Aloe vera may well be the oldest recorded plant known to humankind. It has been widely recognised around the world to hold health benefits. Aloe vera is used extensively to treat not only damaged skin but also fevers and wounds.
The first document we know of making reference to aloe vera is a Sumerian clay tablet, dating back to around BC 2100. Yet, the plant’s antiquity has been further confirmed by the Egyptian papyri to over three and a half thousand years.
Legend has it that acting upon the advice of Aristotle, Alexander the Great besieged and conquered the aloe vera capital of the ancient world. Lying roughly 150 miles east of the Cape Guardafui coast, the Island of Socotra produced a large portion of the Mediterranean’s aloe vera. In doing so, Alexander secured a steady stream of the healing plant to his army.
Jump to the middle of the twentieth century and we still see aloe vera being used by the military. This time, however, the injuries being treated were found on the bodies of Japan’s soldiers; they were caused by the 1944 atomic bomb rather than iron headed spears, swords, javelin or slingshot. It’s no wonder ancient Egyptians called aloe the ‘plant of immortality’.
The meaning of its name comes from the Arabic word ‘alloeh’ denoting to the plant’s ‘bitter’ taste. Yet ironically, there’s nothing alloeh about the estimated $13 billion market value that products derived from aloe vera hold.
What is the reason for such widespread cultivation of aloe vera over all other types? All other types are listed as endangered on CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
While the queens of Egypt credited aloe vera as the source of their beauty, anthropologists have recorded present-day hunter-gatherers who live in sub-Saharan Africa as using the plant as a natural form of deodorant.
Ayurveda (India’s ancient science of life and health) considers aloe vera to be the rejuvenator of all living organisms. According to Ayurvedic practitioners, aloe vera contains 4 flavours: sweet, sour, bitter and astringent. They believe that in addition to aloe, just two other plants (rose petals and guggul) contain these four flavours.
"Ancient Egyptians called aloe vera the 'plant of immortality'."
So, what is aloe vera?
Having been used for more than 6,000 years, aloe vera has unsurprisingly amassed numerous nicknames over its life. These include ‘shining bitter substance’, as well as ‘the plant of immortality’.(3) However, the aloe vera we are familiar with is just one of nearly 600 species in the family. These green succulent plants can be easily distinguished by their triangular, fleshy, serrated leaves.(1)
Aloe produces two substances: one gel and one latex. The gel is the jelly-like, clear substance found in the inner leaf, while the latex comes from just under the plant’s skin.(3)
Aloe vera health benefits
Research has identified 75 potentially active components in aloe vera. These include vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Moreover, aloe vera provides us with 20 amino acids and 7 (out of 9) essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce.
There are different healing properties associated with the gel and the latex of the aloe vera plant. For instance, the gel may be able to increase and change the content of collagen, breaking down the strength of scarring tissues. Additionally, it may act as an antioxidant, protecting the effects of radiation damage to your skin.
Further, the latex of the aloe plant contains anthraquinones. These are naturally occurring organic compounds that may relieve constipation. We often see anthraquinones as the main active constituent in herbs used for laxatives. This is because anthraquinones stimulate our large intestine by increasing water content.(3)
Aloe vera is an alkaline forming food.
Firstly, pure aloe vera juice alkalises the human body. In other words, it helps to balance overly acidic diets. Our body is designed to keep a proper balance between acid and alkali. It is measured on a pH scale from 0 to 14, 0 being highly acidic, 14 being highly alkaline. The ideal pH level falls between 7.35 and 7.45. In this range, the fluids and tissues in our body can do their work and we can function properly.(4)(5)
Different parts of our body have different pH levels. For example, with a pH of 3.5, our stomach is acidic and must remain that way in order to break the food down. On the other hand, our blood is almost neutral. This makes sense because we rely on the blood to transport substances around our body without reacting with them.(6)
There are negative health consequences on either end of the spectrum. On the one side, if our blood or fluids become too alkaline we can experience alkalosis. Symptoms of this include confusion, lightheadedness, twitching, tingling, and distress. On the other side, if our body is too acidic, we can experience acidosis (metabolic, respiratory, lactic or kidneys). This is marked by confusion, fatigue, shortness of breath and lethargy.(6)
The Western pattern diet tends to be meat heavy and lack fruits and vegetables. As a result, this type of diet is linked to metabolic acidosis. In short, it increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, and kidney stones.(7)
Bottom line: Alkaline foods such as aloe vera juice may benefit your body. An alkaline environment lets more oxygen flow into your cells and, in turn, create more energy. Other top alkaline foods include beet greens, spinach, bananas and kiwi.
