Synonyms: Aloe, Aloe Vera, Aloe barbadensis, Aloe ferox
Genus species: Aloe babadensis/capensis
Part Used: Leaves
Actions: Aloe vera contains vitamins C and E and zinc, which are all important for wound healing. Glycoproteins in aloe gel inhibit and break down bradykinin, a mediator of pain and inflammation. Aloe gel also inhibits thromboxane, which also causes inflammation. Aloe gel stimulates fibroblast and connective tissue formation, a healing action that most other anti-inflammatories don’t have. The polysaccharides in aloe seem to stimulate skin growth and repair as well. Aloe also increases blood flow to burned tissue, which helps it heal.
Aloe gel has been particularly effective in healing diabetic leg ulcers because along with its other wound healing capabilities, it also lowers blood sugar.
Aloe gel’s antibacterial and antifungal ability compares favorably with that of silver sulfadiazine, an antiseptic used regularly in treatment of extensive burns. Aloe vera extract has been shown to kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Serratia marcescens, Citrobacter species, Enterobacter cloacae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus agalactiae, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus faecalis, and Candida albicans.
Aloe’s active cathartic component is aloin. In small doses, it gives tone to intestinal muscle. In larger doses, it becomes a strong purgative, increasing colonic secretions and peristaltic contractions in the large intestine. It is harsher on the system than other anthraquinone laxatives, such as cascara and senna. The anthraquinones in aloe latex prevent kidney stone formation by binding calcium in the urinary tract and reducing the growth rate of urinary calcium crystals.
Aloe juice heals peptic ulcers by inhibiting pepsin when the stomach is empty, releasing it only to digest food. It inhibits the release of hydrochloric acid by preventing the binding of histamine to parietal cells. It also heals and prevents other irritants from reaching the ulcer. Aloe juice aids the digestive process by increasing gastric pH, reducing yeast infections, and improving water retention.
Acemannan, an antiviral compound of aloe juice, is a powerful immune system stimulant. It enhances macrophage activity, the function of T cells, and interferon production.
Indications: Aloe was historically used to treat burns. Traditional herbal actions: antibacterial, antifungal, anesthetic, antipyretic, antipruritic, moisturizer, vasodilator, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, cathartic, stomachic, demulcent, emmenagogue, laxative combined with carminative, vulnerary
Clinical applications: burns (due to radiation, sunburn, and other causes), headaches, dry skin, rashes (due to dermatitis, poison ivy, or insect bites), kidney stones, hemorrhoids, hives, constipation, wound healing, peptic ulcers, immune system enhancement, diabetes, asthma
Chemicals & Nutrients: Anthraquinones, aloins, anthranoids, aglycones, polysaccharides (including glycoproteins and mucopolysaccharides), and prostaglandins
Preperations & Dosages: Aloe gel is best fresh from an aloe plant. Slit a leaf lengthwise and remove gel. Aloe gel is also available commercially in stabilized form. Aloe latex is available as a powder or in 500 mg capsules for use as a laxative. Aloe juice is available in liquid form.
The dosage for dry aloe extract is very small (50 to 200 mg).
For general use: dosage of gel or juice 2 tbsp tid (the standardized aloe product measured to hydroxyanthracene derivatives is not widely available in the USA)
For prevention of kidney stones: 2 to 3 tbsp daily
For laxative purposes: 500 to 1,000 mg daily (care should be taken that laxative doses of aloe are accompanied by carminative herbs to prevent griping)
For burns or wound healing, topically: aloe vera gel applied liberally (fresh gel from aloe plant is best)
For hemorrhoids, as a stool softener: dry aloe extract, 0.05 to 0.2 g
For constipation: 20 to 30 mg hydroxyanthracene derivatives per day, calculated as anydrous aloin
Pregnant or nursing mothers should not ingest aloe latex. It may cause uterine contractions and trigger miscarriage. Contraindicated for gastrointestinal illness, intestinal obstruction, appendicitis, and abdominal pain of unknown origin. May aggravate ulcers, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. If taken over a long time, can cause dependence or disturbance of electrolyte balance. May cause urine to turn a harmless red color. Should not be used for children under 12.
In a single blind clinical trial of patients with diabetes mellitus, aloe vera juice (1 tbsp 80% juice bid) combined with glyburide (10 mg glibenclamide) significantly improved blood sugar levels and decreased triglyceride levels (Bunyapraphatsara et al. 1996). Glyburide alone was ineffective. The effects of the combined treatment were not greater than results obtained from treatment with aloe vera juice alone. Blood glucose levels should be monitored carefully in diabetic patients using aloe vera either alone or in combination with other antidiabetic medications in order to avoid potential hypoglycemic complications.
The topical and systemic applications of aloe vera combined with hydrocortisone 21-acetate significantly reduced edema in mice and rats with acute inflammation (Davis et al. 1991). Topically, aloe vera (5%) and hydrocortisone (0.5% aqueous solution) decreased ear inflammation in mice by 85.6%. Systemically, aloe (25 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg) combined with hydrocortisone (0.1 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg) decreased inflammation in rats by 65.7% compared to results obtained from either treatment alone; these solutions were injected on a 10 mg/kg basis to measure the inhibitory effects on paw edema.