Aloe Vera

A low-maintenance succulent, aloe vera offers benefits beyond youthful skin. It helps balance your cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the liver and protecting the liver from free radical damage. It also helps your body modulate its immune response, on the one hand helping produce more antibodies to fight invading microbes, and on the other, pulling the brakes on inflammation, a side effect of the immune response. Among other aloe compounds, acemannan is the most versatile.

The aloe vera plant stores water in its leaves to survive in dry regions. The slightly yellow gel you see when you split the leaves in half is nothing but water storage cells. Even though about 99% of these cells is just water, the remaining 1% has compounds that are health promoting.

Take a quick look:

Adding to its accolades, aloe vera has seven of the eight essential amino acids that your body can’t synthesize on its own and needs from food. It also contains two plant hormones, auxin and gibberellin, that encourage growth.

Though the polysaccharides tend to take all the glory for aloe vera’s health benefits, particularly acemannan, in reality, there is a combination of different compounds working together.

Let’s talk about what they do.

Why It’s So Great

1. Helps Protect the Skin

We don’t need to preach to the converted. Everyone knows about the benefits of aloe vera for the skin. However, the advantage of consuming aloe vera gel powder over applying aloe vera gel is the fact that its benefits are systemic. With gel, we tend to focus only on our face, while the powder can deliver aloe vera’s goodness to skin all over the body.

Here’s how it makes a difference.

  • Helps reduces wrinkles: Collagen, the elastic in your skin, makes your skin look smooth and youthful. As you spend more time in the sun and as you grow older, the collagen in your skin breaks down more and more. Enter wrinkles.

Smooth, wrinkle-free skin is then a matter of more collagen. Aloe vera could help. It has acemannan that fires up fibroblasts, cells that make collagen, and makes sure there’s less MMP-1 enzyme to degrade collagen.

  • Hydrates skin and tightens pores: The polysaccharides in aloe vera gel help lock moisture into the skin, while zinc helps tighten open pores.
  • Repairs UV damage: When the sun’s UV rays touch your skin, an army of damaging molecules called free radicals is generated. To a large extent, immune cells in the skin, called epidermal Langerhans cells, can fight them off. Aloe vera has a small molecule called G1C2F1 that protects these cells in turn from UV-induced damage.

2. Helps Maintain Blood Glucose Balance

Managing the glucose level in your blood is an essential balancing function your body performs round the clock. The polysaccharides, glycoproteins, and phytosterols in aloe vera gel can help it in this process.

3. Helps Maintain Cholesterol Balance

Though cholesterol has been made out to be the enemy of people, the truth is, you need cholesterol for many body functions. The only thing to be concerned about is the amount of different types of cholesterol and the ratio between them. There should be more “good” HDL cholesterol to scavenge and help flush out the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Your body is always trying to strike this balance; the right foods and herbs could lend a helping hand.

Acemannan in aloe provides your body some much-needed assistance. It reduces LDL cholesterol as well as total cholesterol. These are the possible mechanisms at work:

  • Without any dilly-dally, it targets and inhibits the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase that promotes cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Cholesterol production will, thus, be more controlled.
  • It reduces damage in the liver caused by free radicals; so even lesser cholesterol is produced.

4. Helps Strengthen Immunity

Your body is constantly under threat from various external invaders like microbes and internal rebels like free radicals. Your immune system would definitely appreciate some help with the weapon supply. Enter the versatile compounds in aloe vera gel.

  • The polysaccharides and glycoproteins help your immune system bulk produce antibodies to attack disease-causing agents (the secondary humoral immune response). They also make sure that front-line troopers called macrophages live longer and can, hence, protect you for longer.

Taking the macrophage attack up a notch, acemannan encourages macrophages to release cytokines and nitric oxide, creating SOS signals for other immune system components to take effect.

  • Anthraquinones like aloe-emodin, emodin, and chrysophanol support the immune system by taking on some of the responsibility. They block bacterial protein synthesis, prevent viruses from attaching to and entering your body’s cells, and stimulate pathogen-eating immune cells.

5. Helps Lower Inflammation

Inflammation can be called your immune system’s knee-jerk reaction to any kind of threat from the outside (infection by microbes or injury) or damage inside (by free radicals). Usually it subsides when the problem resolves. But aging and poor lifestyle can prolong it, though you may not be able to see the symptoms immediately.

What you then need is a tweak in the diet and lifestyle – something as simple as eating more anti-inflammatory foods and herbs. Aloe vera is one such herb.

  • Aloe vera gel can inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase and, thus, suppress inflammation.
  • It further interferes with the inflammatory response by removing free radicals generated as a result of inflammation. The credit for this goes to aloe vera’s antioxidants – α-tocopherol (vitamin E), carotenoids, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), flavonoids, tannins, and polysaccharides.

Lifestyle Tip

Like we said, it makes more sense to consume aloe vera gel or gel powder when you’re looking for whole body health benefits. Please note that it is only safe to consume if you’re 18 years or older. It is not suitable for children.

Also, aloe vera is one of those things where “less” works just as well as “more.” So, you don’t need to have large quantities for it to benefit you.

There is no fixed recommendation on how much you should have. That’s a call you can take with your doctor. Generally speaking, 200–300 mg of the gel powder daily or 1 teaspoon of the diluted gel twice daily may be a good place to start. Have it an hour before your meals. If you develop diarrhea, reduce the amount and drink plenty of water.