You may know aloe for its ability to soothe, soften and heal skin. But you 1 might not realize that Aloe vera, one of 300 varieties of this plant, is loaded with vitamins, choline, zinc and beta-carotene, giving it potent antiviral and antibacterial properties. It can help a variety of conditions and researchers are investigating its potential for treating diabetes and cancer.

Aloe can be used topically or internally juice or capsule form). All forms are available at health-food stores. How aloe can help you…

  • Digestive disorders. Aloe juice has been found to ease stomach ulcers... inflammatory bowel disease...Crohn's disease...and ulcerative colitis. Aloe also can help constipation. But people with these digestive disorders should be cautious when using aloe products that contain aloe latex (from the milky part of the plant) since this component of aloe can be a powerful laxative.
  • Skin conditions. Aloe cream expedites the healing of cold sores. Because of its anti-inflammatory and emollient properties, it also can ease psoriasis and eczema. Apply an aloe vera cream three times daily.
  • Arthritis. Taking aloe (either orally or topically) can help joint pain.

How to use aloe: When buying a topical gel, look for a product that contains at least 80% aloe. When drinking aloe juice, start with one teaspoon daily. Add a teaspoon daily to see how well you tolerate it until you reach six teaspoons daily, either on its own or mixed in water or some other juice. Pregnant women and children under age 13 should not use any aloe products orally. Since aloe may lower blood sugar, people with diabetes should speak to their doctors before taking aloe orally.

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