Aloe Vera… Green Magic
Over the past years a great deal of research and experimental work has been carried out on Aloe Vera and a picture of its biological activity properties is emerging. One feature that is becoming clear is that the systems undergoing healing contain several interacting factors, each of which may be affected by more than one component of the raw gel. It has many benefits for the skin, helping to heal cuts, burns, frostbite and abrasions, decreasing oedema and inflammation. Helping to care for skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. It has been shown to be beneficial for diabetics, those suffering from gastro intestinal problems and ulcers and has been shown to be immuno stimulating and have anti-microbial activity, excellent for those with poor immune systems. Possible cholesterol lowering effects and a decrease risk of kidney stones is appearing in research.
The benefits of Aloe Vera are vast for so many people. I use Aloe Vera Gel all the time from acne to sunburn to skin irritants, I feel safe using Aloe Vera on all skin conditions because it’s natural and soothing. I have always been an adamant user of Aloe Vera Gel however only last year started drinking the Aloe Vera juice following a continuous weakened immune system and general feeling of under the weather. I still drink Aloe Vera Juice, not every day just when I feel the need for a nutrient boost. It will be interesting to discover what else Aloe Vera ‘Green Magic’ possesses in future research!
Man has used Aloe Vera for at least 5000 years as a medical and healing plant. During ancient times the Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks and every other country throughout Europe had knowledge of the power of the plant. An ancient Hindu legend states that the Aloe Vera came directly from the Garden of Eden while another tale attributes to its birthplace the mystical island of Atlantis. Its name aloe comes from an Arabic word “alloeh” which means a shining bitter substance. Carbons on an ancient Egyptian temple identify it as a plant of immortality.Cleopatra massaged fresh Aloe gel into her skin everyday to preserve beauty (1,2). Alexander the great used Aloe Vera to heal wounds of solders using it as a pulp and it was bandaged (3). Extensive research has been carried out in Russia and the United States to determine the pharmacological basis of Aloe Vera (4).
The nutritional compounds present in Aloe Vera that have been identified:
- VITAMINS: A, Thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), B3, B6, B12, C, E , Folic acid.
- MINERALS: Calcium, Copper, Chromium, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, and Sodium, Zinc.
- AMINO-ACIDS (essential and non essential): Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Valine, Aspartic acid, Glutamic acid, Alanine, Arginine, Cystine, Glycine, Histidine, Hydroxyproline, proline, Serine, Tyrosine.
- ENZYMES: Phosphatase, Amylase, Lipase, Catalase, Creatine phosphokinase, Nucleotidase, Cellulase, Alkaline phosphatase, Proteolyses
- FATTY ACIDS: All unsaturated fatty acids, Caprylic acid.
- OTHER ACTIVE HEALING NUTRIENTS: Lignin’s, Saponins, Anthraquinones, Chrysophanic acid, Allantoin, and mucopolysaccharides.
Studies have been carried out to demonstrate Aloe Vera can relieve the swelling and fluid accumulation associated with Oedema initiated by irritating compounds. Oedema was treated successfully using either Aloe Vera gel orally or topically (4).
Studies involved inducing a replica of the process involved in arthritis, it was shown that Aloe Vera decreased the inflammation commonly associated with arthritis (4).
Enzymes have been found in Aloe Vera that can destroy the nonpeptide – Bradykinin that caused vasodilation and pain production. It is believed that production of histamine (produced in the body that commonly causes inflammation and itchiness) from histidine can be inhibited by Aloe Vera (4).
Inflammation is a tissue reaction by the body to injury and typically follows burns or other skin insults. It is classically characterised by swelling, pain, redness and heat as well as loss of function. It is a complex process. Aloe Vera gel may have more than one active constituent, which may be addressing different parts of the healing process. As well as in wounds, inflammation is also involved in conditions such as arthritis. It now appears that Aloe Vera has several activities and is operating each with its own part to play in the overall therapy. These activities may well represent the presence of several different active agents in the gel (4).
It was observed in a study conducted on mice with induced oedema that two aspects of inflammation was reduced when the mice were injected with Aloe Vera juice. (45-70% decrease on oedema and 58% decrease in lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the inflammation process). Many other studies have also found a similar decrease in inflammation. One study showed that Aloe Vera either topically applied or injected could decrease the inflammatory effects of inflammatory agents such as: kaolin, carrageenan, albumin, gelatine, mustard and croton oil (4).
Wound healing is a very complex system (more so than the system of inflammation). As early as 1964 a study demonstrated an increase in wound healing occurred when Aloe Vera was used as an ointment base. It is believed that Aloe Vera may remove the delaying affects of healing rather than accelerating healing as such. Its high water content helps keep the wound moist and helps increase skin cell migration. In mice who had induced wounds, it was shown that for those being injected with Aloe Vera gel the wound size decreased, skin circulation increased and scarring seemed to be reduced. Acute inflammation was also reduced (4).
