Aloe vera syn. A. barbadensis
Also Known As
- Aloe Vera
- Barbados Aloe
- Curacao Aloe
- Lu Hui
The herbaceous plant called the aloe finds wide usage in many herbal applications and remedies – it is often prescribed by herbalist for different conditions. The herb is also the main source for two commonly used herbal products that differ in their chemical composition as well as in therapeutic abilities – these two products however have very similar names which are inadvertently interchanged in the herbal literature. The gel or mucilage sourced from the aloe vera herb is a very thin and clear, jellylike material that is made from by the parenchymal tissues in the leaves of the herb – these water rich tissues make up the majority of the underlying inner portion of aloe leaves and stems. A variety of different procedures are utilized for the extraction of this gel that is prepared mainly from the leaves of the plant, on the basic level all of the these procedures consist of initial separation of the mucilage of the aloe not only from the internal cellular debris but specifically from specialized cells called the pericyclic tubules, these cells lie just underneath the epidermis or the rind of the leaves. Another useful herbal product from the aloe is derived from the dried remains of such cells. These pericyclic tubule cells posses a bitter yellow latex or juice, an active cathartic pharmaceutical herbal product known simply as the aloe, is prepared from these dried cells.
The mucilage or the aloe gel finds different uses as an herbal medication; it is used both as a topical medication as well as an internal herbal remedy for its ability to heal wounds. Furthermore, the gel is also used as a general herbal tonic or cure-all in the treatment of many different disorders and conditions. As such, the gel forms the main herbal product derived from the aloe product that is widely incorporated in a vast array of non-laxative medications and it also finds use in different cosmetic products all around the world. As mentioned before, the latex or juice of the aloe, which is usually used in the dried form, is also used extensively as a potent cathartic during herbal treatment. The product quality is not always the same as the mechanical separation processes which are utilized during extraction may not be very effective and result in impure products. The poor quality of processing of aloe sometimes result in the contamination of the aloe gel with the aloe latex, this results in an unwanted laxative effect within the so-called gel when it is consumed by patients. The problem is further obfuscated by ignorant advertisements made by marketing copywriters who often cannot distinguish between aloe gel and aloe juice, and very often the word aloe juice is used to describe the thin mucilaginous aloe gel-this has very disastrous results as the two products have very different properties inside the body.
The situation is complicated further by the fact that another product also known as the aloe is often marketed – this product is completely different from the two products just described earlier as it is sourced from a different plant. This plant is the biblical aloe, often known as the lignaloes or the aloe wood; it is a different plant having a fragrant wood used in the ancient biblical times as an incense offering to the gods. This fragrant wood and its derivative is not connected to the aloe vera in any way, however, matters are complicated as unscrupulous persons often tend to glamorize the aloe gel by connecting it to a plant mentioned in the bible. This mistake must not be made, as the plants are very different species even though the names may be similar – their actions in the body are also very different. The Bible does not mention the aloe vera gel or the aloe latex, which has been recorded as being utilized as an herbal laxative for more than eighteen centuries by different cultures.
Putting aside these problems related to the nomenclature of the aloe vera, it is important to look at the real value of the herb in terms of its healing properties. The mucilage derived from the aloe gel is a very potent wound healing herbal agent and is a good and effective general purpose herbal remedy – for the treatment of internal as well as external problems. Some controversy exists as to whether the beneficial properties of the gel are retained by the aloe following long term storage, even though the vast majority of professional sources conclude that the gel definitely has some effective activity when used in the fresh state. Stability problems with the aloe vera gel that were present before have been largely contained according to many commercial processors. These industry sources also say that this “stabilized” aloe product is what is now incorporated in many different commercial herbal preparations, these include the various aloe derived plant juices for consumption, all types of gels, different kinds of ointments and creams, as well as herbal lotions and different varieties of shampoos in the market.
At the same time, there is some doubt to the actual effectiveness of the aloe vera gel as results from at least one scientific test have not verified the presence of any distinct beneficial effects from the use of a “stabilized” aloe vera gel when applied to human cells under laboratory conditions. However, when fresh leaf derived herbal aloe fluids were used, it was found that the fluid significantly promoted the attachment and the growth in artificially cultured normal human cells in the laboratory. The aloe fluid was also found to greatly enhance the rate of healing and restoration of mono-layers in the cellular structure of injured cells in these tests. Such effects were not induced by the “stabilized” commercial aloe product; in fact, the stabilized product even proved to be toxic to the artificially cultured cells and distorted their integrity and cellular structure. The conclusion reached by the principal scientific investigators in these tests was that commercially prepared aloe vera gels were not beneficial and they said that these gel fractions “can markedly disrupt the in vitro attachment and growth of human cells.” Thus these tests came up with negative results as far as the commercially prepared gel fractions of the aloe vera were concerned.
