What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera has been widely used as a potent natural remedy for a lot of conditions, including insect bites.

What is Aloe vera?

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is a succulent plant used in alternative medicine. With a total of 420 various plant species of Aloe vera, it has been popular in Indian medicine for the treatment of many conditions. For centuries, the plant has gained immense popularity for its beauty, health, skin care, and medicinal properties.

The name aloe vera was derived from the Arabic word “Alloeh”, meaning a “shining bitter substance” and vera came from the Latin word “vera”, meaning “true”. For years, aloe vera has been widely used in several cultures – Egypt, Greece, Mexico, India, China, and Japan. The plant belongs to the Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family that thrives in dry regions in Asia, Europe, America, and Africa.

Aloe vera field. Image Credit: Anyaivanova / Shutterstock
Aloe vera field. Image Credit: Anyaivanova / Shutterstock

What’s Inside Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera contains many vitamins, minerals, and other active ingredients that give it many health benefits. Each aloe vera leaf has three main layers. There is an inner gel containing 99% water, and the remaining part made of amino acids, glucomannans, sterols, lipids, and vitamins. The middle layer is made of latex, which is a yellow sap containing glycosides and anthraquinones. Lastly, the outer layer is composed of 15 to 20 cells dubbed as rind. It works by protecting the inner part of the leaf and at the same time, synthesizes proteins and carbohydrates.

Sliced aloe vera leaf. Image Credit: Crystalfoto / Shutterstock
Sliced aloe vera leaf. Image Credit: Crystalfoto / Shutterstock

There about at least 160 important ingredients identified in aloe vera leaves. Some experts say that the leaf contains 300 to 400 vital components.

Vitamins

Vitamins A, C, and E are potent antioxidants that fight off and neutralize free radicals. Vitamin C is an immune booster and is crucial for the growth of the teeth, bones, and blood. Apart from this, it’s a potent antioxidant that can protect the body cells from premature aging.  Vitamin E accelerates the healing process.

Aloe vera also contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12 that help in the detoxifying process. Specifically, vitamin B12 is vital for nucleic acid synthesis.

Monosaccharide and Polysaccharides

Monosaccharides and polysaccharides such as aldopentose, cellulose, galactose, arabinose, galacturonic acid, glucose, mannose, and xylose, among others, have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-mycotic, and immune-stimulating effects.

Enzymes

Aloe vera contains enzymes namely amylase, bradykinase, aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, peroxidase, catalase, cellulose, lipase, and carboxypeptidase. These enzymes work by reducing inflammation when applied on the skin topically.

Hormones

Aloe vera also contains hormones, such as gibberellins and auxins, which help in the faster healing of wounds. These also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Secondary Plant Compounds

Though found in small amounts, secondary plant compounds can help determine the color, smell, and taste of the plant. Moreover, they can be effective if used pharmacologically. For instance, aloe vera contains essential oils that can provide anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. Other anti-inflammatory ingredients include salicylic acid and tannic acid.

Aloe Vera and Insect Bites

People apply aloe vera to the skin for various skin conditions such as acne, burning mouth, insect bites, skin damage, diaper rash, wound healing, and itchy skin, among others.

Due to the contents of aloe vera, it has been widely used to soothe insect bites. Aloe vera is well-known for its healing properties for the skin. Known as a vulnerary, a helping aid to fasten wound healing, it is great in applying topically to insect or bug bites, abrasions, psoriasis, and even burns.

Aside from that, it’s a popular antipruritic, which is a substance that reduces or prevents itching. Plus, it’s an emollient, which helps soften and soothe the skin. Hence, aloe vera is good in soothing insect bites.

The potent ingredients found in aloe vera makes it a strong antiseptic against mosquito bites. The vitamins and minerals found in aloe vera can help reduce inflammation, pain, and itching. For instance, the vitamin E found in aloe vera can contribute to soothing the skin and reducing redness. On top of that, it helps make the bite heal faster.

Aloe vera is a potent leaf that can be used in several ways. Its history as a natural remedy can be traced back to centuries ago and until today, it’s widely used because of its healing properties.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Sep 2, 2018

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She’s currently taking up her Master’s Degree from the University of the Philippines Open University, specializing in Maternal and Child Nursing.

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