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Gelling with the Wonder Herb

Aloe vera plays several roles, from moisturiser and analgesic to hair strengthener. And now, wear aloe on your sleeve

The Egyptians used it to treat burns and infection as early as 1500 BC, while Cleopatra and Nefertiti vouched by its qualities as a beauty enhancer. Trivia has it that it was solely for aloe vera that Alexandar the Great seized an island close to Somalia, in order to procure the plant so as to treat his wounded soldiers.

For a herb that carries such a dubious yet fascinating history, the wonders of aloe vera have been hidden since a while. However, the magical herb has now made a remarkable comeback and is widely being used in sectors as varied as beauty, health, fitness and even clothing, as Urban Yoga recently introduced a new spiritual wear collection titled Curacao Aloes. Launched in November this year, the range of garments is treated with moisturising goodness of ‘curacao aloes’, an extract of the aloe vera plant.

Going by the products being launched by the day, its clear that aloe vera is the new must-have for everyone from college girls to socialites. But is it effective, really, and how? “What makes aloe such an organic marvel is its composition. Apart from being rich in vitamins, it also contains all eight essential amino acids required by the body. In addition, it has 11 of the 14 secondary amino acids beneficial for health in several ways,” says Dr Rajesh Kotecha, MD of Jaipur-based Chakrapani Ayurveda Clinic and Research Centre, which manufactures and exports a range of aloe vera products from aloe gel to the juice.

The medical fraternity is making the most of the wonder herb, using it to cure several ailments, primarily stomach disorders. On this account, it banks on its properties as an antioxidant, which assists in metabolism and provides protection against free radicals that may weaken the immune system. Dr Palani Swamy, naturopath at the National Institute of Naturopathy, Pune, states, “Essentially cooling in nature, aloe vera helps in digestion and is recommended in cases of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.”

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The antioxidant property of the herb is also said to reduce blood sugar level, making consumption of aloe juice an apt remedy for diabetics. “All of this is linked to the fact that aloe vera purifies the blood and the rest of the benefits simply follow,” explains Sakshi Chawla, chief nutritionist and dietitician at Fortis Healthcare, Noida.

The prostaglandin inhibitor quality also justifies the use of aloe vera as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent. Comprising compounds such as bradykinase and salicylic acid, aloe not only spurs wound healing and burns, but also keeps injured skin from getting infected. Explaining the aloe effect, Kotecha says, “The soapy substances in aloe vera gel (saponins) cleanses wounds of dirt and debris, treats the oil-clogged pores and helps kill microbes present. The lignins soften hard skin and gently penetrate the tissues, allowing oxygen to infiltrate deep into the wound.”

Research shows that aloe vera could be helpful in cases of cancer. It activates the immune system by releasing substances such as interferons and interleukines. Says Chawla, “Research world over has proved that aloe helps prolong survival time and stimulates the immune system of cancer patients.”

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For the hair, aloe vera not only results in sheen, but also prevents hair fall, split ends, dandruff and itching of the scalp. Kotecha recommends application of aloe vera hair care liquid on mildly wet hair a few minutes before bath. “This strengthens hair from the root, preventing any trouble,” he says.

Aloe derivatives are widely used in moisturisers, soaps, sunscreen lotion and anti-aging creams. Pointing out the benefits, Swamy says, “Aloe gel prevents dry skin conditions, lightens and nourishes the skin and even cures eczema around the eyes.”

Boasting of such an impressive organic base, it’s no wonder then that the aloe plant and its derivatives are finding a place in kitchen gardens and medical kits.

ORGANIC ASSISTANCE

HEAD TO TOE, THE BENEFITS OF ALOE VERA

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Assists in digestion and in cases of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome

Reduces the blood sugar level and acts as an antioxidant

The anti-inflammatory properties helps heal wound and burns

Leads to glowing skin and curbs dryness

Strengthens the hair and prevents dandruff

First published on: 25-11-2006 at 11:25:25 am
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