Aloe Vera: The Natural Healing Choice

  Aloe Vera: When only the real thing is good enough


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Aloe Vera - Nature's First Aid Kit

Even though I am personally convinced of its efficacy and there are many indications and articles online for the use of Aloe Vera in our own healthcare and wellbeing, controlled trials of aloe gel use are few and far between. We rely on historic use and anecdotal reports of its natural healing ability, making up our own mind, and trusting that we have made a good decision.

The Aloe Vera plant has been written about and used for millenia by our ancestors for its health, beauty, medicinal and skin care properties. There are many historic accounts online of queens, commanders of armies, famous explorers, ancient doctors, pharaohs, kings, religious leaders, and just about everybody else who used it for medicinal purposes, so I won't bore you with the details here, you can look it up on the web.

Name: Aloe Vera derives from the Arabic "alloeh"; Greek "alsos"; and Hebrew "allal", meaning "shiny bitter substance", and "Vera" from the Latin means "true" or "genuine". The botanical name of the variety we're interested in is Aloe "barbadensis miller", and is the type we grow and supply.

Potential concerns: 2000 years ago, Greek scientists regarded Aloe vera as a universal healing plant, as did the Egyptians who called it “the plant of immortality”. Can't say I'm going to argue with that. But it is prudent to be cautious as it isn't for everyone. The use of topical Aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects normally, perhaps redness or itching where individuals may be sensitive or even allergic.

Aloe Veras Growing in the Greenhouse Secondly, If you find you have a sensitivity to oral ingestion of the gel, you might want to find an alternative, or use only small quantities to see if you build up a tolerance. Usually, the effort is worth it. Possible abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation can all be indication of an intolerance.

Unless you have a known allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family, this is nearly always due to incorrect preperation and ingestion of the wrong parts of the plant. More on that on other pages.

The truth is, most of the problems associated with the use or ingestion of aloe comes from the consumption of the latex. Latex is the bitter yellow liquid, or aloin, that resides between the clear gel and the green outer skin. It used to be sold as a cure for constipation, but is no longer recommended for that condition. When we cut our leaves from the plant, we stand them cut side down in a bucket with kitchen roll in the bottom. This allows the aloin to drain out by the action of gravity. It is then safe to extract the clear gel and use it for medicinal purposes.

Our gel is as safe as we can make it. Uncontaminated with latex or anything artificial.

So what's in it?
What are the active components and why are they worth including in my healing modalities?


Aloe vera contains at least 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, anthraquinones or phenolic compounds, sterols, salicylic acids and amino acids.

Vitamins: It contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, which are antioxidants. It also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline. Antioxidant neutralizes free radicals.

  •  Vitamins A (beta-carotene): ß-Carotene is the most common form of carotene in plants. When used as a food colouring, it has the E number E160a.

  •  Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is a vitamin found in various foods and is an essential nutrient involved in the repair of tissue and the enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters. It is required for the functioning of several enzymes and is important for immune system function. It also functions as an antioxidant.

  •  Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant protecting cell membranes from highly reactive oxygen molecules.

  •  Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body. It is one of eight B vitamins. It is a cofactor in DNA synthesis, and in both fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. It is particularly important to the nervous system via its role in the synthesis of myelin, and in the maturation of developing red blood cells in the bone marrow.

  •  Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 and folacin) is one of the B vitamins. Folate is required for the body to make DNA and RNA and metabolise amino acids necessary for cell division. As humans cannot make folate, it is required in the diet, making it an essential nutrient. It occurs naturally in many foods.

  •  Choline is a nutrient with an amino acid–like metabolism and forms various important salts. Choline phospholipids are necessary components in cell membranes, in the membranes of cell organelles, and in very low-density lipoproteins.

Enzymes: It contains 8 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.

Aloe Vera Growing in the Greenhouse   •  Amylase is an enzyme that enables the hydrolysis of starch into sugars. Amylase is present in saliva where it begins the chemical process of digestion.

  •  A carboxypeptidase is a catalyzing enzyme that breaks down proteins.

  •  Catalase is a common enzyme found in nearly all living organisms exposed to oxygen. It catalyzes the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen. It is a very important enzyme in protecting the cell from oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Catalase has one of the highest turnover numbers of all enzymes; one catalase molecule can convert millions of hydrogen peroxide molecules to water and oxygen each second.

  •  Cellulase is one of several enzymes that acts in the decomposition of cellulose.

  •  A lipase is any enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of fats (lipids).

  •  Peroxidases or peroxide reductases are a large group of enzymes which play a role in various biological processes. They are named after the fact that they commonly break up peroxides.

Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. They are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways and few are antioxidants.

  •  Calcium is an essential element needed in large quantities in the body. The Ca2+ ion acts as an electrolyte and is vital to the health of the muscular, circulatory, and digestive systems; is indispensable to the building of bone; and supports synthesis and function of blood cells. For example, it regulates the contraction of muscles, nerve conduction, and the clotting of blood. As a result, intra- and extracellular calcium levels are tightly regulated by the body.

