From Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, Author: Judith Turner. http://www.gale.com

aloe veraAloe

Biologic components:  Aloe Vera contains a wealth of substances that are biologically active. The laxative, and in large doses, purgative, effects of Aloe Vera latex are attributable to a group of chemicals known as the anthraquinones. Aloin, barbaloin, and aloe-emodin, and aloectic acid, are a few of the anthraquinones contained in the latex layer. The latest, and perhaps most exciting component discovered in Aloe Vera is a biologically active polysaccharide known as acetylated mannose, or acemannan. This substance has been shown to be a highly effective immune stimulant, with activity against the viruses causing the flu, measles, and early stages of AIDS. It has been used effectively against some veterinary cancers, most notably sarcoma, and is being investigated as an agent to be used to treat cancer in humans. Acemannan is one of many saccharides contained in Aloe Vera Some of the others are arabinose, cellulose, galactose, mannose, and xylose. Prostaglandins are a third important set of compounds, and are thought to play a major role in wound healing. Aloe Vera also contains fatty acids, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other substances. The interaction of all these components produces a favorable environment for wound healing.

General use:  Few botanicals are as well known or as highly thought of as the Aloe Vera plant. Throughout recorded history, it has been used to keep skin beautiful and restore it to health. A frequent moisturizing ingredient in cosmetics and hair care products, it also promotes the healing of burns and superficial wounds, but should not be used on deep or surgical wounds of punctures. Topical application has been successful in treatment of sunburn, frostbite, radiation injuries, some types of dermatitis, psoriasis, cuts, insect stings, poison ivy, ulcerations, abrasions, and other dermatologic problems. Healing is promoted by the anti-inflammatory components, including several glycoproteins and salicylates, and substances that stimulate growth of skin and connective tissue. Aloe Vera contains a number of vitamins and minerals that are necessary to healing, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc. It also exerts antifungal and antibacterial effects, and thus helps to prevent wound infections. One study showed it to have a little more activity than the antiseptic silver sulfadiazine against a number of common bacteria that can infect the skin. It has moisturizing and pain relieving properties for the skin lesions, in addition to healing effects.

Aloe Vera gel products may also be used internally. They should not contain the laxative chemicals found in the latex layer. There is some evidence that Aloe Vera juice has a beneficial effect on peptic ulcers, perhaps inhibiting the causative bacteria, Helicobacter pylori. It appears to have a soothing effect on the ulcer, and interferes with the release of hydrochloric acid by the stomach. Colitis and other conditions of the intestinal tract may also respond favorably to the internal use of gel products. Aloe Vera has been shown to exert a stabilizing effect on blood sugar in studies done on mice, indicating a possible place for it in the treatment of diabetes. One study suggested that giving Aloe Vera extract orally to patients with asthma who are not dependent on steroids could improve symptoms. A health care provider should be consulted about these uses. Other suggested, but insufficiently proven, indications for oral Aloe Vera gel include prevention of kidney stones and relief of arthritis pain. Aloe Vera products derived from the latex layer are taken orally for the laxative effect. They can cause painful contractions of the bowel if taken in high doses. Milder measures are recommended first.

The concentration of the immune stimulant acemannan is variable in the natural plant, as well as gel and juice products, but it is also available in a purified, standardized, pharmaceutical grade form. An injectable type is used in veterinary medicine to treat fibrosarcoma and feline leukemia, a condition caused by a virus in the same family as AIDS.

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