In another study Aloe Vera was administered orally or topically to the wound in a cream. It was shown that both treatments improved wound healing. It is believed that an increase in blood supply caused by Aloe Vera helps increase oxygen to the wound enabling it to heal faster (4).
Important constituents to heal a wound (fibroblasts and collagen) were demonstrated in a trial to have increased activity. Aloe Vera preparations were shown to increase replacement of cells (neuron’s) that are required for total regeneration of the skin (4).
Aloe Vera gel was shown to increase the bodies ability to increase healing and maintain its wound breaking strength when used in combination with antibiotics which is often seen to decrease when antibiotics are being used solely (4).
A compound in Aloe Vera called acemannan (a polysaccharide) was claimed to increase macrophage activity in wounds of rats. (Macrophages have an important role of “scavenging” bacteria or other foreign bodies from blood or tissues) (4).
In diabetic mice those treated orally or topically with Aloe Vera gel showed that collagen formed had a higher degree of cross linking. Also the collagen had higher levels of protein and DNA (4).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Aloe Vera for first aid treatment of wounds and for use in external preparations (3).
Aloe Vera gel has been shown to have an anaesthetic effect, a bactericidal action and an anti-thromboxane effect. Shown to have a wide variety of therapeutic potential on a variety of soft tissue injuries. Aloe Vera gel was shown to penetrate the tissue, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and increase blood supply by inhibiting the synthesis of thromboxane A2 which is a potent vasoconstrictor (4).
Scientists believe Aloe Vera is helpful in healing skin abrasions and burns because it contains salicylates, the same pain killing anti inflammatory agents found in Asprin. It also contains magnesium lactate, a substance that inhibits the histamine reactions made by our immune system in response to irritants (4).
Gel preparations delayed the inflammatory response and speeded the recovery time for first and second degree burns and skin cells were repaired. Synergism was noted between the gel and cream base used. Elsewhere partial thickness burns were observed to heal more rapidly when treated with Aloe Vera gel compared with Vaseline. Both growth of epithelial cells and organisation of fibro-vascular and collagen tissue were being stimulated. It has been shown that Aloe Vera given before burns was more effective than after the burns (4).
Brandykinin plays an important part in the inflammatory process. It was found that Aloe Vera contains a peptide – bradykinase that breaks down Bradykinin. This helps alleviate pain after a burn and inhibited the acceleration of vascular permeability (4)
Thromboxane is a powerful vasoconstrictor and pain producer and has been implicated in frostbite injuries. It has been suggested Aloe Vera’s main function in healing frostbite is the reduction of thromboxane levels. In topical application of Aloe Vera there was an enhanced tissue survival. In a human clinical trial 68% of the Aloe Vera treated patients achieved full healing while 33% of those receiving other treatments were fully healed. In the first group 7% required amputation compared with 33% in the second group(4).
Aloe Vera helps moisturise the skin, help regenerate dead skin and tighten facial tissue. Compounds within the gel can also help eliminate acne, blackheads and liver spots. Clinical data does back up these particular claims (5).
- 1. Excellent cleanser- Aloe Vera’s enzymes help slough off dead cells before they accumulate and clog pores.
- 2. Removes environmental toxins that collect on the skin, helping the pores to breathe and prevent the skin from toughening.
- 3. All the vitamins, minerals and amino acids present in Aloe Vera nourish the skin which like any other human organ requires them to function optimally. The amino acids, stimulate new cell growth (5).
Damaged skin must have (and retain) moisture to heal, making aloe excellent for skin rashes, sunburns or other irritations. Aloe Vera can be used to cleanse and to moisturise, restoring elasticity to your skin and the glow to your complexion. Aloe Vera acts as a “skin balancer” because it’s own natural properties maintain the healthy pH balance of your skin of 4.5-5.5 pH. Aloe Vera can give a more youthful appearance by increasing the removal of dead skin cells (5).
Two materials found in aloe, ligins and polysaccharides possess the ability to penetrate deeply into all three layers of skin – epidermis, dermis and hypodermis and flush out unwanted bacteria and oil deposits that can clog pores (5).
The natural nutrients in Aloe Vera vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids work to stimulate the growth of healthy new cells. Especially when blended with an excellent moisturising agent such as tocopherol (vitamin E). Vitafit have developed a moisturising cream containing Aloe Vera and vitamin E (5).
Aloe Vera can be used on stretch marks and scars by massaging it into the body especially when pregnant because of the stress the skin undergoes. Aloe Vera can be used on old or new scars. Patience is required as it may take up to a year for skin to give up the scar tissue for soft new skin (3).
