Aloe (Aloe vera ) is an important and traditional medicinal plant belonging to the family Liliaceae. It is indigenous to Africa and Mediterranean countries. The species does not have any naturally occurring populations, although closely related aloes do occur in northern Africa .However,It is
reported to grow wild on islands of Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Carary cape, Cape Verde and arid tracts of India. This is a hardy perennial tropical plant that can be cultivated in drought areas. But its potential is yet to be exploited. Aloe, despite being identified as 'a new plant resource with the most promising prospects in the world', remains a disregarded plant. It is scattered in the wild, along the coast of southern India. China, U.S.A., Mexico, Australia and some of the Latin American countries are the major producers and exporters of aloe products. These countries are exploiting the plant potential with the growing cosmetic and neutraceutical market.
The species is frequently cited as being used in herbal medicine since the beginning of the first century AD. Extracts from A. vera are widely used in the cosmetics and alternative medicine industries, being marketed as variously having rejuvenating, healing or soothing properties. There is, however, little scientific evidence of the effectiveness or safety of A. vera extracts for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes, and what positive evidence is available is frequently contradicted by other studies. Medical uses of aloe vera are being investigated as well. Aloe can substitute synthetic ingredient used in cosmetic industry very competitively and is finding increasing use in the ever growing consumer product segment.
In India, aloe is cultivated in Alwar in Rajasthan, Satanapalli in Andhra Pradesh, Rajpipla in Gujarat and some parts of Tamil Nadu.
Common Names: Aloe vera, Aloe, Lily of the desert, Burn plant, Elephant's gall
Latin Names: Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis
Aloe vera's use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the "plant of immortality," aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. Native to Northern Africa, Aloe vera (syn. A. barbadensis Mill., A. vulgaris Lam.) is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 80–100 cm tall, spreading by offsets and root sprouts. The leaves are lanceolate, thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with a serrated margin. The flowers are produced on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm long. Clinical evealuations have revealed that the pharmacological active ingredients are concentrated in both the gel and rind of the aloe vera leaves. These active ingredients have been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
All About Aloe Vera - Uses & Health Benefits
"You ask me what were the secret forces which sustained me during my long fasts. Well, it was my unshakeable faith in God, my simple and frugal lifestyle, and the Aloe whose benefits I discovered upon my arrival in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century".
- Mahatma Gandhi
Various Uses of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is being used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative, since centuries. Today, apart from the people traditional uses, people also take aloe vera orally to treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. People use aloe topically for osteoarthritis, burns, and sunburns. Aloe vera has been used to treat various skin conditions such as cuts, burns and eczema.
Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks. Cosmetic manufacturers add sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to makeup products, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, shampoos and lotions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring. In Japan, Aloe Vera is commonly used as an ingredient in commercially available yogurt. Many companies in East Asia produce Aloe Vera beverages. Pashtuns in the Hazara region of the North West Frontier Province have been using Aloe Vera for centuries to improve physical endurance, probably due to the high nutrient content of the gel. People in Rajasthan, India prepare Aloe Vera as a vegetable with fenugreek seeds. Similarly, people in Tamil Nadu, another state of India prepare a curry using Aloe Vera eat along with Indian bread or rice.
Among the recent uses of Aloe vera includes using it as a Food preservative. Researchers at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante, Spain, have developed a gel based on Aloe vera that prolongs the conservation of fresh produce, like fresh fruit and legumes. This gel is tasteless, colorless and odorless. This natural product is a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic preservatives such as sulfur dioxide. The study showed that grapes at 1°C coated with this gel could be preserved for 35 days against 7 days for untreated grapes.
Aloe vera Gel and Juice are different?
People often assumed incorrectly that Aloe vera Gel and Juice are the same thing, which they are not. Let us understand the Aloe leaf structure first. It is made up of four layers - Rind, Sap, Mucilage and Gel. Rind is the outer protective layer; Sap is a layer of bitter fluid which helps protect the plant from animals; Mucilage and the Gel, which is the inner part of the leaf that is filleted out to make Aloe Vera gel.
The term Juice refers to the bitter sap or Latex that resides just under the skin of the leaf and contains a potent laxative - Aloin. This juice should not be used by human unless desired or recommended by a doctor.
What does it contain
Aloe Vera contains over 75 known active ingredients (and probably many more). Also included are 19 of the 20 amino acids required by the human body and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids (that the body cannot make), as well as vitamins and minerals. There are 20 "critical" Amino Acids in human metabolism, but the body can only make 12, the other 8 have to be obtained from food. These are Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Valine, and Tryptophan.
Aloe Vera contains also contain useful enzymes like Amylase, Bradykinase, Catalase, Cellulase, Lipase, Oxidase, Alkaline Phosphatase, Proteolytiase, Creatine Phosphokinase, Carboxypeptidase. Most of these are beneficial to human metabolism.
