By Joe Leech
Aloe vera is a popular medicinal plant that has been used for thousands of years.
Here are eight health benefits of aloe vera that are supported by science.
It is best known for treating skin injuries, such as burns and sores, but may also have several other therapeutic properties.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
1. Aloe Vera Contains Bioactive Compounds That Can Improve Health
Aloe vera is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves.
Aloe vera is well recognized by its thick, pointed and fleshy green leaves, which can grow to about 12-19 inches in length.
Each leaf is full of a slimy tissue that stores water, which makes the leaves thick. This slimy, water-filled tissue is the “gel" we associate with aloe vera products.
The gel contains most of the bioactive compounds in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.
Bottom Line: Aloe vera is a popular medicinal plant that is used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. Its leaves are full of a “gel" that contains numerous beneficial compounds.
2. Aloe Vera Has Potent Antioxidant and Antibacterial Properties
Antioxidants are important for health.
Aloe vera gel contains powerful antioxidants, which belong to a large family of substances known as polyphenols (2).
These polyphenols, along with several other compounds in aloe vera, can help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that can cause infections in humans (2).
Bottom Line: Aloe vera contains various powerful antioxidant compounds. Some of these compounds can help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
3. Aloe Vera Accelerates The Healing of Burns
Aloe vera is most commonly used as a topical medication, rubbed onto the skin rather than eaten.
It has long been known as a treatment for sores, particularly burns, including sunburns.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration first approved aloe vera ointment as an over-the-counter medication for skin burns back in 1959.
Studies suggest that it is an effective topical treatment for first- and second-degree burns.
A review of four experimental studies found that aloe vera could reduce the healing time of burns by around nine days compared to conventional medication (3).
The evidence for aloe vera helping to heal other types of wounds is inconclusive (4).
Bottom Line: Applying aloe vera to burn wounds appears to accelerate the healing process. The evidence is inconclusive for other wound types.
4. Pure Aloe Vera Juice Reduces Dental Plaque as Effectively as Mouthwash
Tooth decay and diseases of the gum are very common health problems.
One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to reduce the buildup of plaque (bacterial biofilms) on the teeth.
In a mouth rinse study of 300 healthy people, 100 percent pure aloe vera juice was compared to the standard mouthwash ingredient chlorhexidine.
After four days of use, the aloe vera mouth rinse was found to be just as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing dental plaque (5).
Another study found similar benefits of aloe vera mouth rinse when used over a 15- to 30-day period (6).
Aloe vera does this by killing the plaque-producing bacterium Streptococcus mutans in the mouth, as well as the yeast Candida albicans (7).
Bottom Line: When used as a mouth rinse, pure Aloe vera juice is just as effective at reducing dental plaque buildup as regular mouthwash.
5. Aloe Vera Can be Used to Treat Mouth Ulcers (Canker Sores)
Many people have experienced mouth ulcers, or canker sores, at some point in their lives.
They usually form underneath the lip, inside the mouth, and last for about 7-10 days.
Studies have convincingly shown that aloe vera treatment can accelerate the healing of mouth ulcers.
In a seven-day study of 180 people with recurrent mouth ulcers, an aloe vera patch applied to the area was effective in reducing the size of the ulcers (8).
However, it did not outperform the conventional ulcer treatment, which is corticosteroids.
In another study, aloe vera gel not only accelerated the healing of mouth ulcers, it also reduced the pain associated with them (9).
Bottom Line: Application of aloe vera, either as a patch or gel, has been shown to aid in the recovery of mouth ulcers (canker sores).
6. Aloe Vera Can Help Treat Constipation
Aloe vera has often be used to treat constipation.
This time it is not the gel, but the latex, that provides the benefits.
The latex is a sticky yellow residue found just under the skin of the leaf.
However, some concerns have been raised about safety issues with frequent use. For this reason, aloe latex has not been available in the U.S. as an over-the-counter medication since 2002.
Bottom Line: Aloe vera latex has strong laxative effects, making it useful to treat constipation. It does not appear to be beneficial for other diseases of the digestive tract.
7. Aloe Vera May Improve Skin Elasticity and Help Prevent Wrinkles
There is some preliminary evidence that topical aloe vera gel can slow aging of the skin.
In one study of 30 women over the age of 45, topical application of the gel was shown to increase collagen production and improve skin elasticity over a 90-day period (16).
There is very little evidence that aloe vera can treat skin conditions like psoriasis and radiation dermatitis (18).
Bottom Line: Early evidence suggests that Aloe vera may have anti-aging effects on the skin, but more research is needed.
8. Aloe Vera May Lower Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
It is said to enhance insulin sensitivity and help improve blood sugar management.
However, the quality of these studies was fairly poor, so it is definitely premature to recommend aloe vera for this purpose.
Additionally, there have been some cases of liver damage reported with long-term ingestion of aloe vera supplements (24).
9. Anything Else?
Aloe vera definitely has some unique therapeutic properties, especially when applied as an ointment for the skin and gums.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
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Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.