Aloe vera gel
Most of the bioactive compounds, meaning the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, are contained in the gel of the aloe vera.(8) For example, aloe vera gel contains powerful nutrients that have been shown to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.(9) These protective properties become more significant as the aloe vera ages.(10)
Most importantly, aloe vera is a source of acemannan. Acemannan is a polysaccharide; a chemical compound found in the inner leaf gel of the aloe vera plant. It is this component that differentiates aloe vera from the rest of the species in the aloe plant family.
A polysaccharide is a large molecule composed of smaller, simple sugars called monosaccharides.(1) The acemannan polysaccharide is responsible for much of aloe vera’s healing power. For example, studies have shown that acemannan can stimulate certain synthesis, which can initiate an immune attack on cancerous cells.(3)(11) Acemannan has also been studied for its aid in regulating blood sugar levels.(12)
To benefit from the acemannan polysaccharides, source pure, high-quality aloe vera juice that comes from the inner leaf of mature aloe vera plant. On average, the Erbology Inner Leaf Aloe Vera Juice contains over 1600mg of acemannan polysaccharides per one litre of juice.
To summarise the three key health benefits of aloe vera juice: Firstly, it is alkalising. In other words, it counteracts acid build up in your body and helps to produce energy. Secondly, it can enhance cell protection by boosting your immune responses. And finally, it can help to soothe and heal damaged skin.
How to enjoy aloe vera health benefits?
Aloe vera comes in the form of gel, juice, oil and powder. You can apply it directly to the skin or drink the juice from the inner leaf.
For instance, many of us turn to aloe vera creams or gels when we have a sunburn. Studies have supported the use of aloe vera in accelerating the healing of burns.(13)
You may also come across a variety of drinks containing aloe vera. Note that often these drinks are diluted, sweetened, and contain a very small amount of this powerful ingredient. To enjoy its health benefits, we recommend sourcing organic and undiluted aloe vera juice.
Erbology sources its aloe vera from the south of Spain. This region is one of the best and oldest sources in the world. Most importantly, we use mature plants, which are higher in nutrients, and extract the juice from the inner leaf.
Discover Erbology Shots
At Erbology, we pride ourselves at making small-batch, plant-based shots. We use organic ingredients known for their therapeutic properties. Erbology shots are undiluted and unsweetened. As a result, you’ll experience the true flavour of the plant. Take Erbology Shots straight or mix them with water, juice or a smoothie.
Also known as chokeberry, aronia is a deep purple berry with an impressive amount of phytonutrients. For instance, it is an excellent source of anthocyanins that help protect your body cells from the free radical damage.
We source this wonderful citrus from Calabria in Italy, where it has been grown for centuries. Studies have shown that bergamot orange may be beneficial to cardiovascular health and nervous system.
We take the most fertile Damask roses and extract the hydrosol through steam distillation. As a result, our rose water is naturally rich in nutrients and contains precious rose oil.
Among an array of vitamins, this bright orange berry is one of the best plant sources of omega-7 fatty acids and vitamin C. Boost your immune system, energise your body and support your mucous membranes with sea buckthorn.
Delicious recipes with aloe vera juice
Pure aloe vera juice has a slightly bitter taste. Thus, many people may not find its distinctive taste enjoyable. That’s why, we recommend adding aloe vera to smoothies, cocktails, and even nut milks. Check out Erbology recipes where we use aloe vera to make delicious drinks.
For instance, we love making this Aloe vera nut milk using activated almonds, Medjool dates and fresh strawberries. Activating (or soaking) makes nuts more nutritious. In addition, they become more gut friendly. Combine this recipe with our wholesome tigernut granola. Tigernuts are a prebiotic, hence, great for gut health. It’s also worth mentioning that Erbology granola contains no added sugar and is made with raw ingredients. In other words, it’s naturally rich in vitamins and minerals essential for your wellbeing.
Are you a smoothie lover? Then, have a go at this cleansing Green power smoothie bowl. We combined a bunch of green fruits and veggies, such as baby spinach, kiwi, and spirulina. Most importantly, we added a shot of aloe vera juice and our virgin milk thistle oil. The result? Not only does it pass our taste test, it is also incredibly wholesome. This recipe is excellent for your skin, digestion and immunity.
Finally, aloe vera doesn’t have to be just for the morning. Pomegranate, orange & aloe vera cocktail recipe is a refreshing combination of the ingredients that taste great and are good for you. This party piece is sure to turn more than a few heads.
