Monday, July 03, 2006

Herb info: Aloe vera (Natural Skin Care)

Aloe vera (Aloe vera aka Aloe barbadensis) gel is a great ingredient that soothes and heals rashes, sun burn, inflammed skin, razor burn, and other skin irritations.  It can also be used as a skin cleanser, as a toner, and makes a fantastic ingredient in scrubs and masks.  I love using it in the water phase of my creams.  Some people drink aloe juice, if they have constipation, because it is a natural laxative. Be sure to buy a product that is as pure as possible: pure aloe gel mixed with potassium sorbate (antifungal), citric acid (pH stabilizer), and a thickener (usually it is carrageenan, a thickener from sea weed.  Some companies use gums). And preferably organic!   Many aloe gels on the market contain a lot of synthetics that can be irritating or toxic to the skin.   I've blogged about some of the ingredients previously.  So don't buy any of that green junk that poses as aloe!  And make sure it is organic!  Some good companies include Aubrey Organics, Mountain Rose Herbs, Garden of WisdomNature's Gift, and Lily Of The Desert.  Once you open the bottle, refrigerate it for best results, since there is no true broad spectrum preservative in most aloe brands.

Better yet, use the gel fresh from the leaf! Try to get a plant that is organic. I don't have an organic aloe plant yet (I usually buy organic aloe gel), but one of my local Asian super markets have started to carry (super HUGE) organic aloe leaves (they are the biggest leaves I've ever seen--over a foot long!--and are sold by the leaf). According to one of my herbal books, for external use, cut the leaf from the base of the plant, and you just squeeze the gel out. You can store the cut leaf in the fridge for several weeks. For internal use, the outer skin of the leaf has to be peeled away before use because the brown gel (aloin) near the leaf blade is an irritant.

NOTE: Though aloe is great on all types of skin infections, don't use it on staph infections; staph bacteria grows quickly in aloe (herbal book: Rosemary Gladstar: the Family Herbal, which is now called Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health).

Edited March 5, 2014: to add more info on the ingredients in store bought aloe gel and minor edits.  Plus Gladstar's book is now available as a paperback (the name of the book changed, when the publishing company made it as a paperback).


Anonymous said...

Really informative post on Aloe Vera.

But the first and basic tip on aloe vera for skin is to drink its juice daily to clear skin from disorders.

Research has proven Aloe Vera primarily stimulate collagen production in the skin thereby restoring elastin.

As you pointed out well that a fresh rub from the aloe spine is all that is required to hydrate skin and flush toxins out.

The potency of aloe vera is such that it even lightens dark spots on face and reduces pigmentation.

Solarkat said...

Hi Esther,

Cool, thanks for posting.


Solarkat said...

Hi Marja,

Thanks for posting :)

I only recommend products and companies that I've tried! I haven't tried Forever Living Products. Thanks for the rec. :)


Anonymous said...


Wondering what you think about the aloe vera and glycation debate (about it aging skin)?

I love aloe vera in skin products and don't want to stop using it :(


Anonymous said...

oops, it didn't link correctly, but here is the gist:

"Aloe vera improves wound healing and inhibits inflammation. Since mannose-6-phosphate is the major sugar in the Aloe gel, the authors examined the possibility of its being an active growth substance. Mice receiving 300 mg/kg of mannose-6-phosphate had improved wound healing over saline controls. This dose also had anti-inflammatory activity. The function of mannose-6-phosphate in A. vera is discussed.

Besides glucose, other reducing sugars, such as mannose, react with proteins to form advanced glycosylation end-products (AGEs), that are active in cross-linking collagen and elastin, the process that causes skin aging..."

Solarkat said...

Hi Kris

This is the first time I've heard of aloe and glycation so I'm not too familiar with it. I would have to read the whole scientific study to form an opinion on their conclusions (to see how their study was conducted--to see their methods, results, and check for any bias--and look at how they came to their conclusions). (Do you have the literature reference?). From an herbal (alternative/traditional/non-scientific) point of view, aloe has been used safely for skin care/healing for wounds, irritation, and burns for centuries.

What I know about protein glycation is that glycation occurs when sugars attach to proteins, causing a change in the function and nature of proteins. The greater the amount of sugar in the blood (high blood sugar) the greater the amount of glycation. This occurs internally (in the body) and occurs mainly with glucose (which is what the body mainly uses as fuel). But it can get out of hand if there is too much sugar in the blood. (so eating a diet high in sugar is a great concern).

But I just checked a couple articles on wiki and it says AGEs may also be formed external to the body (exogenously) by heating (e.g. cooking) sugars with fats or proteins[2]. (usually I take wiki articles with a grain of salt since they can be wrong but this article actually has a reference from a scientific source). This is in relation to foods, so from this I would say that using pure unheated aloe on your skin would not cause any AGEs.

This made me wonder about cream/lotion making though (where the water phase is heated with the oil phase; aloes are often used in creams/lotions), but more research is needed before jumping to conclusions. Some questions that would have to be answered about AGEs that are produced by heating sugars with fats or proteins: what is the extent that mannose reacts with proteins/how much glycation is caused with heating mannose with a fat/oil; what kinds of fats and proteins (I have no idea if this only occurs with animal fats and proteins or if it can occur using plant fats and protein); what temperature is needed for this process to occur (creams/lotions are made with pretty low temperatures); and most importantly if AGEs are even produced in a cosmetic product, can they be absorbed by the skin and affect the body's cells (I am thinking if glycation of plant fat/proteins can occur--don't know if they can or not--can these glycated plant fat/proteins affect the human body?) . I don't know if anyone has done any studies on these questions (as I've mentioned I haven't heard of aloe causing glycation before).

Long answer to basically say no (for unheated aloe) and for creams/lotions probably not. I think that AGEs caused by a high sugar diet (so a person's own proteins glycating) is WAY more of a problem than any potential AGEs that may or may not be formed in skincare products like creams/lotions.


Unknown said...

I would like to know how freezing aloe leaves affects the plant and its properties. Can they be thawed out and used topically with the same results?
Thanking you.

Solarkat said...


Thank you for posting.

I have answered your question in my new blog entry