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Aloe extract may refer to two products of the aloe vera plant. One type of aloe extract is a gel that is excreted from the broken leaves of the plant. The other type, also called aloe juice, is a latex that comes from the inner surface of aloe leaves. Aloe gel has a wide variety of topical uses for minor skin conditions such as sunburn and small cuts, while aloe juice is sold an oral nutritional supplement.
Aloe is a succulent plant that is native to the Mediterranean and is now cultivated throughout the world. It has large, thick, sword-like leaves with serrated edges, and can grow up to 39 inches (99 cm) tall. The older plants may have yellow or orange flowers. There are many varieties of aloe, but only aloe vera, or true aloe, is thought to have medicinal properties. Its use as a healing plant in traditional medicine dates back thousands of years.
The gel form of aloe extract may be obtained by squeezing a leaf cut from the plant. This gel may be applied directly to the skin. Aloe vera gel is used to soothe and reduce the damage from sunburn as well as other minor burns. It can also be used on small cuts and scrapes, where it is believed to speed healing. Aloe extract is a common ingredient in creams and lotions because of its moisturizing properties. It is also sold in natural first aid products, either in its pure form or in creams or ointments containing other ingredients.
Latex aloe extract is a yellow juice or sap that is derived from aloe leaves. The juice is usually dried after extraction to make crystals, which are sold as tablets or dietary supplements. The active ingredients in aloe latex are anthroquinone glycosides, which work as a digestive cathartic. Aloe latex is most commonly used as a mild laxative, and can be found in some over-the-counter medications.
The use of aloe extract as a skin treatment and laxative is well-established, but many other claims of the plant's benefits, including cancer prevention and AIDS treatment, are largely unsubstantiated. While early studies indicate aloe extract may be useful on more severe skin ailments, such as psoriasis and genital herpes, more research is needed for conclusive evidence. The use of aloe latex supplements to treat illnesses such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and HIV has not been widely studied enough on humans to determine its effectiveness.