An aloe vera plant can add a lovely touch of green to any office or home. But did you know that your favorite potted plant could be used for so much more than household décor?
The powerful aloe vera plant is a part of the Aloaceae, or lily, family, which is known for its diverse perennials with short stems and thick, crowded leaves.
Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Native to North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Canary Islands, today aloe vera is grown in tropical climates worldwide. From relieving heartburn to slowing the spread of cancer, researchers are only first beginning to unlock all of the powerful uses of this universal plant and its many amazing byproducts.
1. Your houseplant could fight your heartburn. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that often results in symptoms including heartburn. A recent review explains that consuming 1 to 3 onces of aloe gel at mealtimes could reduce the severity of GERD and other digestion-related problems. The plant’s low toxicity makes it a safe and gentle remedy.
2. A little aloe vera gel a day could keep bacteria on fruits and vegetables away. In a recent study, an aloe vera gel coating on tomato plants was able to block, not all, but many types of harmful bacteria. Similar results were found in a different study with apples. This means that aloe gel could help produce stay fresh for longer without the need for potentially dangerous chemicals.
3. An alternative to mouthwash. A 2014 study found aloe vera extract to be a safe and effective alternative to chemical-based mouthwashes. The plant’s natural ingredients, which include a healthy dose of vitamin C, can block plaque and also provide relief if you have bleeding or swelling gums.
4. The new blood sugar regulator is greener than ever. Might aloe vera be able to help people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels? One study conducted in Thailand found that two tablespoons of aloe vera juice per day caused blood sugar levels to fall in people with type 2 diabetes, which means it may have a future in diabetes treatment. These results were confirmed with a later study from Turkey that used pulp extract.
5. A little extra push. Recently, a team of Nigerian scientists conducted a study to determine whether local folklore about aloe vera was true. Experimenting on rats, they found that gel made from typical aloe vera houseplants was able to relieve constipation.
6. Brighten more than just your office space. You can use aloe vera to keep your skin clear and hydrated. According to a study, the plant is particularly special because it’s designed to live in dry, unstable climates. To survive, the leaves of aloe vera store water. The combination of the moist leaf and special plant compounds called complex carbohydrates make it an effective face moisturizer and pain reliever.
7. Stepping up in the battle against cancer. According to a new study, aloe-emodin, a compound in aloe vera leaves, could slow down the spread of breast cancer cells. Researchers are currently investigating how aloe may play a role in other types of cancer, as well.
There are hundreds of ways to use the aloe vera plant and the various gels and extracts that can be made from it. Researchers are continuing to discover new ways to put this natural superpower to use. The next time you are looking for an effective remedy or just a new houseplant, consider aloe vera.