At Erbology, we love exploring and bringing you nature’s wonders. We believe that consuming more plants can help you lead a more balanced life. Learn more about the health benefits of ingredients such as amaranth, bergamot, sea buckthorn, tigernut and many more.
Maya chia, here I go again
In at least one Mayan language, ‘chia’ means ‘strength’. It seems reasonable to conclude that this probably derives from the huge amounts of energy that this tiny seed stores within its body. In the past, the chia seed held a supernatural aura. Today, the acclaim and prestige it carries acts as a kind of twenty-first-century version of this. Continue reading
The incredible benefits of aronia berries
Many American first nations considered aronia berries an important food staple. They usually ate the berry raw or dried and mixed it with pemmican. The Jicarilla particularly, dried the fruit and pressed them into cakes, which they stockpiled for the winter months. The fresh berries could be mashed and made into a jam, or simply left to ferment to be used as cherry wine. Every single part of the plant had a use. Even its bark and roots were boiled to produce a form of medicinal tea. Continue reading
Forget Red Bull, sea buckthorn’s what really gives you wings
Said to be a symbol of dignity and power, legend has it that Pegasus grazed through the day on common forage while holding a special place for the sea buckthorn plant whose tart orange berries sustained arduous flights around the empire and Mount Olympus. It’s obvious that the ancient Greeks were familiar with and amazed by sea buckthorn’s potential. Probably because it played a large part in the diet of Greece’s best racehorses, some scholars have referred to it humorously as ‘the Pegasus plant’. Continue reading
Amaranth, a symbol of Aztec power and a staple in the modern kitchen
For the people of Mesoamerica, gods and nature where not distinctly separate as they are in Judaeo-Christian faiths. They projected character traits of nature into the personalities of different gods and conversely, saw parts of these gods in natural objects found throughout the region. One significant crossover lay in the amaranth plant. So important was this tall plant, with its broad green leaves, that during the festivities of Huitzilopochtli the community built a divine statue from its seeds. Continue reading
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(2) “Aloe Vera”, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016, nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera.
(3) Surjushe, Amar, et al. “Aloe Vera: A Short Review”, Indian Journal of Dermatology, Medknow Publications, 2008, https://bit.ly/1oUcfrG.
(4) Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline PH Diet Benefits Health?”, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Hindawi Publishing, 2012, https://bit.ly/1GCrDUR.
(5) Waugh A, Grant A. Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness, 10th edition. Philadelphia, USA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2007. Print.
(6) Dragani R. “What is the pH of blood?”, Sciencing.com, https://bit.ly/2SGKiND.
(7) Adeva, M M, and G Souto. “Diet-Induced Metabolic Acidosis”, Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011, https://bit.ly/2Gkf6Oz.
(8) Leech, Joe. “Aloe Vera: Eight Health Benefits.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318591.php.
(9) Nejatzadeh-Barandozi, Fatemeh. “Antibacterial Activities and Antioxidant Capacity of Aloe Vera.” Organic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Springer, 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729540/.
(10) Hu, Y, et al. “Evaluation of Antioxidant Potential of Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Miller) Extracts.”, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14664546.
(11) Peng SY, Norman J, Curtin G, Corrier D, McDaniel HR, Busbee D. Decreased mortality of Norman murine sarcoma in mice treated with the immunomodulator, acemannon. Mol Biother. 1991;3:79–87.
(12) Yongchaiyudha, S, et al. “Antidiabetic Activity of Aloe Vera L. Juice. I. Clinical Trial in New Cases of Diabetes Mellitus.”, Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1996, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23195077.
(13) Maenthaisong, R, et al. “The Efficacy of Aloe Vera Used for Burn Wound Healing: a Systematic Review”, Burns: Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17499928.
Svetlana Pasarić, A Brief History of Aloe Vera, https://bit.ly/2SnMWaW.
“Anthraquinones”, The Naturopathic Herbalist, 13 Apr. 2016, https://bit.ly/2MLxeRB.
Overall, Best Diets, “Acid Alkaline Diet”, U.S. News & World Report, health.usnews.com/best-diet/acid-alkaline-diet.
Reddy, S T, et al. “Effect of Low-Carbohydrate High-Protein Diets on Acid-Base Balance, Stone-Forming Propensity, and Calcium Metabolism”, American Journal of Kidney Diseases: the Official Journal of the National Kidney Foundation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12148098.
Dabfm, et al. “Understanding the Alkaline Diet and Its Benefits”, Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles, Global Healing Center, Inc, 20 Oct. 2016, https://bit.ly/2BdvQ5F.
The Aloe Vera Story, 2017. http://www.lilyofthedesert.com/aloes-story/.