The Secret Behind Aloe Vera Plant

Aloe vera is a natural product that is now a day frequently used in the field of cosmetology. Though there are various indications for its use, controlled trials are needed to determine its real efficacy. The aloe vera plant, its properties, mechanism of action and clinical uses are briefly reviewed in this article.

Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids.

Vitamins : It contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, which are antioxidants. It also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline. Antioxidant neutralizes free radicals.

Enzymes : It contains 8 enzymes: aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase. Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically, while others help in the breakdown of sugars and fats.

Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. They are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways and few are antioxidants.

Sugars: It provides monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides: (glucomannans/polymannose). These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant and are known as mucopolysaccharides. The most prominent monosaccharide is mannose-6-phosphate, and the most common polysaccharides are called glucomannans [beta-(1,4)-acetylated mannan]. Acemannan, a prominent glucomannan has also been found. Recently, a glycoprotein with antiallergic properties, called alprogen and novel anti-inflammatory compound, C-glucosyl chromone, has been isolated from Aloe vera gel.

Anthraquinones: It provides 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials and antivirals.

Fatty acids: It provides 4 plant steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, ?-sisosterol and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol also possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties.

Hormones: Auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.

Others : It provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. It also contains salicylic acid that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Lignin, an inert substance, when included in topical preparations, enhances penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin. Saponins that are the soapy substances form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.

Mechanism of actions

Healing properties: Glucomannan, a mannose-rich polysaccharide, and gibberellin, a growth hormone, interacts with growth factor receptors on the fibroblast, thereby stimulating its activity and proliferation, which in turn significantly increases collagen synthesis after topical and oral Aloe vera.  Aloe gel not only increased collagen content of the wound but also changed collagen composition (more type III) and increased the degree of collagen cross linking. Due to this, it accelerated wound contraction and increased the breaking strength of resulting scar tissue.  An increased synthesis of hyaluronic acid and dermatan sulfate in the granulation tissue of a healing wound following oral or topical treatment has been reported.

Effects on skin exposure to UV and gamma radiation: Aloe vera gel has been reported to have a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin. Exact role is not known, but following the administration of aloe vera gel, an antioxidant protein, metallothionein, is generated in the skin, which scavenges hydroxyl radicals and prevents suppression of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase in the skin. It reduces the production and release of skin keratinocyte-derived immunosuppressive cytokines such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) and hence prevents UV-induced suppression of delayed type hypersensitivity.

Anti-inflammatory action: Aloe vera inhibits the cyclooxygenase pathway and reduces prostaglandin E2 production from arachidonic acid. Recently, the novel anti-inflammatory compound called C-glucosyl chromone was isolated from gel extracts.

Effects on the immune system: Alprogen inhibit calcium influx into mast cells, thereby inhibiting the antigen-antibody-mediated release of histamine and leukotriene from mast cells. In a study on mice that had previously been implanted with murine sarcoma cells, acemannan stimulates the synthesis and release of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor from macrophages in mice, which in turn initiated an immune attack that resulted in necrosis and regression of the cancerous cells. Several low-molecular-weight compounds are also capable of inhibiting the release of reactive oxygen free radicals from activated human neutrophils.

Laxative effects: Anthraquinones present in latex are a potent laxative. It increases intestinal water content, stimulates mucus secretion and increases intestinal peristalsis.

Antiviral and antitumor activity: These actions may be due to indirect or direct effects. Indirect effect is due to stimulation of the immune system and direct effect is due to anthraquinones. The anthraquinone aloin inactivates various enveloped viruses such as herpes simplex, varicella zoster and influenza. In recent studies, a polysaccharide fraction has shown to inhibit the binding of benzopyrene to primary rat hepatocytes, thereby preventing the formation of potentially cancer-initiating benzopyrene-DNA adducts. An induction of glutathione S-transferase and an inhibition of the tumor-promoting effects of phorbol myristic acetate has also been reported which suggest a possible benefit of using aloe gel in cancer chemoprevention.

