A Review of Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a natural product with a long history of natural medicinal health benefits.

Some of the benefits are attributed to key active ingredients within the leaf. Those ingredients have been shown to improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles giving skin a healthy and youthful glow, accelerate healing, help to fight acne, reduce dental plaque, canker sores, inflammation and has anti-microbial and immune-boosting properties. 5 6 7 8

Most of the health benefits of Aloe vera have been shown to be due to polysaccharides (sugars); most notably Acemannan.  In the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical industries Aloe has been used in topical products such as creams and gels, the production of tablets and capsules, and even health drinks.

Aloe’s History

Aloe Vera is thought to have originated on the Arabian Peninsula and now some 300 species grow around the world including Mexico and the US. It has a 6000 year history of use for its health and beauty benefits and is best known for its skin care and healing properties. 2

Aloes first recorded use is on a Sumarian Clay tablet dated to 2100BC. It is also referenced six times in the Bible, 3 the first Egyptian documents 1550 B.C. mention its healing properties and its beauty uses with Queen Nefertiti (1353 B.C.) and Queen Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.). Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus used it to treat the wounds of soldier’s. 4

What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis miller is a succulent, evergreen plant with triangular fleshy serrated edges. It produces flowers and fruits with many seeds. The Aloe leaf has three layers:

  1. Rind or outer layer that protects the plant
  2. Latex or mid layer that yields a yellowish, bitter fluid
  3. Inner leaf or “Gel” contains water and active ingredients
Show the anatomy of Aloe leaf

Image courtesy of slideshare.net/Navneetshelly/aloe-vera-71393368

What are Aloe Vera’s Ingredients?

The Aloe gel is composed of about 99% water and 1% compounds with over 200 active and inert ingredients. 7  These ingredients include: sugars, minerals, proteins, lipids and fatty acids, steroids, phenols, amino acids, hormones, vitamins, enzymes, lignin, saponins, salicyclic acids and more. 5 6 7

What Aloe Vera’s Ingredients Do?

H20: It keeps the biochemical engines hydrated and running.

Vitamins: Help to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals caused by UV and chemical exposure and inflammation. They act as antioxidants and scavengers of free radicals. Some of these vitamins are; Folic acid, Choline, A, C, E and B-12 5 6

Enzymes: Are vital to making chemical reactions in the body happen. When applied to the skin some enzymes (bradykinase and carboxypeptidase) help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Aloe vera “Gel” provides 8 known enzymes: aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase (pain relieving), catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase.5 6

Minerals: Are essential for enzyme function and are key components in wound healing, collagen production and cell growth.  Aloe vera contains calcium9, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. 5 6 10

Sugars: Aloe provides simple (monosaccharides) and complex sugars (polysaccharides). The most important is Acemannan which has been shown to stimulate cell growth and wound repair11.

Anthroquinones: There are 12 anthraquinones in the Aloe vera leaf; mostly in the latex. Aloin and Emodin show pain relieving, anti-microbial and laxative properties. 5  6

Fatty Acids/lipids/steriods: Are key components of all cell wall health and function. Aloe provides four plant steroids, cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol. These have been shown to have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol has antiseptic and analgesic properties. 5 6

Hormones: Think of chemical messengers. Gibberellins (plant growth hormones) have been shown to aid wound healing and be anti-inflammatory. 5 6

Others good ingrdients: There are 20 Amino Acids (of 22 total) including 7 essential amino acids for tissue repair, Salicylic acid, Lignin and Saponins. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins in tissue repair, Salicylic acid is an exfoliant 12 with pain relieving, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, Lignin is an inert substance that enhances skin penetration of other ingredients. The Saponins are soapy like substances with cleansing and antiseptic properties  5 6

Aloe Vera’s Benefits

Hydration: The water in the Aloe vera gel adds moisture to the upper layer of skin.

Moisturizing: Some of the polysaccharides (mucopolysaccharide) act as humectants to hold water within the skin. 5

Softening skin: The amino acids help soften the top layer of your skin. 5 8 13

Reducing Wrinkles: Key polysaccharides and growth hormones have shown to help reduce fine wrinkles, presumably by stimulating cell growth, collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. 5

Anti-aging potential: Researchers gave 30 women doses of Aloe vera gel twice a day for three months. The women saw significant reduction in their wrinkles and improved elasticity of their skin.  Thought to be due in part to increased in collagen and elastin production. 5  15

Accelerates wound healing:  Topical use of Aloe vera was shown to reduce the healing time in 1st and 2nd degree burns.  Some studies have shown increased production of Hyaluronic acid, dermatan sulphate and a stronger collagen (type III) needed for rapid, strong wound repair. 5 10

Protecting Skin from UV and gamma radiation: Some studies have shown that Aloe vera gel is protective against radiation damage to the skin. 5

Soothing sunburn pain:  Polysaccharides, the pain relievers (carboxypeptidase and salicylic acid) and anti-oxidants like vitamins C, E may reduce the inflammation, relieve the pain and limit damage by UV. 18

