Allah’s Medicine Chest: Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)
By Hwaa Irfan
The Aloe barbadensis plant has been well used for centuries for health, medicinal and skin care. With some 240 species, the name Aloe Vera derives from the Arabic Fus-ha word “Alloeh” meaning “shining bitter substance,” while “vera” in Latin means “true.”
The Egyptians called Aloe “the plant of immortality.” The ancient Greeks regarded Aloe Vera as the universal panacea. Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra used it as part of their regular beauty regimes. Alexander the Great, and Christopher Columbus used it to treat soldiers’ wounds
By the early 1800s, Aloe Vera was in use as a laxative in the United States, but a return to its true status occurred in the mid-1930s, when it was successfully used to treat chronic and severe radiation dermatitis.
Aloe Vera has many English local names including Barbados Aloe as indicated by the Latinized form barbadensis. It is also known as kumari (Bengali, Sanskrit), and Single Bible (Jamaica) for example.
from the Portuguese, it is also known as Corossol epineux (France), aluguntungun (Ghana), Zuurzak (Holland), Sirsak (Indonesian); Zopote de viejas (Mexico), Mang cau xiem, Guanábana (Spanish), (Vietnam), and Mundla (India).
Native to East and South Africa, Aloe b. this evergreen is a member of the Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family of the plant kingdom, thus is classified as a shrub.
As a perennial with strong, fibrous roots, the leaves we are all familiar with are fleshy extending from the upper part of the root. In remote areas of S.W. Africa and Natal, Aloes can grow as much as 30 to 60 feet in height, with stems 10 feet in circumference. Each leaf is composed of three layers:
1) An inner clear gel that contains 99% water
2) The middle layer of latex which is the bitter yellow sap and contains anthraquinones and glycosides.
3) The outer thick layer of 15–20 cells called as rind which has protective function and synthesizes carbohydrates and proteins.
When cut, an opaque cooling gel exudes.
The yellow tubular flowers appear as erect, terminal spikes, and divides into six narrow segments at the mouth and of a red/yellow/purplish colour. The capsules contain numerous angular seeds.
The true Aloe is in flower during the greater part of the year and is not to be confused with another plant, the Agave or American Aloe (Agave Americana).
The main commercial producers today are Africa, Australia, US, the Caribbean, Central America, China, India, South America, and the Asian tropics. Aloe vera leaf juice comes from the entire aloe vera leaf and grinding them up. Some commercial producers use enzymatic treatment is used (e.g. cellulase) to break down the rind and heavier-weight materials, and then the resulting slurry is filtered, usually with charcoal filtration, to remove any other unwanted materials such as the aloe latex (yellow, bitter tasting exudate that is a powerful laxative). The remainder is aloe vera leaf juice.
Aloe vera inner leaf juice is made by removing the rind prior to processing, and then rinsing away the aloe latex. The remaining, gelatinous inner-leaf material is then ground/crushed into aloe vera inner leaf juice.
The issue with many skin care products that market Aloe Vera content, is even if there is, the content is too little to be of any real benefit to the extent that there is an International Aloe Science Council.
Chemical Properties differ according to the plant component, and area grown. They include:
- 5-P-coumaroylquinic acid
- Caffeic acid
- caffeoylshikimic acid
- Chlorogenic acid
- Coumaric acid
- Ferulic acid
- Feruloylquinic acid
- glycosylchromone aloeresin B
- Pectic acid
A research team from the University of Belgrade School of Medicine found Aloe-emodin slows down the process of skin cell proliferation that accompanies skin cancer with human skin after radiation treatment.
A research team from South Korea’s Gachon University of Medicine and Science found Aloe-emodin slows down the growth of human liver cancer cells. Aloe-emodin stimulated a genetic change within the cancerous cells that not only halted their expansion, but induced cell death of tumour cells.
In 1994, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Aloe Vera for the treatment of HIV as it stimulates the production of white blood cells.
In 2010, researchers from the China Medical University found Aloe stimulates the production of melanin and other protective factors that protect the skin from radiation and the progression of tumorous cells.
Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials and antivirals.
The Anthraquinones in the latex acts as a potent laxative by increasing intestinal water content, stimulating mucus secretion and increasing intestinal peristalsis.
The Mucopolysaccharides help in binding moisture into the skin. Aloe stimulates fibroblast which produces the collagen and elastin fibers making the skin more elastic and less wrinkled. It also has cohesive effects on the superficial flaking epidermal cells by sticking them together, which softens the skin. The amino acids also soften hardened skin cells and zinc acts as an astringent to tighten pores.
The juice has become established as an effective colon cleanser, also cleansing the liver, kidneys, spleen, and bladder. Also, Aloe barbadensis is an…
Anti-carcinogen – slows down progress of cancer, and kills cancer cells.
Alterative – cleanses the blood, and corrects presence of blood impurities
Antispasmodic – leaves, relieves spasms
Antiemetic – reduces vomiting
Anthelmintic – expels/destroys parasitic worms
Anti-Inflammatory – Reduces inflammation/swellings by helping the body to overcome the problem
Antiseptic – contains 6 antiseptic agents: Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols and sulphur.
Bechic – Relieves of coughs
Calmative – Calms the nerves and skin
Carminative – Promotes the discharge and flow of bile from the gall bladder into the small intestines helping to disinfect the bowels.
Chemoprotective – Protects healthy tissues in chemotherapy
Cicatrisant – Closes wounds and forms scar tissue
Cytophylactic – Increases leucocytes to fight infection
Cytoprotective – protects healthy cells against harmful agents
Depurative – purgative/purifying
Diaphoretic – Promotes perspiration
Diuretic – Increases the secretion and flow of urine
Emmenagogue – Stimulates the menstrual flow
Expectorant – Causes and eases the bring-up of phlegm/mucus/sputum from the respiratory tract
Febrifuge – Reduces temperature
Haemostatic – stops bleeding
Hepatic – Strengthens and tones the liver. Increases secretions in the liver.
Hypotensive – abnormally low blood pressure
Insecticide – Repels insects
Odontalgic – Strengthens the teeth
Orexigenic – Induces the desire to eat
Pectoral – Helps chest infections
Stomachic –Tones and cleans the stomach and improves the function of the digestive tract
Vulnerary – Prevents bleeding and cell degeneration
Vasodilator – Dilates the blood vessels
There are 8 known enzymesin Aloe barbadensis Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically..
In Jamaica, the leaves have been used as a natural soap that lathers with salt water as well as fresh water. Aloe Vera is classified as bitters in Jamaica. All herbs that are classified as bitters have a bitter taste and have strong healing properties. As a health drink, the leaf’s gel is soaked in coconut water which is electrolytic. Aloe, b. is also used to return to balance the flora of the intestinal tract, for ulcers, colds and flu, ulcers, gastroenteritis, constipation, diarrhoea, and to improve the condition of the skin and hair.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Aloe, b. is used in the treatment of eye disease, tumours, enlarged spleen, liver complaints, nausea, bronchitis, and skin disease.
- Folic acid
- Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
The commercial variety of Aloe barbadensis, has been known to cause reddening, burning, stinging, with allergic reactions in sensitive people to the anthraquinones content.
In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!
Grundman, O. “Aloe Vera Gel Research Review.” naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?edition=1§ion=2&article=356
Surjushe, A. Vasani, R. Saple, D.G. “Aloe Vera: A Short Review” Indian J Dermatol. 2008; 53(4): 163–166.
doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.44785 PMCID: PMC2763764