  •  Copper is an essential trace element in plants and animals. The human body contains copper at a level of about 1.4 to 2.1 mg per kg of body mass. Copper is absorbed in the gut, then transported to the liver for processing. It is then distributed to other tissues.

  •  Selenium is an essential micronutrient for animals. In humans, selenium is a trace element nutrient that functions as cofactor for reduction of antioxidant enzymes which protect the body from oxydidative damage.

  •  The interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions makes magnesium essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of all cells of all known living organisms. More than 300 enzymes require magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes associated with DNA and RNA. An adult body has 22–26 grams of magnesium, with 60% in the skeleton, 39% intracellular (20% in skeletal muscle), and 1% extracellular.

  •  Manganese is an essential human dietary element. It is present as a coenzyme in several biological processes, which include macronutrient metabolism, bone formation, and free radical defense systems. It is a critical component in dozens of proteins and enzymes. The human body contains about 12 mg of manganese, mostly in the bones.

  •  Potassium is the eighth most common element by mass (0.2%) in the human body, so that a 60 kg adult contains a total of about 120 g of potassium. The body has about as much potassium as sulfur and chlorine, and only calcium and phosphorus are more abundant. Potassium ions are present in a wide variety of proteins and enzymes.

  •  In humans, sodium is an essential mineral that regulates blood volume, blood pressure, osmotic equilibrium and pH.

  •  Zinc is an essential trace element for humans, other animals, for plants and for microorganisms. Zinc is required for the function of over 300 enzymes and is the second most abundant trace metal in humans after iron. Roughly 2–4 grams of zinc are distributed throughout the human body. Most zinc is in the brain, muscle, bones, kidney, and liver, with the highest concentrations in the prostate and parts of the eye.

Sugars: It provides monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides (glucomannans/polymannose). These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant and are known as mucopolysaccharides. The most prominent monosaccharide is mannose-6-phosphate, and the most common polysaccharides are called glucomannans. Acemannan, a prominent glucomannan has also been found.

  •  Monosaccharides also called simple sugars, are a mixture of sugars and are the simplest form of sugar, the most basic units of carbohydrates.

  •  Polysaccharides, or polycarbohydrates, are the most abundant carbohydrate found in food.

  •  Glucomannan is a water-soluble polysaccharide that is considered a dietary fiber.

Anthraquinones: It provides 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials and antivirals.
Aloe Vera cut leaf showing Aloin drop
  •  Aloin is a bitter, yellow-brown colored compound noted in the exudate of many Aloe vera species. It is used as a stimulant-laxative, treating constipation by inducing bowel movements. The compound is present in the aloe latex that exudes from cells in between the rind of the leaf and the gel.

  •  Emodin is an active component of several plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It has various actions including laxative, antibacterial and antiinflammatory effects, and has also been identified as being potentially antiviral.

Fatty acids: It provides 4 plant steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, ß-sisosterol and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol also possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties.

  •  Campesterol molecules are thought to compete with cholesterol, thus reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the human intestine. It is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects and inhibits several pro-inflammatory markers involved in osteoarthritis-induced cartilage degradation.

  •  Beta-sitosterol is a plant substance similar to cholesterol. It might help reduce cholesterol levels by limiting the amount that is able to enter the body. It can also bind to the prostate to help reduce inflammation.

  •  Lupeol has a complex pharmacology and several potential medicinal uses. Including, displaying anti-protozoal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and chemo-preventive properties.

Hormones: Auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.

  •  Auxins are a class of plant hormones (or plant-growth regulators) and were the first of the major plant hormones to be discovered. Auxins play a cardinal role in coordination of many growth and behavioral processes in plant life cycles and are essential for plant body development.

  •  Gibberellins (GAs) are plant hormones that regulate various developmental processes, including stem elongation, germination, dormancy, flowering, flower development, and leaf and fruit aging.

More: Aloe provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. It also contains salicylic acid that 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 that are the soapy substances form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.

  •  Salicylic acid is used as a food preservative, a bactericide and an antiseptic. It is also used most commonly to help remove the outer layer of the skin. As such, it is used to treat warts, psoriasis, acne, ringworm, dandruff, and ichthyosis. Similar to other hydroxy acids, salicylic acid is a key ingredient in many skincare products for the treatment of seborrhoeic dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris, acanthosis nigricans, ichthyosis and warts.

  •  Lignin helps the gel to penetrate the skin layers.



I hope this has given you some answers as to why Aloe Vera has been called Nature's First Aid Kit.

Results of studies, experiments and tests suggests that Aloe vera has an effective antimicrobial nature, and adding Aloe vera during the recovery phase promotes wound healing and infection control. Aloes unique physicochemical and biological properties attract much attention as a therapeutic tool when aimed at replacing or repairing damaged tissues or organs, diseases or illness.

It is imperative that the important fundamental aspects of Aloe vera for healing continue to be explored and improved upon in clinically controlled studies around the world.




       

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