Aloe vera is a very useful plant. It is very often used as a medicine to treat skin conditions such as burns and eczema, where it can help to stop the pain and reduce swelling. It is also very pleasant and soothing in its smell, which is likely why you will have heard of it: it is very often used in soaps, shampoos, and similar products.
This is not the only way to buy aloe vera, however. It is also available in capsule and gel form, as well as in juices and drinks, creams and lotions.
However, scientists are not altogether in agreement on the effectiveness of aloe vera as a medicine. It is difficult to research the effects of aloe vera properly, because it is such a complicated herb. Aloe vera contains 75 different nutrients, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, sugars and acids. Supposedly, it can help with muscle growth, be anti-bacterial, aid digestion, heal wounds, and much more ñ but then alternative medicine always tends to claim too much when it comes to its remedies. It is widely believed that aloe vera is effective against the common cold, although no medicine has ever been proved to cure it.
You should also be aware that aloe vera, although it is a traditional remedy, can have side effects. Reported side effects include liver dysfunction, burning sensations, allergic reactions, nausea, strangely-coloured urine, and dermatitis, although all of them are rare. Some studies have shown that, while the aloe vera does relieve pain, wounds treated with aloe vera can take longer to heal than usual, making it an undesirable treatment in many situations.
There are also many conditions you can have which mean that you shouldn't take aloe vera. If you're pregnant or breast-feeding, allergic to garlic or onions, or have kidney or heart disease, you should avoid aloe vera. It should never be given to children or animals, as it can be poisonous to them.