Properties of Aloe Plant Leaves

When it comes to plants, aloe is a rock star. Around the world, aloe plants – especially aloe vera – have many traditional uses and plays an important role in many cultures. You’ve probably seen it used in skin care lotions and recommended for conditions like sunburn, eczema, and rosacea. And many people even like to grow aloe vera or other aloe species in their own homes. Aloe plants tend to be very durable and can thrive in just about any environment. This also lends to their popularity as a houseplant.

The properties of these plants also make them very versatile. When ingested, they are incredibly soothing, loaded with antioxidants, and offer countless other health benefits. Of course, the various species of aloe will be comprised of different compounds and properties. Even the inner and outer parts of aloe leaves contain different properties. Today, we’ll take a deeper look at the properties of both inner and outer aloe leaves.

How Do Properties Vary Between Species of Aloe?

There are over 400 different species of aloe plants, but these do share similar qualities. The biggest difference between most of them is typically the amount and density of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Aloe vera, of course, stands out among the crowd because its use to promote health has become so commonplace. The reason for this? Aloe vera boasts the highest levels of acemannan, a powerful polysaccharide that has many health benefits of its own. Since aloe vera is the most familiar of aloe plant species, let’s start by using this as our point of reference.

aloe-vera-leafGetting Familiar with the Aloe Vera Plant

The aloe vera plant has long slender leaves with a moist, gel-like skin that extend from a single base. Sharp pointy spikes dot the edges of the leaves and in larger, more mature aloe plants, these can become stiff enough to pierce human skin. Given a chance, the aloe vera plant can grow to over four feet tall, but if kept in a small pot, it will survive perfectly well on a windowsill, table, or desk.

This member of the succulent family is often mistaken for a cactus because of the way it holds water. In fact, a healthy aloe vera plant contains about 95% water. The inner leaf holds most of the nutrients, making it the most desirable part of the plant. When well hydrated, you can remove the entire inner leaf from the harder, smooth outer leaf as a single solid gel, kind of like jello.

Beneficial Properties Within the Aloe Vera Inner Leaf

As we mentioned above, the most studied and well-documented property of the inner aloe vera leaf is the polysaccharide, acemannan. Acemannan is great because it can be used both externally to soothe the skin and internally for nutritional benefits. Researchers report aloe vera has these additional benefits, among others:

  • Supports good dental health
  • Supports a normal immune response
  • Soothes redness and swelling

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a wide variety of aloe plants and each has varying amounts of acemannan. Today, if you see aloe or aloe products in stores, you’re probably encountering aloe vera. Of course, you’ll always want to double check not only the species of aloe a product is made from but also the contents of the product before you ever considering using it – especially if you are planning to ingest it.

For any aloe you plan on orally consuming, always makes sure to use only organic inner aloe vera leaf products. You may come across some products made from “outer leaf” or “whole leaf” aloe vera components. Run! These would contain both aloin and aloe latex, which behaves like an ultra-harsh laxative. In addition the laxative properties, these products would also have a far inferior nutrient density when it comes to key nutrients like acemannan – if it contains any at all!

Watch Out for Outer Aloe Vera Leaf

While you want to avoid ingesting the outer leaf area, it does offer some benefits. For instance, the gel of the firm outer leaf contains aloe-emodin, a plant chemical shown in studies with mice to support immune system health.

Frankly, however, aloin gets most of the attention when it comes to the outer leaf. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration actually banned aloin from all OTC laxatives in the U.S. Between aloin and the aloe latex, it’s important to understand the different properties found in the skin, gel, latex, and inner leaf of the aloe vera plant. I can’t stress enough the importance of avoiding any type of oral consumption of aloin or aloe latex.

Aloe vera gel from the outer leave is perfectly safe for mild skin irritations, like sunburn. Just remember, outer leaf aloe should never be used on open or deep wounds. It’s also worth mentioning that when used topically, outer leaf aloe can cause an allergic reaction in some people. This usually takes the form of a mild rash, but if one does develop, it’s important to cease use immediately.

How to Evaluate Aloe Products

When choosing any aloe vera supplement, always look at the levels of active components like aloin, aloe-emodin, and acemannan. Assuming you already know exactly what you want from your aloe product, reviewing the ingredients of your product can help you to determine how effective different aloe products will be. This goes a long way in helping you to make the right decision about what you should or shouldn’t consider taking.

I recommend Aloe Fuzion™. Aloe Fuzion is made from powder created from certified organic, inner leaf aloe vera. No other part of the plant beyond the desirable gel is used at all. What really sets Aloe Fuzion apart from other aloe vera products is the high acemannan content and its bioavailability. We’ve gotten really great feedback.

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Benefits of Kefir

Kefir is made using the fermentations of yeast and bacteria. This mixture creates kefir grains, which can be combined with milk to create a tangy drink.
Kefir is consumed around the world and has been for centuries. It is a fermented milk drink developed in the northern Caucasus Mountains, according to popular belief.

The name Kefir comes from the Turkish word keyif, which refers to the “good feeling” a person gets after they have drunk it.

Kefir has been popular in parts of Europe and Asia for many years but has only recently started gaining popularity in the United States, due to the growing interest in probiotics and gut health.

What is kefir?

Kefir grains and kefir drink.
Kefir is made using bacteria, giving it probiotic qualities. Probiotics are attributed with supporting healthy digestive functions.

While yogurt is the fermentation of bacteria in milk, kefir is a combination of bacteria and yeast fermentations. The combination of bacteria and yeast is called “kefir grain.”

