You’ve probably heard of the Aloe Vera plant as a pain reliever and healing salve for burns and sunburns, and, to be sure, it certainly excels in that regard, but it may have numerous other applications as well. Of course, the usual skepticism when discussing alternative medicine and folk remedies is advised, but aloe vera’s potential is at the very least worth investigation and objective assessment. Let’s take a look.
What’s Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a species of succulent plant in the aloe genus with long, thick, dull green, spike-edged leaves all growing out of the center of the plant. When one of the leaves is cut open, a thick, sticky gel is revealed inside the plant. This gel is what’s of interest for potential health, medicinal, and skincare applications.
One purported use for Aloe Vera is pain relief, especially for burns (including sunburns) but also for rashes, minor irritations, cuts, and other wounds, and etc.
This one actually holds a lot of water. There is ample evidence for aloe being effective on sunburns and other burns. It not only reduces pain, but causes the burn to heal faster than it would on its own. There’s also suggestive research and ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that aloe probably helps soothe and heal a variety of rashes and skin irritations. There is insufficient evidence supporting Aloe working well for wound healing of any kind, however, and what evidence does exist is conflicting.
It is also suggested that Aloe Vera can be used in or in addition to skincare products for purposes such as acne control, soothing sensitive skin and preventing flare-ups, and helping to nourish and moisturize skin.
While not conclusive as of yet, research does suggest that Aloe Vera is helpful at reducing acne, and it is less harsh than a lot of other acne treatments, like salicylic acid, which has a tendency to dry out the skin. However, aloe alone is not a sufficient acne treatment on its own, as research suggests that applying aloe gel in the morning and evening improves acne by about 35%. If you want that to be 100%, you should pair it with a prescription acne medication.
As for softening skin, there isn’t enough evidence to make a clear conclusion. It’s a “maybe, maybe not” kind of thing. Some studies were done, but the results are inconclusive, and it seems that aloe may increase water content in the very outermost layers, but not inner layers, meaning it doesn’t really fix the problem, so you’re better off with other skin softening ingredients.
Studies show promise for aloe treating psoriasis symptoms. A 0.5% aloe extract cream reduced skin plaques after about four weeks in clinical trials. It is more effective than corticosteroid creams commonly used for decreasing severity, however, it does not decrease other symptoms, so using prescription creams along with aloe is your best bet.
A lot of too-good-to-be-true claims for drinking beverages with aloe gel in them or taking aloe capsules have been made; everything from aloe juice as a depression cure to helping fight cancer to lowering cholesterol.
We’ll save you a lot of time on this one; almost none of these claims, or any other positive claims about aloe beverages, have any decent amount of supportive evidence. The singular exception is that aloe can be an effective treatment for constipation, but there are much better prescription and over-the-counter options for stool softeners or laxatives.