Moisturizing and anti-aging effect: Mucopolysaccharides help in binding moisture into the skin. Aloe stimulates fibroblast which produces the collagen and elastin fibers making the skin more elastic and less wrinkled. It also has cohesive effects on the superficial flaking epidermal cells by sticking them together, which softens the skin. The amino acids also soften hardened skin cells and zinc acts as an astringent to tighten pores. Its moisturizing effects has also been studied in treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure where aloe vera gel gloves improved the skin integrity, decreases appearance of fine wrinkle and decreases erythema. It also has anti-acne effect.

Antiseptic effect: Aloe vera contains 6 antiseptic agents: Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols and sulfur. They all have inhibitory action on fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Clinical uses: The clinical use of aloe vera is supported mostly by anecdotal data. Though most of these uses are interesting, controlled trials are essential to determine its effectiveness in all the following diseases.

A. Uses based on scientific evidence: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven.

Conditions: Seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis vulgaris, genital herpes, skin burns, diabetes (type 2), HIV infection, cancer prevention,  ulcerative colitis  wound healing (results of aloe on wound healing are mixed with some studies reporting positive results and others showing no benefit  or potential worsening  ), pressure ulcers,  mucositis, radiation dermatitis,  acne vulgaris,  lichen planus,  frostbite,  aphthous stomatitis,  and constipation.

B. Uses based on tradition or theory: The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven.

Conditions: Alopecia, bacterial and fungal skin infections, chronic leg wounds, parasitic infections, systemic lupus erythematosus, arthritis and tic douloureux.

Side effects

Topical: It may cause redness, burning, stinging sensation and rarely generalized dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions are mostly due to anthraquinones, such as aloin and barbaloin. It is best to apply it to a small area first to test for possible allergic reaction.

Oral: Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, red urine, hepatitis, dependency or worsening of constipation. Prolonged use has been reported to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Laxative effect may cause electrolyte imbalances (low potassium levels).

Contraindication: Contraindicated in cases of known allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Oral aloe is not recommended during pregnancy due to theoretical stimulation of uterine contractions, and in breastfeeding mothers, it may sometime causes gastrointestinal distress in the nursing infant.

Interactions : Application of aloe to skin may increase the absorption of steroid creams such as hydrocortisone. It reduces the effectiveness and may increases the adverse effects of digoxin and digitoxin, due to its potassium lowering effect. Combined use of Aloe vera and furosemide may increase the risk of potassium depletion. It decreases the blood sugar levels and thus may interact with oral hypoglycemic drugs and insulin.

Thus, though Aloe vera has wide spectrum of the properties and uses, some of them could be myths and some of them could be real magic. In future, controlled studies are required to prove the effectiveness of Aloe vera under various conditions.

Source:Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: A short review. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2008 [cited 2009 Feb 10];53:163-6. Available from: http://www.e-ijd.org/text.asp?2008/53/4/163/44785

 

Comments

  1. Aloe has wonderful properties- here is a fun recipe.

    Repair and Protect Facial Cleanser

    1 large Aloe Vera leaf, peeled
    1 peeled slice of papaya
    1 Tablespoon honey
    1 teaspoon plain yogurt

    Mix well in food processor. Apply to face in gentle circular motion. Rinse thoroughly with tepid water.

  2. As a long-time diabetic myself, I was able to achieve measurable results by following the advice given at http://www.MedicalAloe.com by Dr. Ivan E. Danhof, the leading expert on Aloe Vera and natural herbal remedies. I strongly recommend reading the facts in the presented research materials.

  3. This is important information. You are a very generous person who is concerned with the welfare of the people. Long live forever.

  4. FOR A FACT NOT FICITON.

    I was recently in a car wreck my left hand was injured badly but no broken bones—it was cut when hitting the windshield shattering it. The worse part was a deep tear between my little finger and the next that area took 5 stitches out of the 12 used other places I used regular medical stuff then I thought? Maybe I could put fresh aloe Vera in a rubber clove and leave over night. I did that in just a few days the bad area began to fill up with new flesh. Now I expected to be scared but now it looks as though the scarring is going to be less than what I had expected. So I decided to add some fresh aloe Vera to my bath water OH WOW I have never ever been in water that felt that good. So I live in Deep South TX and have plenty to get when needed and from now on will do just that.

