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Nutrient - Aloe vera - elixir of youth

By Karen Wilson BSc (Hons) MSc Nut Med

Prized by ancient civilisations for thousands of years for its health-giving properties, the ancient Egyptians referred to it as ‘the plant of immortality’, inscribing the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs with drawings of Aloe plants. Both Nefertiti and Cleopatra used Aloe vera for its age-defying effects on the skin. The Chinese called it ‘elixir of youth’ for the same reason.

Aloe vera barbadensis Miller, or ‘true Aloe’, resembles a cactus with spiky fleshy leaves but, in fact, it is a succulent. The fleshy leaves exude a ‘gel’ containing essential minerals, vitamins, proteins, lipids, amino acids, enzymes and polysaccharides, when cut, and is a true superfood.

Whole leaf Aloe contains more of these important nutrients than other Aloe juices and should ideally contain 17,000 MPS per litre (this is a measurement of the active polysaccharide content). Aloe juice should be gently preserved to maintain the activity of the nutrients. Avoid ones without preservation, as they will have been heated and the active substances largely destroyed. Tablets made with whole leaf Aloe do not require preservation.

Aloe vera assists the body to absorb vitamins and encourages the production of detoxifying enzymes. It also contains seven different superoxide dismutases (SODs), which help reduce oxidative stress and protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage. The cumulative health-giving properties of Aloe are known to optimise immune function, maintain normal blood sugar, aid healthy skin renewal, support the digestive tract and a healthy cardiovascular system, and also helps the joints.

Taken internally either as a drink or as tablets, Aloe vera actually makes people ‘feel better’, probably due to Aloe’s ability to detoxify the tissues. Hundreds of studies over the last few decades are testament to the health-giving properties that  the ancient civilisations valued so highly.

Aloe vera aids protein digestion and absorption and helps maintain a healthy colon, by assisting  bowel movements and elimination. It also promotes the growth of probiotic friendly bacteria and discourages yeast growth. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties, too, which help keep the intestinal tract healthy.

Additionally, its alkalising effect on the gastro-intestinal tract helps to maintain acidity in the normal range.

The active components in Aloe vera are thought to be mucinous polysaccharides, which are particularly important for the health of the lining of the digestive system, lungs, nose and vagina, but are also found in every cell. The active polysaccharide links together and forms a lining to the colon, presenting a barrier to bacteria in the gut and preventing toxins from being reabsorbed.

Studies have shown that these polysaccharides are important  for immune health, having a positive effect on macrophages and the production of other immune cells that are key to strong immunity.

This multifunctional food is also capable of normalising the effects of oxidative stress by regulating detoxification processes at a cellular level. Oxidative stress is an imbalance in the production of free radicals that disrupt the body’s ability to detoxify and repair the resulting damage to organs and cells. Oxidative stress is common due to modern lifestyles and is implicated in many chronic disease conditions.

Finally, Aloe is often used in cosmetics and skincare products because of its antioxidant and skin-enhancing properties. However, since beauty comes from within, taking Aloe daily, like Cleopatra, can encourage healthy, glowing skin. It encourages collagen synthesis, which is so important in the constant growth and healthy renewal of skin. It also aids moisture retention and flexibility, which are essential for young looking skin.

Whole leaf Aloe - a modern elixir for health! 

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