Herbal aloe is a plant belonging to the lily family that originated in Madagascar and in a large part of the African continent. It is known for its various healing effects and is being widely cultivated in Japan, the United States, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. Herbal aloe is particularly known for its aloe vera gel which is a clear, jellylike substance that can be squeezed or scraped from the inner part of the leaf. A soothing juice can also be derived from this gel.

Another substance also called aloe vera latex is taken from the specialized cells which are found in the inner leaf skin called pericyclic tubules. This latex is extracted as liquid then made into a yellow powder. Because this herbal aloe latex is potent, this is usually not used alone but combined with weaker herbs such as cascara sagrada. Commission E of Germany approved the use of herbal aloe latex to treat constipation, but it is to be used only for a short time.

Herbal aloe is particularly used to do the following:

* Quickly heal first-degree burns including sunburns. Aloe vera is capable of relieving pain and inflammation and accelerating healing.

* Aloe vera soothes and speeds up the healing of cuts and other minor wounds and skin irritations. The herbal aloe gel contains ingredients that can help relieve pain, reduce swelling, and stop itching and increase blood flow to the injured area.

* It reduces the effects of shingles. Aloe vera gel soothes the sores and relieves itching.

* It lowers symptoms of psoriasis. Herbal aloe gel promotes healing and stops itching which provides relief to those suffering from psoriasis.

* It eases heartburn. Herbal aloe gel is an anti-inflammatory and can be taken internally for digestive conditions.

Herbal aloe comes in the following formulations: spray, lotion, liquid, gel, cream, and capsule. Herbal aloe that is extracted or reconstituted is less powerful compared to pure aloe. Make sure that herbal aloe used for sunburn should contain at least 20% aloe vera. Herbal aloe latex is available in capsule form.

Long-term use of herbal aloe latex may cause excessive loss of mineral potassium. This is also true of prescription laxatives. Aloe vera latex is not advisable for children and the elderly. Pregnant or breast-feeding women are cautioned against its use also as the laxative may trigger uterine contractions. If you have a menstrual period, refrain from using it. If you are using oral corticosteroids combining it with an excessive dosage of herbal aloe vera juice may lead to potassium deficiency.

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