    DWIGHT BAKER
    WE THE PEOPLES LOBBY [Advocacy}
    Dbaker007@stx.rr.com

  5. I have come across this page on Aloe Vera which in my view is the most comprehensive and complete information on Aloe Vera and its benefits.

  6. Aloe is powerful stuff. I’m glad I read this post. I was reminded to get some.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. I will not buy any soap that doesn’t contain aloe vera. Usually I stock up on a brand name soap when on sale. It is remarkable how smooth and well cared for my skin feels.

  8. April 15, 2009

    I have been using the raw aloe gel from the plant for years with amazing results. I cut it and use the gel on my face three times a week, leave overnignt and wash in the morning. All my friends ask me “You don’t age? What’s your secret. I mix the aloe gel in a blender with orange juice. Good for colds, flus, just about anything. I was just diagnosed with diverdiculosis, my wbc was 14, it is now down to 9, of course along with anitbotics I was taking. I injested the pure aloe gel every other day. I am now feeling just fine. My doctor was suprised it cleared up so fast. Aloe is a wonder plant. I am a herbal person and dirnks a lot of natural herb plants. Where I live that what we grew up on.

  9. Wrinkling in the skin is caused by habitual facial expressions, sun damage, aging, smoking, poor hydration, and various other factors. The best for preventing wrinkles is drinking a lot of water. Then use a quality cream as this.

  10. I read this article on aloe and I am so impressed,from today inwards i will start drinking aloe juice for having a good health.

  11. Can aloe vera cause cross linking in the skin because of glycation?

  12. Miraculous medicinal plant for both diseased & healthy ones.

    Dr. Pardeep Kumar
    M.D. – Ayurveda
    INDIA

  13. i was wondering what other types of ways can aloe be used in the diet raw or in some type of food or drink, or on the body.

  14. jesucaldito says:

    does it have a lot of vitamin a, as in retinal. because i doubt it if this plant has beta carotene since its not orange or red in color.

  15. I TOO WAS DIOGNOSED WITH DIVERTICULITIS 5 YEARS AGO THAT RESULTED IN TWO SEPERATE HOSPITAL STAYS ABOUT 1 AND A HALF YEARS APART. THANKFUL I HAD A FRIEND THAT KNOWS AND DOES HERBS, TELL ME ABOUT THE CURE FOR IT BY CONSUMING THE ALOE AND HAVE RESTORED MY COLIN BACK TO HEALTH. SINCE TAKING IT OFF AND ON MY BOWELS HAVE RESTOED THEMSELVES BACK YO NORMALCY.I CAN ONCE AGAIN EAT THOSE THINGS THAT YOUR BODY JUST DOESNT DIGEST.

  16. Norbert H. Leipzig says:

    I have a very healthy Aloe plant. If I take a leaf and rub it on my skin will it
    take away old age spots? If so how long can I expect before I see any results?

    Thank You

  17. Did somebody try this product?
    The complete family of aloe vera drinks, skin care products and cosmetics, brings the remarkable properties of aloe to the entire body. Add to that the full line of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, and the nutritious products from the bee hive, and you have a complete system for achieving better health and beauty naturally.

  18. Cleansers are a great start to any anti aging regimen. In fact, it’s the base of all the best skin care systems.

  19. Andrew M Kandala says:

    I live in Africa Here Aloe Vera Plant grow everywhere and want to grow them on a commercial scale with world standrd, but do not know were to get market and right price for export

    Kindly advise

  20. I face problem like white discharge, is alovera gel curiable for the same or advice me.

  21. Hi im writing on behalf of my wife She has justed using the fresh inside leaf for her daily regime but her skin is quite marked and is also quite itchy from various wounds ect Ok does anybody have a possible lotion to apply made with the aloe vera as a base
    Tq

  22. HamsterChild says:

    My friend cut my hair
    And its very short and with UNEVEN ends!
    Should i just wait till it grows or add shampoos with aloe in it?
    Please reply soon i need lots of help

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