It must also be said that the total reviews of many other studies conducted on the aloe vera gel, have given a positive conclusion for the aloe vera gel, as well as a variety of other herbal preparations based solely on the scientific results from the studies. For example, these studies confirm that the treatment of different types of skin ulcerations in humans and animals can be carried out using aloe vera gel, the gel can also be used to treat burn and frostbite injuries in animals as well as humans. The value of the aloe vera cream in the treatment of frostbite was demonstrated during a recent study, when it was found that applications of the aloe vera cream manages to preserve the circulation in the skin of the affected person following the frostbite. The rate of wound healing in injured tissues was also found to be accelerated to a great degree by the application of stabilized aloe vera gel – the rate of healing was demonstrated to be rather dramatic and quick in patients affected by full-face dermabrasion.
The current scientific consensus about the actual action of aloe inside the body is by its possible inhibition of the compound called bradykinin, this is a pain inducing compound present in the body of individuals. Furthermore, the aloe is also believed to somehow impede the synthesis of another compound known as thromboxane in the affected part of the body, the actions of this chemical mainly impedes the rate of wound healing in burnt tissues on the human body. The bactericidal and fungicidal actions of the aloe gel are also beneficial to the process of healing as it keeps infection at bay in the affected parts of the body. Aloe stimulates the growth rate of fibroblast and epithelial cells inside the body, this beneficial property of the gel was observed during scientific studies conducted on the mechanism of action of the aloe gel, the same remarkable properties were also displayed by the partially purified extracts – these effects have been observed in vitro during the skin wound-healing repair processes of the body. Furthermore, the aloe gel and the extract also induce a lectin like responses in cells of the human immune system; the aloe also stimulates the neuron like cell growth in areas of skin with nerve cell damage. The active compounds in the aloe which are responsible for these remarkable and beneficial properties still have to be positively identified, and little is known about the actual identity or the stability of these beneficial constituents. After the analysis of the chemical make up of aloe, it has been found that a certain glycoprotein fraction possesses the ability to promote cell growth in human and animal cells, at the same time the whole polysaccharide fraction was found not to have this ability to stimulate the growth of cell media – both these tests were conducted under laboratory conditions. Since the beneficial chemicals in the aloe have not been clearly identified, and since such useful compounds are often prone to chemical deterioration when stored over the long term, the best option is to always utilize fresh aloe gel, this is because, the activity of the beneficial compounds in the fresh form of the gel are much more likely to be at optimal levels than in aloe gel which has been stored for any length of time.
At any rate, the actual volume of aloe in the majority of the commercial herbal preparations is generally small and many products advertised as being derived from the aloe tend to have minimal amounts of aloe in them. A careful assessment of the product label is a useful way to make a direct determination of the relative quantity of aloe among all the various constituents of the herbal product in question. Generally speaking, the position of aloe in the list along the label will give a good indication of the amount; the volume of aloe contained in a product is probably little if the aloe is not listed towards the top of the list. Potential customers are also advised not to prefer any herbal product that is labeled with a “aloe vera extract,” this probably means that the aloe content is highly diluted or it may be some form of “reconstituted aloe vera,” this essentially means such products are manufactured and processes using powdered or liquid concentrates of the herbal aloe gel – the beneficial effects of such products will be of likely dubious value.
The classical herbal literature and traditional literary sources often attribute the aloe gel – incorrectly called aloe “juice”- with anesthetic and antiseptic properties, it is also recorded as being a body cleanser, an antipyretic agent, an anti-pruritic remedy, these sources also describe the aloe as being an effective nutritional compound, they describe its moisturizing abilities; The aloe is also said to have vasodilating powers and is attributed beneficial anti-inflammatory properties, last but not least, it is said to promote the proliferation and regeneration of cells in the body. Traditionally the remedies made from the aloe have been suggested for internal uses of diverse disorders, it has been used to treat various coughs and even constipation in affected patients. The role of the herbal remedies made from the aloe have great potential in the treatment of topical problems, the aloe has been primarily used in the treatment of all types of burns, it is also used traditionally in many cultures to condition the skin, the aloe has also been used in the treatment of headache and other related problems. While the aloe has been used in this diverse range of treatments as a herbal remedy, none of the beneficial properties of the aloe vera have been completely verified under test conditions.
As far as the possible use of aloe in the treatment of diabetes is concerned, the published literature gives mixed results on the traditional use of the aloe juice in the treatment of diabetics. Diabetics were studied for their reactions to aloe juice during a controlled clinical study of seventy seven volunteers, each of these test subjects was given one tablespoonful of aloe juice, two times every day and treatment period lasted forty-two days at a stretch. The entire treatment group showed some positive results from the repeated dose of aloe and there was significant reduction in the blood sugar levels along with the triglyceride levels of all participants in the test. The results of this test, does not corroborate and goes against the results obtained from an earlier study, where patients with diabetes mellitus and some with gastric ulcers showed no improvement after repeated treatment using aloe under test conditions.
