The aloe vera plant, a succulent, 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. Protects the Skin
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.
- 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.
Aloe vera has a double-edged sword to put the breaks on this. Acemannan fires up fibroblasts, cells that make collagen, and makes sure there’s less MMP-1 enzyme to degrade collagen. What you’re left with is more collagen, fewer wrinkles, and smoother skin!
- 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. Under normal levels of sun exposure, immune cells in the skin, called epidermal Langerhans cells, can fight them off. When you get too much sun, these cells may suffer damage themselves.
Aloe vera has a small molecule called G1C2F1 that can, thankfully, repair the UV-induced damage and get the epidermal Langerhans cells up and running again.
2. Stabilizes Blood Glucose
Managing blood glucose seems to be a struggle of the masses. The polysaccharides, glycoproteins, and phytosterols in aloe vera gel can help reduce blood glucose – with effects seen as early as 2–4 weeks.
Also, your body tends to store more fat when there’s too much insulin in your blood, a problem faced in type 2 diabetes. Aloe vera can reduce inflammation caused by increases in body fat. It does this by inducing anti-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines in white fat cells and the liver.
3. Reduces “Bad” Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a necessity for the body despite its infamy tying back to clogged arteries and heart failure. Instead of worrying about having cholesterol in your body, focus on striking a balance between the “bad” LDL cholesterol, traveling from the liver to other parts of your body, and the “good” HDL cholesterol going back to the liver.
Acemannan helps you strike that balance by reducing 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 double whammies by reducing oxidative stress in the liver so even lesser cholesterol is produced.
4. Strengthens Immunity
The orchestra of compounds in aloe vera gel is what makes it so versatile; versatility is the need of the hour for a highly exposed or weak immune system.
- 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 Manage Pain
Does aspirin come to mind when we mention “pain”? Instead of popping synthetic salicylic acid in aspirin pills, opt for naturally available salicylic acid found in aloe vera gel. It works just as well minus any side effects! The gel’s high magnesium content may also contribute to pain relief.
Pain is one manifestation of inflammation. If you suppress inflammation, you’re likely to experience some pain relief. 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.
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 “more” works just as well as “less.” So, you don’t need to have large quantities for it to benefit you.
There is no fixed recommendation of 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.