Kefir grains are not typical grains, such as wheat or rice, and do not contain gluten. Milk is combined with the kefir grains and stored in a warm area to “culture,” producing the kefir beverage.

Kefir has a tart and tangy flavor, and a consistency similar to a drinkable yogurt. Due to the fermentation process, kefir may taste slightly carbonated.

Many of kefir’s health benefits are attributed to its probiotic content. Probiotics, or “good bacteria,” are living organisms that can help maintain regular bowel movements, treat certain digestive conditions, and support the immune system.

Types of kefir

While kefir is typically made from cow’s milk, it can also be produced from the milk of other animals, such as goats or sheep, or from non-dairy milk.

Kefir made from cow’s milk is available in non-fat, low-fat, and whole milk varieties.

Kefir is also available in plain and flavored varieties.

Seven benefits of kefir

Kefir consumption is still being researched, but the potential benefits include:

1. Blood sugar control

In 2015, a small study compared the effects of consuming kefir and conventionally fermented milk on blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Participants who consumed the kefir had significantly lower fasting blood sugar levels than those who consumed the conventionally fermented milk.

Participants in the kefir group also had decreased hemoglobin A1c values, which are a measurement of blood sugar management over 3 months.

2. Lower cholesterol

2017 study looked at changes in cholesterol levels among women drinking low-fat milk or kefir. The participants drank either 2 servings a day of low-fat milk, 4 servings a day of low-fat milk, or 4 servings a day of kefir.

After 8 weeks, those who drank kefir showed significant decreases in their total and their “bad cholesterol” levels compared to those who drank only 2 servings per day of low-fat milk. Participants who consumed 4 servings per day of low-fat milk also had lowered cholesterol levels.

The probiotics in kefir may play a role in how much cholesterol the body absorbs from food. They may also affect how the body produces, processes, and uses cholesterol.

3. Increased nutrition

The nutrients in kefir depend on the type of milk used to make it. Generally, it is a good source of protein, calcium, and potassium. Some store-bought brands are fortified with vitamin D, as well.

4. Improved lactose tolerance

People with lactose intolerance may be able to consume kefir without experiencing symptoms, as the bacteria present in kefir break down much of the lactose.

The leading brand of kefir in the U.S. claims to be 99 percent lactose-free.

small study in 2003 concluded that the consumption of kefir improved lactose digestion over time, and could potentially be used to help overcome lactose intolerance. It noted that flavored kefir produced more adverse symptoms that plain kefir, probably due to added sugars in the flavored product.

5. Improved stomach health

Kefir may be able to help treat digestive issues, such as diarrhea or lactose intolerance.

The stomach contains both good and bad bacteria. Maintaining a balance between them is an important part of keeping the stomach healthy. Diseases, infections, and some medications, such as antibiotics, can upset this balance.

Probiotics are similar to the good bacteria found naturally in the digestive tract and may help maintain a healthy balance.

There is some evidence that probiotic foods, such as kefir, can help treat diarrhea caused by an infection or antibiotics.

One review cited the use of kefir to aid the treatment of peptic ulcers in the stomach and small intestine.

6. Healing properties

Laboratory studies have shown kefir may have antibacterial and antifungal properties, although more investigation is needed.

Research shows that kefir has the potential to be beneficial against gastroenteritis, vaginal infections, and yeast infections.

2016 review reported that kefir lessened the severity of symptoms in mice infected with a parasite. Another review demonstrated beneficial effects of kefir on mice for wound healing and reduced tumor growth.

7. Weight control

Another study reported that kefir consumption reduced body weight and total cholesterol in obese mice. However, more research on people is required.

Making kefir at home

A person can make kefir at home in a clean environment. Utensils, cooking equipment, and a person’s hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water before starting.

You will need:

  • active kefir grains
  • your preferred type of milk
  • a glass jar
  • a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth
  • a rubber band
  • a silicone spatula or wooden spoon (non-metal stirring utensil)
  • a non-metal mesh strainer

Combine 1 teaspoon of kefir grains for every cup of milk into a glass jar. Cover the jar with the paper coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Store the jar in a warm place around 70°F for 12-48 hours, depending on your taste and the warmth of the room.

Once the milk has thickened and has a tangy taste, strain the kefir into a storage container. Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week.

There are a few tips to be aware of when making kefir at home:

  • Exposure to metal can weaken the kefir grains, so avoid metal utensils.
  • Temperatures above 90 °F can cause the milk to spoil.
  • Keep the jar away from direct sunlight.
  • The strained kefir grains can be kept to make new batches.
  • Shake it if it starts to separate while being stored.
  • To make a fruit-flavored kefir, chop up fruit and add it to the strained kefir. Let it sit for an additional 24 hours. Re-strain if desired.

How to use kefir

Kefir can be used in many of the ways milk and yogurts are used.

It can be drunk as a beverage, used as the blending liquid in a smoothie, or poured over cereal or oats. Kefir can also be used in baked goods, soups, dips, or salad dressings, though heat may significantly decrease probiotic concentration.

Risks and considerations

Kefir is safe to consume, but a person must consider certain factors before adding it to a regular diet.

While people who are lactose intolerant may be able to drink kefir without symptoms, others with a milk allergy should not consume kefir made from dairy milk, as it can cause an allergic reaction.

Since kefir is made from milk, it contains some sugar. Some pre-packaged, flavored kefirs have high amounts of added sugar.

People with diabetes should be especially careful to read the label and stick to plain varieties without added sugar.

When made traditionally, kefir may contain trace amounts of alcohol. Many commercial brands of kefir are alcohol-free.