The Science Behind Aloe Vera
Where Does It Come From?
The name Aloe vera derives from the Arabic word "Alloeh," meaning "shining bitter substance," and "vera" meaning "true" in Latin. The true botanical name is Aloe barbadensis miller, and it belongs to Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family. It's a shrubby or arborescent, perennial, xerophytic (adapted to an arid environment), succulent that is pea-green in color. It grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. In India, it is found in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes in several cultures for millennia, including Greece, Egypt, India, Mexico, Japan and China. The Egyptians called it "the plant of immortality." Queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra used it in their regular beauty regimens. Greek scientists regarded it as the universal panacea 2000 years ago. Alexander the Great, and Christopher Columbus used it to treat soldiers' wounds. Early 1800's saw it in use as a laxative in the United States. The real turning point was when it was used to successfully treat chronic and severe radiation dermatitis in the mid 1930's.
All That and a Bag of Chips
The gel from this plant contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids, and amino acids. It has been shown to possess numerous activities including, anticancer, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiallergenic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective (liver-sparing), antiulcer, and antidiabetic.
In order to understand how one plant can be beneficial in such a big way, it's worth taking a look at what those important constituents actually do.
Vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E are antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals. Aloe also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline.
Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically. Aliase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase aid the breakdown of sugars and fats.
Minerals like calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc are essential for proper functioning of different enzyme systems in varying metabolic pathways, and some of these are also antioxidants.
Aloe provides glucose and fructose (monosaccharides) and polysaccharides such as acemannan and glucomanan. A glycoprotein called alprogen with anti-allergenic properties along with a novel anti-inflammatory compound (C-glucosyl chromone) was recently isolated.
Twelve anthraquinones can be found in Aloe. These are phenolic compounds, known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin are analgesic (pain relieving), antibacterial, and antiviral.
The plant steroids cholesterol, campesterol, beta-sisosterol, and lupeol have anti-inflammatory action. Lupeol also lends antiseptic and analgesic properties.
HormonesAuxins and gibberellins help with wound healing and provide anti-inflammatory action.
Aloe vera also provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. It contains salicylic acid that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The inert substance, lignin, when included in topical preparations, enhances penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin. Saponins, the soapy substances, form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.