Lignin gives Aloe Vera its penetrating powers, but is not considered to have any other benefit.
Aloe Vera contains important minerals like Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorous, Sodium, and Zinc.
As most of us know that the mono-saccharides are the familiar glucose and fructose. It is believed that the more complex long-chain sugars are the poly-saccharides give Aloe Vera its unique healing and immuno-stimulating properties.
Aloe Vera contains useful vitamins. These include A (beta-carotene and retinol), B1 (thiamine), B2 ( riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamin), C (ascorbic acid), E (tocopherol) and Folic Acid.
Salicylic Acid, a substance similar to aspirin that can help reduce fever and inflammation is also found in Aloe vera. It also contains Saponins and Sterols. Saponins are natural soapy substances that have both cleansing and antiseptic properties while Sterols are naturally occurring plant steroids with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties.
Health Benefits of Aloe Vera
"Extracts of Aloe Vera first became popular as a proven skin healer. Aloe is said to improve collagen repair, heal burns and prevent wrinkles. It is a powerful detoxifier, antiseptic and tonic for the nervous system. It also has immune-boosting and anti-viral properties. Research has proven that adding Aloe Vera to ones diet improves digestion. As a general health tonic, there are benefits in taking a measure of Aloe Vera each day"
Here are few benefits of Aloe Vera: -
Studies have shown that aloe vera speeds the healing process, particularly in burns, including those from radiation. It is also used by dermatologists to speed healing after facial dermabrasion, which helps remove scars from the top most layers of the skin. The other health benefits from the use of aloe vera include helping to soothe skin injuries affected by burning, skin irritations, cuts and insect bites, and its bactricidal properties relieve itching and skin swellings.
- Aloe Vera possesses incredible moisturizing properties. Studies show that Aloe Vera improves the skin's ability to hydrate itself, aids in the removal of dead skin cells and has an effective penetrating ability that helps transport healthy substances through the skin.
- Aloe vera is also known to help slow down the appearance of wrinkles as it can actively repair the damaged skin cells that cause the visible signs of aging. Components of Aloe Vera have been found to reverse degenerative skin changes by stimulating collagen and elastin synthesis.
- Dermatologist James Fulton, M.D., of Newport Beach, California, uses topical aloe in his practice to speed wound healing. "Any wound we treat, whether it's suturing a cut or removing a skin cancer, heals better with aloe vera on it," he states.
- Top nutritionalists, around the world, recommend the use of Aloe Health Drinks to aid digestion, and many patients experience relief in the symptoms of problems such as Irritable Bowel Sydrome and Crohn's disease.
- Aloe Vera is believed to reduce severe joint and muscle pain associated with arthritis, as well as pain related to tendinitis and injuries. When applied directly to the area of pain, Aloe Vera penetrates the skin to soothe the pain.
- Aloe Vera is considered as a miraculous plant by some for even hair loss treatment. It is assumed that no other plant more closely matches the human body's biochemistry, hence, an excellent treatment for hair loss. It has anti-inflammatory properties of and therfore helps in fighting against Androgenetic Alopecia.
Preparations made from the plant Aloe vera are often referred to as "aloe vera". Scientific evidence for the cosmetic and therapeutic effectiveness of aloe vera is limited and when present is frequently contradictory. Despite this, the cosmetic and alternative medicine industries regularly make claims regarding the soothing, moisturizing, and healing properties of aloe vera, especially via Internet advertising. Aloe vera gel is used as an ingredient in commercially available lotions, yogurt, beverages, and some desserts, although at certain doses, it has toxic properties when used either for ingested or topical applications.
Aloe contains a mixture glucosides collectively called 'aloin', which is the active constituent of the drug. Aloin and its gel are used as skin tonic, has cooling effect and moisturizing agent and so it is used in preparation of creams, lotions, shampoos and allied products. It is also used in gerontology and rejuvenation of aging skin.
The aloin is extensively used as active ingredient in laxative and anti obesity preparations.
The products prepared from aloe leaves have multiple properties such as emollient, purgative, antibacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, antiseptic and cosmetic. The Food and Drug Administration of the UAS has approved the developmental study of aloevera in the treatment of cancer and AIDS.
Traditionally, aloe is extensively used in treating urine related problems, pimples, ulcers, etc.
Aloe vera has a long association with herbal medicine, although it is not known when its medical applications were first suspected. Early records of Aloe vera use appear in the Ebers Papyrus from 16th century BC, in both Dioscorides' De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elder's Natural History written in the mid-first century CE along with the Juliana Anicia Codex produced in 512 AD. The species is used widely in the traditional herbal medicine of China, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the United States, Jamaica, Latin America and India.