Aloe Vera can be used to treat brown spots or liver spots. It has been reported that they slowly disappear with the application of the gel daily (6).
Aloe Vera has skin properties- wound healing vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. Aloe Vera has been shown to stimulate connective tissue formation, there by promoting wound repair (7). Damage by free radicals has often been invoked to explain radiation effects and it is interesting that both glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (both important antioxidants) activities have been reported to be found in Aloe Vera gel (4).
So many factors are involved with acne, hormones, diet, cleanliness and oil -clogged pore among them. Aloe Vera helps most of the external problems, it helps heal inflamed infected areas, and to develop new skin. Also it helps counteract excess oiliness. Aloe Vera is excellent against acne because it does moisturise and also normalises the skin by absorbing excess oil. Then the penetrating action in the gel seeps down into the pores, where nutrients help to rebuild healthy skin tissue. It acts by dissolving and drawing out impurities beneath the first layer of skin. This helps dry out infections, yet does not dry the skin itself. The skin may get worse before getting better. It can heal scars over time this may take many months depending on the severity of the tissue damage. Some plastic surgeons recommended Aloe Vera to their patients to more rapidly heal surgical scars. Some scars have been reported to have disappeared almost completely. Aloe Vera can counteract infections, stimulating the tissues and healing without scarring. The gel should be used regularly and with patience for at least six months (3, 5).
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease in which itchy scaly pink patches form on the elbows, knees, scalp and other parts of the body. It was shown in a large clinical trial that Aloe Vera extract compared with a placebo significantly cured a large number of patients (4).
The Immune System
Aloe Vera contains polysaccharides and glycoproteins, these are involved in such activities especially in connection with the immune system. Mice inoculated with Aloe Vera were shown to protect from infection by Klebsiella pneumoniae apparently by stimulation of the immune system (4).
Aloctin A is a component of Aloe Vera. There is evidence that suggests that it can stimulate our body to fight tumour cells and elevate levels of plasma proteins. Aloctin A stimulates T cells which can suppress tumour growth indirectly by stimulating our bodies response and increasing macrophage levels and activity. Aloctin A has also been shown to decrease gastric lesions and ulcers (4).
Isolated substance called acemannan (a complex carbohydrate) is reported to stimulate the immune system by stimulating the generation of T cells and increasing macrophages and stimulate an increase in phagocytosis (ingestion of foreign bodies eg bacteria and fungi). Acemannan in Aloe Vera appears to have anti viral and immune boosting properties. So the product works with the body’s immune system to aid healing (2). The Acemannan content of Aloe Vera was extracted and used to treat AIDS patients. It was shown to decrease 71% of the symptoms perhaps from the stimulation of the immune system. Acemannan has also been shown to be antiviral in vitro studies against measles, herpes and HIV. Aloe Vera gel was included in nutritional supplements used in a clinical trial with acquired immuno deficient syndrome (AIDS) patients where it was said to be beneficial without specific effects being recorded. Another aloe component – aloe emodin was shown to disrupt the coating of enveloped viruses such as herpes and influenza virus A (4).
Immuno stimulation is appearing as a major contributing factor. This is associated with the presence in the gel of polysaccharides. Many of these specialised polysaccharides of unknown function in the plant have been found to be physiologically active in animals and subjects for new therapies. Commercial products have been developed from Aloe Vera, many are extracts of a specific active component which act to stimulate the immune system (4).
Effects on Gastro Intestinal Function and Ulcers
A trial carried out in 1963 with human patients found that the oral administration of Aloe Vera gel was effective in the treatment of peptic ulcers. This has also been shown in many recent studies (4).
Medical research supports the use of Aloe Vera as a gastro-intestinal remedy (2). It has been shown to improve the outlook for people suffering from colitis indigestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, excess stomach acidity, ulcers, stomach ache, and other conditions which individually or in combination exert a toxifying, putrefying influence on the body, especially in the blood (4) One doctor has researched the benefits of Aloe Vera on inflammatory bowel disease (a group of conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, that involve chronic intestinal inflammation). The Aloe Vera gel works by lining the GI tract and remains for 48 hours or more and may induce protective changes in the cells. Aloe Vera also appears to slow down the emptying of the stomach and inhibits the release of excess Hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin (2).
A series of trials on human patients indicated a tonic effect of Aloe Vera gel on the intestinal tract with a reduced transit time. Also the bacterial flora appeared to benefit, with a reduction in the presence of yeasts and a reduction in pH. Bowel putrefaction was reduced and protein digestion/absorption improved (4).