The traditionally well known ability of the aloe in treating minor wounds and burns has been provided with a rational basis by many scientific papers published during the 1990’s around the world. This new evidence substantiates to a great extent the impressive omnibus of traditional sources and the folklore about the aloe’s amazing healing properties as far as external wounds on the body are concerned.
For the treatment of minor burns, traditionally in many cultures, people keep a potted aloe plant growing along the windowsill in the kitchen of the house, whenever an accident occurs, a single aloe leaf is snipped off and its fresh exuded gel is then applied to the area of the skin affected by the minor burn. This simple traditional treatment of minor burns using a leaf from the aloe plant is highly recommended, as issue of the safeness of this simple healing method has never been questioned and is known to be quite effective – having a long history of traditional sanction. The effectiveness of the fresh gel from the leaf of a potted plant is also much more likely to be effective compared to the stored gel product, at the same time this treatment is very cheap and problems like the potential issue of stability and retention of desirable properties in processed products is altogether avoided as the gel is always fresh.
Parts of Aloe Vera That Are Used
Leaves exude a bitter liquid, which is dried and known as “bitter aloes.” They also contain a clear gel, which is a soothing skin remedy.
Historical Use of Aloe Vera
The historical uses of the aloe vera go back to ancient times; it was extensively used as a skin lotion by many ancient cultures in the Middle East. For example, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra was said to have attributed her world renowned beauty to the repeated use of the aloe vera cream over a long period of time.
The 1950’s were the era during which the aloe vera gained wide appeal as a herbal remedy in many parts of the western world, this sudden popularity came about when its property of healing minor burns became widely known in the West, the interest in the aloe vera was also helped in particular by the discovery of its ability to heal radiation burns in persons exposed to radioactive compounds.
As a home based remedy for various types of burns, all kinds of physical scrapes, for the treatment of scalds, and to treat sunburn – the aloe vera is one of the best all round first aid remedies to keep at home. The affected part of the body can be healed by the release of the soothing internal gel of a broken aloe leaf.
All types of skin conditions can be healed using the aloe gel, more so when a soothing and astringent quality is required in the remedy used to treat the problem. The aloe gel is also known to be beneficial to some extent in the treatment of varicose veins in individuals affected by the condition.
Within the body of affected individuals, the aloe with its protective and healing effects can accelerate the rate of cellular regeneration and recovery – it is therefore useful in many internal treatments, cases of peptic ulcers and disorders such as the irritable bowel syndrome can be treated using the aloe gel as a herbal remedy.
The aloe is also known to posses a strong laxative action due to the presence of a bitter yellow liquid within the leaves, these liquids contain compounds called anthraquinones – thus the aloe has also seen limited use as a herbal laxative to treat constipation in affected individuals. The mode of functioning of these classes of compounds lies in their ability to induce contractions in the colon of affected individuals; this usually results in the production of bowel movements within 8 – 12 hours following the initial consumption of the herbal remedy. Digestion in the individual can also be stimulated by the bitter properties of the herb especially when it is used at low dosages. The bitter aloes are known to be extremely strong purgatives and laxatives when used at very high doses.
Other medical uses
- Cervical cancer
- Lung cancer
- Mouth ulcers
Cultivating Aloe Vera
The aloe vera herb is originally a native plant of eastern and southern Africa, at the present time, it also grows extensively in the wild along the tropical areas of the world and is extensively cultivated worldwide to make many different types of herbal products. Wild growing aloe plants have greater beneficial properties in some cases, this is seen in the fact that potted aloe plants often tend to be low in total content of anthraquinone. Propagation of the aloe vera plant is usually carried out in areas of cultivation by planting small rooted plant-lets which have been broken off the parent plants. During processing for the collection of the aloe gel and bitter liquid, harvested leaves are cut and drained slowly and placed in jars for storage or for use when necessary.
The beneficial effects and the healing ability of the clear aloe gel have been proven in extensive research carried out on the aloe since the 1930s in the US as well as in the Russian Republic. These studies have pointed out that the clear aloe gel has a very dramatic and effective ability to heal all types of external wounds, different kinds of ulcers, and all sorts of burns in the body, this action is made possible as the gel makes a protective coat on the surface of the affected area and this results in the sudden speeding up of the rate of healing in the affected area of the body. The presence of the compound known as aloectin B, which stimulates the immune system in the body is the agent partially responsible for this action.
Aloe vera contains: anthraquinone glycosides, resins, polysaccharides, sterols, gelonins, chromones.