Aloin, a compound found in the exudate of some Aloe species, was the common ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) laxative products in the United States prior to 2003, when the Food and Drug Administration ruled that aloin was a class III ingredient, thereby banning its use.Aloe vera has potential toxicity, with side-effects occurring at some dose levels both when ingested or applied topically. Although toxicity may be less when aloin is removed by processing, aloe vera that contains aloin in excess amounts may induce side-effects. A 2-year National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on oral consumption of non-decolorized whole leaf extract of aloe vera found evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats. The NTP says more information is needed to determine the potential risks to humans.
Aloe vera juice is marketed to support the health of the digestive system, but there is neither scientific evidence nor regulatory approval to support this claim. The extracts and quantities typically used for such purposes appear to be dose-dependent for toxic effects.
Aloe vera leaves contain phytochemicals under study for possible bioactivity, such as acetylated mannans, polymannans, anthraquinone C-glycosides, anthrones, anthraquinones, such as emodin, and various lectins. Some of these compounds are used to manufacture insecticides.
Aloe vera is now widely used on facial tissues, where it is promoted as a moisturiser and/or anti-irritant to reduce chafing of the nose of users suffering hay-fever or cold. It is common practice for cosmetic companies to add sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to products such as makeup, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, incense, shaving cream, and shampoos. Other uses for extracts of aloe vera include the dilution of semen for the artificial fertilization of sheep, use as fresh food preservative, and use in water conservation in small farms. It has also been suggested that biofuels could be obtained from Aloe vera seeds. Aloe is also used as a food substance. Some molecular gastronomists have begun to take advantage of its gelling properties. Perhaps the most notable among these is Chef Quique Dacosta's "Oysters Guggenheim," created at El Poblet in Spain.
Research for possible medical uses
Wound & Lesion Treatment
Aloe vera may be effective in treatment of wounds. Evidence on the effects of its sap on wound healing, however, is limited and contradictory. Some studies, for example, show that aloe vera promotes the rates of healing, while, in contrast, other studies show that wounds to which aloe vera gel was applied were significantly slower to heal than those treated with conventional medical preparations. A 2007 review concluded that the cumulative evidence supports the use of aloe vera for the healing of first to second degree burns.Topical application of aloe vera may also be effective for genital herpes and psoriasis. However, it is not effective for the prevention of radiation-induced injuries. Gels from Aloe vera have been compared to those derived from other aloe species and with other plants belonging to the family Asphodelaceae. Bulbine frutescens, for example, is used widely for burns and a host of skin afflictions. Aloe vera extracts might have antibacterial and antifungal activities, which possibly could help treat minor skin infections, such as boils and benign skin cysts and may inhibit growth of fungi causing tinea. For bacteria, inner-leaf gel from aloe vera was shown in one study to inhibit growth of Streptococcus and Shigella species in vitro. In contrast, aloe vera extracts failed to show antibiotic properties against Xanthomonas species.
Skin Protection and Cancer
Although anecdotally useful, Aloe vera has not been proven to offer protection for humans from sunburn, suntan, or other damage from the sun.
However, the plant polysaccharides present in Aloe vera, although offering no direct protection against sunburn, may offer skin protection by specifically targeting pathways activated by UV radiation that can lead to non-melanoma skin cancer. UV radiation causes local depletion of antigen-presenting Langerhans cell (LCs), as well as systemic immunosuppression. In experiments in laboratory mice, polysaccharides preserved the number and morphology of immunosuppresive LCs and dendritic cells (DCs) in skin that was damaged by UV. These saccharides have also been seen to preserve delayed-type hypersensitivity and cutaneous contact hypersensitivity suppressed by acute UV radiation. Delayed-type hypersensitivity-protective saccharides extracted from A. vera also prevented the systemic suppression of T-cell-mediated immune responses and the production of keratinocyte-derived Interleukin 10 by UV-irradiated epidermal cells in mice. Compounds extracted from aloe vera have been used as an immunostimulant that aids in fighting cancers in cats and dogs; however, this treatment has not been scientifically tested in humans.
In a double-blind clinical trial, both the group using an aloe vera containing dentifrice and the group using a fluoridated dentifrice had a reduction of gingivitis and plaque, but no statistically significant difference was found between the two.
Diabetes and blood lipids
There is preliminary evidence that A. vera extracts may be useful in the treatment of diabetes and elevated blood lipids in humans. These positive effects are thought to be due to the presence of compounds such as mannans, anthraquinones and lectins.Internal intake of aloe vera has been linked in preliminary research with improved blood glucose levels in diabetics, although it has been suggested by the NTP that aloe may lower blood glucose levels. It has also been linked with lower blood lipids in hyperlipidaemic patients, but also with acute hepatitis (liver disease).
Preliminary studies have suggested oral aloe vera gel may reduce symptoms and inflammation in patients with ulcerative colitis.
Ingestion of Aloe vera is associated with diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, kidney dysfunction, and
conventional drug interactions; episodes of contact dermatitis, erythema, and phototoxicity have been reported from topical applications. Diarrhea, caused by the laxative effect of oral aloe vera, can decrease the absorption of many drugs.