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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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The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
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Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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