Herbal Remedy of Aloe Vera
Dosage of the herbal remedy made from aloe can differ for one disorder to another, and depends on the person as well, taking one 50-200 mg capsule of the aloe latex a day for a treatment period of ten days can aid in alleviating constipation in the person. The stabilized aloe gel can be applied topically for the treatment of minor burns, the gel can be used as a topical cream to be applied along the affected area of the skin three to five times daily for the treatment of all external injuries in affected individuals. A professional and qualified health care worker must be consulted before any attempt is made to treat more serious burns on the skin using the aloe gel alone. The preferred dose of the aloe vera gel by most people is, for internal purposes, about 30 ml of the aloe gel taken three times daily during the entire length of the treatment.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions
The topical use of the aloe gel for treatment purposes is essentially harmless for most people, with the rare exception of individuals who may have some allergic reaction to the aloe. While the aloe is safe to use for minor burns, it must be remembered that medical attention is necessary and vital if the burn begins to blisters significantly or is severe in appearance – the appearance of the burn will give you a good indication of the severity of the burn on the skin. Caution is required as the use of the aloe gel can actually impede or complicate the healing of the wound in some types of severe burns and wounds; medical attention is required for such cases. In addition, the aloe based laxative remedies must also be used in moderation, as prolonged utilization of the remedy for over ten consecutive days, can result in uncomfortable aggravation of the constipation, at the same time, continual use of the laxative can bring on dependency to the aloe – these situations must be avoided at all costs. Medical attention may in fact become necessary if the constipation affecting the person shows no sign of relief within a few days of treatment using the aloe laxative – the cause of the constipation may be different and the origin of the problem may in fact be internal.
How Aloe Vera Works
The main role of the aloe vera in the body due to its specific healing properties is as an excellent vulnary or wound healer -promoting tissue regeneration, this ability of the herbal remedy is primarily because of the anthraquinones contained in the gel. As a topical remedy, the aloe gel has a soothing quality which is of particular value as far as external treatments of burns are concerned. The restorative and healing abilities possessed by the gel are also of particularly value in the treatment of the disorders arising in the digestive system and the internal organs in general. The immune system is another area of the human system that is affected positively by the aloe gel. The irritating chemical nature of the yellow sap in the aloe endues the aloe with an added laxative effect; this irritation can stimulate the colon to induce movements in the bowel especially when given in lower doses. A stronger action can be induced by taking larger doses of the herbal remedy which can acts like a purgative, but griping pains can often accompany such doses and for this reason, high doses are generally avoided by patients. The possible treatment of radiation burns using the aloe gel is an area generating the latest interest in the scientific community.
- FRESH – Various injuries such as severe to mild burns, to physical wounds are better treated using the fresh form of the gel, in these cases, the split leaf of the aloe vera can be applied directly onto the affected area of the body, this form of the remedy is also excellent for the treatment of dry skin, it is also the preferred remedy for the treatment of fungal infections and the irritation caused by insect bites. The fresh form of the aloe gel can be used internally as a herbal remedy as well, and dosage can be a maximum of 2 tsp of the fresh gel in a glass of water or any fruit juice, this can be taken three times daily, as a general herbal tonic for the treatment of various internal disorders in the body of the affected patients.
OINTMENT – The aloe gel can also be prepared into an herbal ointment for storage, prepare the ointment by carefully splitting several of the aloe leaves and collect sufficient quantity of the exuded gel in a pan, this gel can then be boiled slowly into a thick herbal paste or ointment. This paste or herbal ointment can then be stored using clean jars and placed in a cool place and this ointment can be used like the fresh leaves as and when necessary to treat the same types of disorders and conditions normally treated using the gel from fresh leaves.
TONIC WINE – The gel from the aloe can also be fermented to make a tonic herbal wine, such a wine which is normally flavored using honey and varied spices is called kumaryasava in India. This wine tonic made from the aloe is used as a remedy for the treatment of anemia in patients; it is also used in the treatment of impaired functioning of the digestive system and in the treatment of various liver disorders in different patients.
INHALATION – The gel from the aloe can also be used in a steam inhalant for the treatment of bronchial congestion and other respiratory disorders.
- TINCTURE – Consumption of the tincture made from the leaves is also possible, while the taste of the tincture is not very nice – the tincture does possess some remedial properties, and about 1-3 ml of leaves per dose can be used as an appetite stimulant or for the treatment of constipation in affected patients.
POWDER – The leaves of the aloe are also used to make a powdered form of the herb, single doses of 100 – 500 mg or one capsule of the powdered aloe leaves can be taken as an herbal purgative for the alleviation of persistent constipation in patients and this form of the aloe remedy is also helpful in stimulating the flow of bile in the body of affected patients.