate carbohydrate structure in the leaves of true aloes, including Aloe vera.

How To Select And Store Aloe Vera

The aloe vera plant thrives in hot and dry climatic conditions. So, if you want your plant to grow properly, it is important that the plant receives enough sunlight and warmth. While it certainly needs water, too much of it can actually hamper its growth and cause it to rot. One of the signs that you are watering your plant too much is when the leaves turn yellow. This indicates that the leaves are saturated with water, so you should cease watering the plant for a while. You also should not use fertilizers on the soil the aloe vera plant grows in. Rather than helping the plant, it may hamper its growth.

For harvesting the gel, it is best that you use the outermost leaves. They tend to be fleshier than the newer ones, and therefore contain more gel. Make a clean cut with a sharp knife as close to the base as possible. Then, place the leaves upright for a while so that the sap drains out. This is a very important step if you are planning on consuming aloe vera. After the leaves have been cleared of the sap, peel off the outermost green layer. This leaves you with the clear gel, which you can scoop out with a spoon. If you are planning on ingesting the aloe vera gel, do so immediately. For topical application, it can be stored for a longer time in the refrigerator.  Always use a sterilized container to store your gel in order to keep it from spoiling. For a longer shelf life, you may add a few drops of vitamin E to it.

Aloe vera has long been used as a traditional medicine for inducing wound healing. It is a natural product that now a days is used in cosmetic industry. Benefits associated with Aloe vera have been attributed to the polysaccharides contained in the gel of the leaves though there are various indications for its use. Biological activities include promotion of wound healing, antifungal activity, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and immunomodulatory. Gingival fibroblasts play an important role in oral wound healing. Double blind-controlled trials are needed to determine its real efficacy in oral health.