Relieving irritation and inflammation: Polysaccharides like Acemannan and C-gluosyl have been shown to be anti-inflammatory which can help to relieve itching and irritation. 5

Helps to fight acne: Aloes’ anti-inflammatory properties plus Zinc and salicylic acid (exfoliant) help to clean pores reduce inflammation in common acne. 5 12 14

Reduces dental plaque: Studies have shown that 4 days of using Aloe mouth wash or oral rinse was as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing dental plaque. 16, 17

Antiseptic: Aloe vera has good antimicrobial activities against bacteria, viruses and fungi. It has six antiseptic agents including: Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea, nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols and sulfur. 5 6 7

Reduces cold sores: Periodontal studies have shown reductions in cold sores: 5 7

Laxative effects: Anthraquinones (Aloin) present in the latex are potent laxatives. 5

Summary

Aloe Vera is clearly an amazing plant with a recognized long history of use with natural medicinal healing properties. Its’ succulent leaves with their incredible active ingredients help reduce wrinkles, minimize the signs of aging, reduce inflammation, stimulate cell growth and wound healing and soothe pain.  

With all the benefits the wonderful plant has shown over the centuries it is no wonder it has been referred to as a Aloe Vera the “Wonder Plant”

Side effects of Aloe

Topically it may cause redness, burning, stinging sensation and rarely generalized dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Internally it can cause diarrhea and allergic reactions which thought to be mostly due to anthraquinones, such as aloin and barbaloin.

Note: It is best to apply it to a small area first to test for possible allergic reaction.

References

  1. Joseph, Baby & Justin Raj, S. (2010). Pharmacognostic and phytochemical properties of Aloe Vera Linn – an overview. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research. 4. 106-110.
  2. History of Aloe Vera: from the Arabian desert to that cream you use on your hand, MBC Series blog, Bio Med Central, the open Access Publisher,(blogs. Biomedcetral.com)
  3. The Bible: Proverbs 7:17, John 19:39-40, Numbers 24:6, Psalm 45:8, Numbers 24:5. Song of Solomon 4:14, https://www.bible.com/
  4. Indu Mehta, (2017) History of Aloe Vera, Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, Volume 22, Issue 8, Ver. 16, PP 21-24 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol.%2022%20Issue8/Version-16/D2208162124.pdf
  5. Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: A Short Review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(4):163–166. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.44785, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/
  6. Kar SK and Bera TK: Phytochemical constituents of Aloe vera and their multifunctional properties: A comprehensive review. Int J Pharm Sci Res 2018; 9(4): 1416-23.doi: 10.13040/IJPSR.0975-8232.9(4).1416-23.
  7. Radha MH, Laxmipriya NP. Evaluation of biological properties and clinical effectiveness of Aloe vera: A systematic review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2014;5(1):21–26. Published 2014 Dec 23. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.10.006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488101/
  8. Josias H. Hamman, Review, Composition and Applications of Aloe veraLeaf Gel, Molecules 200813(8), 1599-1616; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules13081599
  9. Lansdown AB, Wound Repair Regen. 2002 Sep-Oct; 10(5):271-85. Review, Calcium: a potential central regulator in wound healing in the skin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12406163
  10. Schwartz JR1, Marsh RG, Draelos ZD., Zinc and skin health: overview of physiology and pharmacology. Dermatol Surg. 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 2):837-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16029676
  11. Extraction, Purification, Structural Characteristics, Biological Activities and Pharmacological Applications of Acemannan, a Polysaccharide from Aloe vera: A Review, Chang Liu 1,2, Yan Cui 3 [OrcID] , Fuwei Pi 1,2, Yuliang Cheng 1,2, Yahui Guo 1,2,* [OrcID] and He Qian 1,2,* https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/24/8/1554/htm
  12. https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/salicylic-acid
  13. Gupta VK, Malhotra S. Pharmacological attribute of Aloe vera: Revalidation through experimental and clinical studies. Ayu. 2012;33(2):193–196. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.105237
  14. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-aloe/art-20362267
  15. Cho S, Lee S, Lee MJ, et al. Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo. Ann Dermatol. 2009;21(1):6–11. doi:10.5021/ad.2009.21.1.6
  16. 1Mansourian A, Momen-Heravi F, Saheb-Jamee M, Esfehani M, Khalilzadeh O, Momen, Comparison of aloe vera mouthwash with triamcinolone acetonide 0.1% on oral lichen planus: a randomized double-blinded clinical trial., Beitollahi J.Am J Med Sci. 2011 Dec; 342(6):447-51.
  17. Karim B1, Bhaskar DJ, Agali C, Gupta D, Gupta RK, Jain A, Kanwar A.Effect of Aloe vera mouthwash on periodontal health: triple blind randomized control trial. Oral Health Dent Manag. 2014 Mar;13(1):14-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24603910

Reuter J1, Jocher A, Stump J, Grossjohann B, Franke G, Schempp CM. Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(2):106-10. doi: 10.1159/000114871. Epub 2008 Feb 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18253066