Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Overview

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) other names: Aloe africana, Aloe arborescens, Aloe barbadensis, Aloe Capensis, Aloe ferox, Aloe frutescens, Aloe Gel, Aloe indica, Aloe Latex, Aloe Leaf Gel, Aloe natalenis, Aloe Perfoliata, Aloe perryi, Aloe spicata, Aloe supralaevis, Aloe ucriae, Aloe Vera Barbenoids, Aloe Vera Gel, Aloe vera, Aloes, Aloès, Aloès de Curaçao, Aloès des Barbades, Aloès du Cap, Aloès Vrai, Aloès Vulgaire, Arborescens natalenis, Barbados Aloe, Burn Plant, Cape Aloe, Chritkumari, Curacao Aloe, Elephant's Gall, Gel de la Feuille d’Aloès, Ghee-Kunwar, Ghi-Kuvar, Ghrita-Kumari, Gvar Patha, Hsiang-Dan, Indian Aloe, Jafarabad Aloe, Kanya, Kumari, Latex d’Aloès, Lily of the Desert, Lu-Hui, Miracle Plant, Plant of Immortality, Plante de l’Immortalité, Plante de la Peau, Plante de Premiers Secours, Plante Miracle, Plantes des Brûlures, Sábila.

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 herb, 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.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) image

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 herb. This herb is the biblical aloe, often known as the lignaloes or the aloe wood; it is a different herb 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 an herb 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.

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.

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 plantlets 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.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Health Benefits

Aloe vera produces two substances, gel and latex, which are used for medicines. Aloe vera gel is the clear, jelly-like substance found in the inner part of the aloe vera plant leaf. Aloe vera latex comes from just under the plant's skin and is yellow in color. Some aloe vera products are made from the whole crushed leaf, so they contain both gel and latex. The aloe vera that is mentioned in the Bible is an unrelated fragrant wood used as incense.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) gel and latex

Aloe vera medications can be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Aloe vera gel is taken by mouth for osteoarthritis, bowel diseases including ulcerative colitis, fever, itching and inflammation, and as a general tonic. Aloe vera is also used for stomach ulcers, diabetes, asthma, and for treating some side effects of radiation treatment.

But most people use aloe vera gel topically, as a remedy for skin conditions including burns, sunburn, frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores. Some people also use aloe vera gel to help surgical wounds and bedsores heal faster. There is some science supporting these uses. Some chemicals in aloe vera gel seem to be able to increase circulation in the tiny blood vessels in the skin, as well as kill bacteria. Together, these effects suggest that aloe vera gel might be effective in speeding wound healing. But it’s too early to come to that conclusion. Evidence is contradictory. One study suggests that aloe vera gel may actually delay wound healing.

Some people take aloe vera latex by mouth, usually for constipation. Less often, aloe vera latex is used orally for epilepsy, asthma, colds, bleeding, absence of menstrual periods, colitis, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, bursitis, osteoarthritis, and glaucoma and other vision problems.

But taking aloe vera latex by mouth is likely unsafe, especially at high doses. There is some concern that some of the chemicals found in aloe vera latex might cause cancer. Additionally, aloe vera latex is hard on the kidneys and could lead to serious kidney disease and even death.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Side effects

Aloe vera gel is likely safe when applied to the skin and possibly safe when taken by mouth in adults. Once in a while aloe vera gel might cause burning and itching of the skin.

Taking aloe vera latex is possibly unsafe at any dose, but likely unsafe when taken in high doses. Aloe vera latex can cause some side effects such as stomach pain and cramps. Long-term use of large amounts of aloe vera latex might cause diarrhea, kidney problems, blood in the urine, low potassium, muscle weakness, weight loss, and heart disturbances. Taking aloe vera latex 1 gram per day for several days can be fatal.

There have been a few reports of liver problems in some people who have taken an aloe vera leaf extract; however, this is uncommon. It is thought to only occur in people who are extra sensitive (hypersensitive) to aloe vera.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Aloe Vera (Aloe Vera Syn. A. Barbadensis) plant

Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Aloe vera either gel or latex is possibly unsafe when taken by mouth. There is a report that aloe vera was associated with miscarriage. Aloe vera could also be a risk for birth defects. Do not take aloe vera by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Children: Aloe vera is possibly unsafe for children when taken by mouth. Children younger than 12 years old may experience abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea.

Diabetes: Some research suggests aloe vera might lower blood sugar. If you take aloe vera by mouth and you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.

Intestinal conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or obstruction: Do not take aloe vera latex if you have any of these conditions. Aloe vera latex is a bowel irritant. Remember, products made from whole aloe vera leaves will contain some aloe vera latex.

Hemorrhoids: Do not take aloe vera latex if you have hemorrhoids. Aloe vera could make the condition worse. Remember, products made from whole aloe vera leaves will contain some aloe vera latex.

Kidney problems: High doses of aloe vera latex have been linked to kidney failure and other serious conditions.

Surgery: Aloe vera might affect blood sugar levels and could interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking aloe vera at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.