Aloe vera is an incredible plant. While most people will know it for being the go-to gel for soothing sunburn, the benefits of aloe vera are bountiful. Beneath the plant’s thick, prickly outer layer, it has a gel-like tissue that is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids to deliver a potent health hit.
You’ll find derivatives of this nutrient-rich goo in moisturisers, shower gels, shaving creams and sunscreens, but it’s the clear, cold-pressed inner flesh that brings the most benefits. There are several ways to harness the benefits of aloe vera – eating it, drinking it, or smearing it on your skin. So, if you have only ever used it to fend off first degree burns, you’re missing out!
Here are some of the other more unknown benefits of aloe vera.
1. It boosts digestion
Shackled to the porcelain throne and can’t get things moving? Aloe vera is a confirmed constipation-reliever. “The outer portion of the plant contains compounds called anthraquinones, which are responsible for the plant’s laxative effect,” says Lenherr. Be warned: a little goes a long way. “Over-consumption of aloe vera juice can lead to diarrhoea and stomach cramping,” she adds.
2. It can fight acne
To beat breakouts, the one-two punch of topical retinoids and aloe vera gel has ‘superior efficacy’ to either treatment used alone, a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found. Aloe vera contains salicylic acid, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects: eliminating acne-causing bacteria and calming stressed-out skin to reduce redness and irritation.
3. It can reduce plaque
Swilling aloe vera mouthwash won’t just freshen your breath – it reduces plaque as effectively as chlorhexidine, a prescription mouthwash for gum disease, researchers from India found. Alternatively, try an aloe vera gel-based toothpaste. When the Academy of General Dentistry pitted the tooth gel’s germ-fighting ability against two commercial toothpastes, the former was as effective – sometimes more so – at controlling cavity-causing organisms.
4. It’s hydrating
Not only is around 95 per cent of the plant made up of water, but aloe vera contains electrolytes such as magnesium and potassium, “which contribute to hydration, especially after exercise,” says registered nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr. “However, many of the benefits of aloe vera are found in the pulp, so the amounts found in the juice are quite minimal.” To reap maximum benefits, stick to skincare – slick the gel over your skin after your shower to seal moisture in.
5. It’s moisturising
Work aloe vera into your daily skincare regimen and you’ll be rewarded with a fresher face. The nutrient-rich gel sticks epidermal cells together, which softens skin, researchers wrote in the Indian Journal of Dermatology. “The amino acids also soften hardened skin cells and zinc acts as a astringent to tighten pores,” they added. It’ll also boost the efficacy of your pricier skincare products: aloe vera contains lignin, which helps your skin soak up other ingredients.