Few common plants are as versatile and nurturing to human health as aloe vera.
While intrinsically a tropical plant, this succulent is a hearty, easy-to-grow houseplant that can come in very handy in a great many ways. From purifying household air from neurotoxins to treating skin burns, it’s an interesting and functional part of your home decor.
Let’s start with the biology and phytochemistry.
Active components with their properties: Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids, and amino acids.
- Vitamins: A (beta-carotene), C, and E, which are antioxidants. Also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.
- 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: calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc. These are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways and a few are antioxidants.
- Sugars: monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides (glucomannans/polymannose). (1) These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant and are known as mucopolysaccharides. A glycoprotein with antiallergic properties called alprogen and novel anti-inflammatory compound C-glucosyl chromone have also been isolated from Aloe vera gel.
- Anthraquinones: twelve of these phenolic compounds—traditionally known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials, and antivirals.
- Fatty acids: plant steroids cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol, and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol also possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties.
- Hormones: Auxins and gibberellins help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.
- Others: twenty of the twenty-two human required amino acids and seven of the eight essential amino acids. Aloe also contains salicylic acid (from which aspirin originated), which 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 are the soapy substances that form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties. (2)
Amazing Health Benefits
Aloe vera has been used topically and internally back to ancient Egypt to treat:
- Bacterial and fungal skin infections
- Chronic leg wounds
- Parasitic infections
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Genital herpes
- Skin burns
In modern times, it’s been found effective for:
- Type 2 diabetes (3)
- HIV infection
- Cancer prevention
- Ulcerative colitis
- Pressure ulcers
- Radiation dermatitis (4)
Practical topical uses of aloe vera include:
- Relief from insect bites
- Hair conditioner (also prevents hair loss)
- Shaving gel
- Gingivitis and periodontal disease (5, 6)
The nutrition of aloe is not to be overlooked or underestimated.
Aloe Vera Heals From The Inside Out.
- Antioxidants prevent the proliferation of free radicals in the body, which we know can lead to mild to serious illness.
- The amino acids in aloe vera juice, along with vitamins and minerals, are detoxifying.
- The complex sugars in aloe support the immune system: when ingested, they slow down metabolism of simple sugars and promote the proliferation of healthy intestinal bacteria. Click here for some refreshing summer beverages with aloe.
“It is in the boosting of the immune system’s response to antigens (foreign elements in the body) that Aloe vera has shown the most promise in treating cancer. Although no one is yet proposing that Aloe vera is a cure for cancer, it is clear from research conducted throughout the world over the past thirty years that Aloe vera and, in particular, certain specific substances in the plant – have very dramatic and impressive anti-cancer effects. Aloe vera has been demonstrated to enhance the immune system’s response to cancer, promote the growth of new and healthy cells, and reduce the overall viral load within the body thereby revitalizing the body in its fight against the cancer.” (7)