Dr. Sabheen Riaz Khan provides us with the benefits of aloe vera

Qays Bin Rafi Al-Qaysi narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Aloes and wart-cress are a sure cure for illness.” (Abu Dawood)

Aloe Vera is a semi-tropical plant with over 240 different species growing mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. Although it is a member of the Lily family, it has cactus-like characteristics. Mature plants vary in size and usually have 12-16 thick, tapered, and spiny leaves. The plant is harvested every 1 to 2 months by removing the leaves that contain a clear gel-like substance.

Aloe Vera contains numerous vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, natural sugars and agents with anti-inflammatory properties (i.e. preventing redness, swelling, pain and hotness of the skin due to burns, bites, cuts, etc.) and anti-microbial properties (i.e. preventing infection and contamination by micro-organisms). The combination and balance of the plant’s ingredients are what purportedly gives it its healing properties.

Umm Salama (rta) narrated that Allah’s messenger (sa) visited her on the day after Abu Salama (rta) died, and she had spread fresh aloe juice over her face. Allah’s Messenger (sa) asked her: “What happened to your face O Umm Salamah?” She replied: “It is only aloe juice I applied to my face for moistening, O Messenger of Allah, and it does not have perfume.” The Prophet (sa) said: “It contracts the tissues, and it can burn up your skin. Apply it, if you wish, at night, and not during the day.” (Abu Dawood).

Many ancient works refer to the use of aloe. One of the first documented users was Cleopatra, who lived from 68 to 30 C.E. She is said to have used the gel on her skin as protection from the sun, for she thought it helped keep her skin young. About the year 6 C.E, Discorides, a Greek physician, discovered aloe vera was effective in treating a wide range of ailments, such as kidney problems, constipation, and severe skin-burns.

Aloe Vera is useful and practical to have around the house. One of its unique qualities is that it does not need to be prepared for internal or external application for it comes in ready made gel form that can be mixed with water and consumed or applied directly to the skin. Its only drawbacks is that it is usually too strong for children, or pregnant or nursing women to take internally, and not to forget it’s unpleasant bitter taste. Use with caution as people have shown skin reactions to the plant.

Nubayh Ibn Wahab reported that the eyes of Umar Ibn Ubaydullah Ibn Ma’mar were swollen, and he decided to use antimony. Eban Ibn Uthman prevented him from doing so and commanded him to use aloe instead, and reported on the authority of Uthman Ibn Affan (rta): “The Prophet (sa) had done that”. (Muslim)

Aloe Vera is most famous in the Western world for its external uses, particularly in treating kitchen burns, acne, irritation, cuts, insect bites and wounds from injuries or surgery. It is used by dermatologists to speed healing after facial dermabrasion (removal of scars from the skins top layers through mechanical means). In Japan documented cases of radiation burn victims have shown that aloe healed the burns more rapidly than any other method. Research also reveals that early application of aloe vera to areas of frostbite prevents tissue death.

Aloe works most effectively when it is taken directly from the growing plant, as it is sterile and prevents contamination. The mucilage (substance that causes the adherence of two surfaces) found in the gel of the leaves contains mucopolysaccharides, and is largely responsible for aloe’s healing action on both burns and wounds. Aloe also contains varying amounts of anthraquinone glucosides, which have bitter gripping cathartic principles that promote and / or ease the passing of stools. It accelerates the passage of faeces through the large intestine, by influencing the consistency and amount of stool to facilitate the elimination of faeces through the rectum. This explains its reputation as a colon cleanser and detoxification herb. It has also been used to relieve obstructions in internal organs, particularly the liver. In fact, aloe’s mucilage provides a unique soothing effect to the digestive system, as well as a cleansing effect from polysaccharides.

Although not conclusive, some studies indicate that aloe vera may have some value in the treatment or prevention of some cancers and arthritis, preliminary evidence shows that aloe vera may be useful in treating diabetes, immune system problems and psoriasis. Some of the latest research documented on MSNBC news on the 26th of July 2004 reported that tests performed on rats showed that the gel found inside the leaves of aloe Vera could help preserve organ function after massive blood loss, thus helping to counteract the deadly effects of blood loss. The aloe vera plant could provide a fluid that keeps trauma victims alive until they can get a blood transfusion.

It is wise to use the herbs that Allah has provided, remembering that, “For every malady Allah created, He also created a cure (and he who) acquires such knowledge shall benefit from it and one who ignores it will forgo such benefit.” (Bukhari)