In ancient India, aloe vera was used as an anti-aging agent, way before the concept of anti-aging cream came into being. It has been used to enhance skin health, improve female health, and other health concerns. Aloe vera's cosmetic, healing, medicinal, and therapeutic properties have been used in traditional medicinal practices across the globe. Originated in the Arabian peninsula, aloe vera has been extensively used in regions such as India, Egypt, Greece, China, and ancient Rome, for its health benefits. It is an essential plant in folk medicine and is referred to as "the plant of immortality" by ancient Egyptians. They would include aloe vera as a funerary gift to the pharaohs. So, let us appreciate the benefits of aloe vera as recognized in the ancient Ayurvedic texts and the latest modern-day research.
Ayurveda's miracle herb, aloe vera
Ayurvedic records refer to aloe vera as Kumari or Ghritkumari, which stands for a beautiful young girl.' Part of a particular class of Ayurvedic herbs known as Rasayana (anti-aging, immune system-building, healing), aloe vera is a rejuvenating herb, which has the ability to support the natural beauty of the skin, digestion, burning sensations, controlling dandruff and hair loss, etc. Ayurveda recognizes several other properties of Ghritkumari, like Sita (cold), Tikta (bitter), and Bhedan (laxative). Its properties give aloe vera the ability to help balance all three doshas, making it Tridoshic.
Aloe Vera and its impact on doshas
Vata: An aggravated Vata Dosha can cause constipation, which can be managed with the Vata balancing and Bhedana (elimination of feces by breaking hard stools) property of aloe vera. Furthermore, imbalanced Vata can impair digestion, accumulate ama (toxic matter), and lead to diabetes. With its Deepan (appetizer) and Pachan (digestive) properties, aloe vera can help remove ama and help control high blood sugar levels. Additionally, aloe vera's Vata balancing property helps to control depression as the Vata element is associated with the functioning of the nervous system and affect a person's behavior, thoughts, feelings, etc.
Pitta: An aggravated Pitta can cause red bumps and inflammation. The Ropan (healing) and Sita (cold) properties of aloe vera can balance aggravated Pitta, reduce inflammation and help control acne. Ayurveda also suggests that imbalanced Pitta can cause dryness in the scalp and dandruff. By balancing Pitta dosha, aloe vera can help control dandruff.
Kapha: Aloe vera is also effective in balancing Kapha. According to Ayurveda, an imbalance of Kapha can increase sebum production, which can clog the pores and lead to the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, and severe acne. Ayurveda suggests that aloe vera can help reduce sebum secretion, unclog pores, and reduce the appearance of acne and its scars.
Benefits of using aloe vera
Reduce acne and acne scars: Aloe vera is known to possess qualities that make it an excellent natural product that can help fight acne and reduce the chances of its reappearance. According to Ayurveda, people with Pitta and Kapha imbalance are more likely to have acne due to clogged pores, excessive sebum secretion, and inflammation. However, aloe vera's natural properties allow it to reduce sebum production, unclog pores and reduce redness and inflammation.
The Ropan (healing) and Sita (cold) properties of aloe vera can reduce acne in people with aggravated Pitta and Kapha. Modern-day research also backs the suggestions of Ayurveda as the anti-inflammatory property of aloe vera, along with its antibacterial nature, can help in controlling acne and reducing the redness caused by it.
The enzymes in aloe vera create an antibacterial coating on the skin to reduce the spread of acne and help it remain moisturized. Polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant, are an active product found in aloe vera and can help inhibit the growth of bacteria that can cause infections. Ayurveda suggests that regular application of aloe vera gel on the infected area can help reduce acne scars.
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Dandruff: Another benefit of aloe vera lies in its ability to reduce dandruff. According to Ayurveda, an aggravated Vata and Pitta dosha can lead to dandruff which is the creation of flakes of dry skin on the scalp. Thus, with the ability to help balance Vata and Pitta dosha, aloe vera can help control dandruff. Multiple studies suggest that aloe vera can reduce dandruff and protect the scalp with its antibacterial and antifungal properties**.** Applying aloe vera gel to our hair for 20 - 30 minutes before washing them can reduce dandruff. Similarly, a person can also apply a mix of aloe vera juice, olive oil, and lemon juice to reduce dryness and dandruff.
Helps heal wounds, cuts, and burns: Aloe vera can help people deal with wounds, cuts, and burns. Aloe vera reduces burning and stinging sensations due to its Ropan (healing) and Sita (cold) properties. Several studies have also highlighted that applying aloe vera gel to the affected area can accelerate the healing of wounds, cuts, and burns and reduce pain due to its anti-inflammatory property. Furthermore, its antibacterial property can also help prevent infection.
Managing psoriasis: Psoriasis causes inflammation, skin cracks, bleeding, and the buildup of dead cells on the skin, making it dry and scaly. It is an auto-immune condition, and according to Ayurveda, aloe vera can help reduce inflammation and accelerate healing with its Sita (cold), Ropan (healing), Snigdha (oily), and Picchila (sticky) properties. Modern-day research supports the recommendations in Ayurvedic texts and has highlighted that aloe vera might help reduce skin rash and dryness associated with psoriasis.
Anti-aging: Aloe vera is known as Kumari (beautiful young girl), indicating the amazing anti-aging benefits the product offers. The Rasayana property of aloe vera makes it ideal for skin rejuvenation and offers anti-aging benefits, including promoting collagen production. Preliminary evidence from multiple studies has suggested that using aloe vera gel can slow the appearance of signs of aging. In a study, it was highlighted that aloe vera gel boosted collagen production and improved skin elasticity. Furthermore, another study highlighted that aloe vera could help retain moisture in the skin and help in reducing fine lines and dryness.
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Improve blood-sugar levels: An aggravation of Vata and impaired digestion may lead to the accumulation of ama (toxic remains in the body), which may lead to diabetes, or Madhumeha. By removing ama with its Deepan (appetizer) and Pachan (digestive) properties, aloe vera can help control high blood sugar levels. Studies have indicated that consumption of aloe vera may enhance insulin sensitivity and help manage blood sugar levels. The studies have shown positive results for people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Some studies have also revealed the antioxidant properties of aloe vera due to the presence of phytochemicals like lectins in aloe vera may also help manage damage associated with diabetes. Ayurvedic experts recommend drinking a mix of 2-3 teaspoons of aloe vera juice and water on an empty stomach in the morning once a day to relieve constipation and digestion-related issues.
Improves digestion and constipation: An aggravated Vata Dosha can cause constipation. Aloe vera, with its Vata balancing and Bhedana (elimination of feces by breaking hard stools), can help manage constipation. Modern-day research has supported aloe vera's role in dealing with constipation due to its laxative properties. Studies have suggested that the presence of aloin or barbaloin gives aloe vera the benefits of being a natural laxative and speeding up bowel movement, and easy excretion of stool. Ayurvedic experts recommend drinking a mix of 2-3 teaspoons of aloe vera juice and water on an empty stomach in the morning once a day to get relief from constipation and digestion-related issues.
Ayurveda recognizes and boasts the benefits of aloe vera. Through the years, aloe vera's revitalizing, and cooling effects have helped transform our skin, hair, digestive health, and insulin levels. It has been believed to be an essential part of the regular beauty regimes of Queen Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti, so why should you stay behind? Hop on the aloe vera wagon and see the difference for yourself.
- (Kumar KPS, Bhowmik D, Chiranjib, Biswajit. Aloe vera: a potential herb and its medicinal importance. Journal Chem Pharm Res [Internet]. 2010;2(1):21–9.