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Very few natural products have the versatile applications of aloe vera. But one of the major problems with aloe vera products is they don't always contain aloe vera.

Since the time of Greek surgeon Dioscorides nearly 2,000 years ago right down to the present, aloe vera has been one of the world's most popular and useful healing herbs. The leaves of the plant exude a bitter sap that is one of the world's most popular laxatives. The stems of the plant can be cut to bleed a mucilaginous gel that hundreds of millions of people use to treat cuts, scrapes, minor burns, and skin infections. 

It's hard to imagine herbal medicine without aloe vera because of its many applications. Uses of aloe vera include:

  • Accelerating the healing of wounds to the skin and to the corneas.
  • Making the skin more permeable to antibiotics when used in the form of an aloe vera cream.
  • Treatment of genital herpes, human papillomavirus (genital warts), psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap).
  • Helping type 2 diabetics control their blood sugar levels with an aloe vera diet (serving steamed aloe vera as an additional vegetable).
  • Stimulating initial weight loss by relieving constipation in aloe vera juice weight loss programs.
  • Aloe vera chewing gum for relieving dry mouth caused by various health conditions, as well as peptic ulcers.
  • Treating injury to the lining of the stomach caused by excessive consumption of aspirin, idomethacin,and other NSAIDs.
  • Making mouthwashes to relieve the oral irritation caused by radiation treatment for cancer.
  • Making toothpastes to prevent plaque and to sooth gingivitis.
  • Killing the Helicobacter pylori bacteria that are involved in most cases of peptic and duodenal ulcers.
  • Treating canker sores (especially as a lozenge combining aloe with myrrh).
  • Helping the lungs remodel tissues damaged by cigarette smoke.
  • Lowering LDL cholesterol in type 2 diabetics.
  • Protecting the liver from damage in chronic alcoholism.
  • Helping prediabetics and early type 2 diabetics lose body fat and body weight.
  • Relieving pain and accelerating healing of anal fissures.
  • Removing biofilm ("sticky" bacteria) from teeth and gums.
  • Treatment of some kinds of tumors (aloe juice and honey taken orally). It's important to note that aloe is not a cure for cancer, but aloe and honey seem to complement other conventional treatments.

Aloe vera gel doesn't help with absolutely everything. It's not helpful for preventing sunburn. The gel is more effective when it is harvested from drought-stressed plants. During drought, the aloe plant makes a different kind of natural sugar that more effectively stimulates the immune system. Bitters won't work unless there are probiotic bacteria in your colon to transform their laxative anthroquinones into an active form. Aloe bitters aren't very useful for constipation when you are on antibiotics.

There are essentially no aloe vera juice side effects, but there are significant side effects for overuse of aloe vera bitters, the dried sap of the herb most commonly used as a laxative. Taking too much of an aloe vera laxative can result in dependency, as the anthroquinones in the sap stimulate the muscles that push fecal matter out and relax the muscles that hold fecal matter in. If you take aloe vera bitters for more than three weeks at a time, these muscles will need some kind of stimulant laxative to perform properly.

Using aloe vera bitters as a laxative for more than six weeks at a time, however, often results in hypokalemia, low potassium levels. This can cause severe fatigue, flaccid muscles, and even heart failure and death in the most extreme cases. The solution is just to use the product as directed.

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