Anti Diabetic Activity
In many studies carried out Aloe Vera has been able to reduce blood sugar levels in “mild” diabetic patients, for example, in India a clinical trial was carried out on over 3000 “mildly” diabetic patients who took Aloe Vera gel. It was demonstrated in 90% of the cases to be a decrease in blood sugar levels. Also in parallel trials, patients that failed to respond to other ant-diabetic medication responded to the aloe treatment in a similar way (4).
In Diabetics wound healing is suppressed, it has been shown in several studies that for mice with Diabetes given Aloe Vera gel, wound healing was promoted, sensitivity and pain was reduced and oedema was decreased. This may be due to the presence of polysaccharides in the gel (4).
Anti Cancer Activity
Components of Aloe Vera – glycoproteins (lectins) and polysaccharides promote the growth of normal human cells in culture but inhibit tumour cell growth. A large epidemiologic survey of lung cancer and smoking in Japan suggested that ingestion of Aloe Vera juice prevented pulmonary carcinogenesis and was said to prevent stomach and colon cancer (4).
Aloe Vera preparations have been shown to inhibit at least 18 micro organisms (bacteria and fungi) in a variety of studies. Infection hinders wound healing and it may be that part of the efficiency of Aloe Vera gel lies in it’s antibiotic properties (4).
Aloe Vera was compared with standard antibiotic and was found to speed wound healing, while the antibiotic had an initial retardant effect. It may be that antibiotic factors are released by the healing tissues in response to aloe treatment (4).
(Aloe Vera is not intended to be used as a replacement for antibiotics).
In a small trial with monkeys, orally administered Aloe Vera gel lowered total cholesterol by 61% and also that proportion in the HDL (the good cholesterol) levels increased (4).
Aloe Vera contains anthraquinones that decrease the growth rate of urinary calcium crystals that contribute to the formation of kidney stones (8).
Aloe Vera can be applied to ulcerations daily as part of a dressing. It decreases the chance of infections because it contains antiseptic properties (3).
Aloe Vera is considered as being non-toxic and there has been rare reports of people having allergies to Aloe Vera. Those people who have an allergy or skin problems should test Aloe Vera on a small area of their skin. It is recommended that pregnant and lactating women do not take Aloe Vera juice. As with anything taken internally, diabetics should monitor their blood sugar levels when using Aloe Vera, as medication may require adjusting. Aloe Vera is not intended to be used as a replacement for antibiotics. Always consult your doctor.
(1) Kowalchik C, Hylton WH. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Schwartz Books 1987 Rodale Press Inc. Australia.
(2) Baar K. Natural Health – Natural Cures. November 1995.
(3) Lee WH R. Ph, Ph.D. Aloe Vera- Nature’s Healer. Keats Publishing Inc. USA, 1982.
(4) Reynolds T, Dweck AC. Aloe Vera leaf gel: A review update. Journal of Ethnopharmacology
1999; 68: 3-37.
(5) Taylor-Donald L. Aloe- The Miracle of Aloe Vera. Fit Magazine.
(6) Bricklin M. The Practical Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. Penguin Books USA 1990.
(7) Mindell E. Earl Mindell’s Secret Remedies. Vermilion, UK, 1998.
(8) Dr Murray MT, Marti JE. The Alternative Health and Medicine Encyclopedia. Second Edition.
Visible Ink Press, Detroit USA, 1998.
Vitafit’s Aloe Vera Product Range.
Aloe Vera Drinking Juice 90% Pure
This is an easy way to maintain a healthy balance of natural vitamins and minerals in the body. These vitamins and minerals found in Aloe Vera drinking juice are essential to maintain health naturally and aid the body to regenerate cells. Lemon and Lime has been added to give a refreshing taste. The juice can be taken by itself or mixed with fruit juice. Begin by taking 50-75ml daily. This juice has mild laxative properties.
Aloe Vera Gel 98% Pure
A gel with a soothing effect to be used externally on the skin, on cuts, abrasions, skin irritations, burns, as an after shaving gel or applied as a moisturiser. It is recommended not to use on serious cuts or burns, in such cases seek medical advise.
Aloe Vera Hand and Body Lotion with Vitamin E
A moisturiser for the hands and the body with the added moisturising and healing benefits of Vitamin E. It penetrates rough dry skin, promoting smoothness.
Aloe Vera and Tea Tree Antiseptic Cream.
Has the added antiseptic properties of tea tree to aid healing of cuts and abrasions.
Aloe Vera and Tea Tree Liniment
Contains menthol and camphor for a warming and soothing effect. Excellent for sports or when muscular pain is present.
- · Nutritional information contained here is based on research literature and published knowledge on nutrition. Any nutritional suggestions should not be taken as medical advice.