Aram Akopyan, LAc., Dipl. OM
word Aloe (meaning “bitter and shiny substance”) is derived from the
Arabic word Alloeh. There are over 240 different species of Aloe,
growing mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America.
Although Aloe Vera is a member of the Lily family, it is very
cactus-like in its characteristics. This unique plant also belongs to a
larger plant family called "Xeroids." Of the 240+ species of Aloe, only
four are recognized as being of nutritional value to humans and animals.
Aloe barbadensis (Aloe Vera species) is the top of these four. The aloe
is a perennial plant; grows in the East Indies and Barbary; is now
cultivated in the West Indies, as well as in some of the southern
sections of Europe. The strong, fibrous root produces a rosette of
fleshy basal leaves as in the agaves but considerably smaller. The stem
is woody, simple, cylindrical, and short; the leaves fleshy, amplexicaul,
first spreading, then ascending, lanceolate, glaucous-green, flat above,
convex below, armed with hard, distant, reddish spines perpendicular to
the margin, and a little mottled with darker color; the parenchyma is
slightly colored brown, and very distinct from the tough, leathery
cuticle. The scape is axillary, glaucous, reddish, and branched; the
spike is cylindrical-ovate. The flowers are at first erect, then
spreading, afterward pendulous, yellow, and not longer than the stamens
(L). The fruit is a triangular capsule containing numerous seeds.
Many of the Aloe plants have the following medicinal properties.
Emollient , purgative, vulnerary, tonic, demulcent, vermifuge,
antifungal, alterative, emmenagogue.
Aloe gel contains glycoproteins; protein-carbohydrate compounds that
speed the healing process by stopping pain and inflammation, and
polysaccharides, types of carbohydrates that stimulate skin growth and
repair. The anthraquinones in aloe latex are chemical compounds that
work as powerful laxatives, and in smaller amounts, they can help stop
kidney stone formation
Many of the Aloe plants have the following biochemical properties:
Anthraquinone, glycosides, resins, polysaccharides, sterols, gelonins,
Aloe also contains the following compounds:
A polysaccharide which has shown exciting antiviral and anti-retroviral
and immunopotentiating effects such as inhibiting glycosylation of viral
glycoproteins, enhancement of macrophage activity, immune system
potentiators, T-cell function, and interferon production. Acemannan is
now approved for veterinary use in fibrosarcomas and feline leukemia (a
retro-virus), and in preliminary human and in vitro studies, as a
synergistic enhancement to the drug azidothymidine (AZT) or Acyclovir to
inhibit the replication of HIV and herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1).
Sarcoma research is also promising
Vitamin C, E, zinc
Vitamin C, E, and zinc play a critical role in the process of wound
healing. Aloe gel, unlike many other anti-inflammatory substances,
stimulates fibroblast and connective tissue formation, and additionally,
stimulates the epidermal growth and repair process. Topically, its
anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, emollient, and antimicrobial actions
combine to enhance its effect, and provide for indication of aloe gel
for burns, skin inflammation, wounds, topical ulcers, acne, seborrhea,
and wounds (although not for deep surgical wounds, especially vertical
ones such as laparotomy or cesarean section).
Medicinal Application Notes
Known to herbalists for centuries as the
"medical plant" or "the potted physician," this cactus-like plant with
green dagger-shaped leaves filled with a clear, viscous gel was brought
from Africa to North America in the sixteenth century.
But long before this, aloe was widely regarded as a master healing
plant. The ancient Egyptians referred to aloe as the "plant of
immortality" and included it among the funerary gifts buried with the
pharaohs. In recent decades, medical research has confirmed and extended
many of the health claims for the shining bitter substance (used
topically or consumed as a liquid) that is the heart of aloe. Here are
some specific applications where Aloe has demonstrated beneficial
The bulk of the aloe leaf is filled with gel, 96% water with the other
4% containing 75 known substances. Applied to wounds, aloe gel is a mild
anesthetic, relieving itching, swelling, and pain: it also is
antibacterial and antifungal, increases blood flow to wounded areas, and
stimulates fibroblasts, the skin cells responsible for wound healing.
An animal-based study in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical
Association found that both oral and topical aloe preparations speed
wound healing. Animals were given either aloe (100mg/kg body weight) in
their drinking water for two months or 25% aloe vera cream applied
directly to wounds for six days. Aloe had positive effects in both
cases. The size of wounds decreased 62% in the animals taking oral aloe
compared to a 51% in the control group. Topical aloe produced a 51%
decrease in wound size compared to a 33% in the control group.
Supports Surgical Recovery
Aloe decreases surgical recovery time, according to a report in the
Journal of Dermatological Surgery and Oncology. Eighteen acne patients
underwent facial dermabrasion surgery, in which lesions are scraped
away. Dressings were applied to their faces, with half of each person's
face receiving the standard dressing coated with surgical gel, and the
other half with aloe added to this dressing. The half of the face
treated with aloe healed approximately 72 hours faster than the other
In a study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 27
patients with moderate burn wounds were treated with gauze coated in
either aloe gel or Vaseline™ (petroleum jelly). The burns healed more
quickly in the aloe group, with an average healing time of 12 days
compared to 18 days for the group using Vaseline.
Minimizes Frostbite Damage
A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine established that
aloe works for frostbite. Researchers gave standard treatments for
frostbite (antibiotics, ibuprofen, and re-warming) to 154 patients with
mild to severe frostbite. Of patients who additionally received aloe
vera cream, 67.9% healed without any tissue loss (amputation) compared
to 32.7% in the control group. Researchers concluded that aloe prevented
a decrease of blood flow to the frozen tissues, a common cause of tissue
loss in frostbite.
Screens Out Radiation
Aloe protects against skin damage from X rays, according to researchers
at Hoshi University in Japan publishing in the journal Yakugaku Zasshi.
They found that aloe was an effective antioxidant, mopping up the free
radicals caused by radiation, and that it protected two of the body's
healing substances, superoxide dismutase (an antioxidant enzyme) and
glutathione (an amino acid which stimulates the immune system).
Heals Psoriasis Lesions
In a double blind, placebo-controlled study published in Tropical
Medicine and International Health, 60 patients with chronic psoriasis
were given a 0.5% aloe vera extract in a mineral oil crème. The ointment
was applied three times daily for five consecutive days (15 applications
total per week) for four weeks.
When patients were checked after eight months, far more psoriasis skin
lesions had healed in the aloe group (82.8%) than in the placebo group
(7.7%). Further, 83.3% of the aloe group was considered cured of their
psoriasis compared to only 6.6% of the placebo group.
Eases Intestinal Problems
Aloe vera juice can be effective for treating inflammatory bowel
disease, according to a study in the Journal of Alternative Medicine.
Ten patients were given two ounces of aloe juice, three times daily, for
seven days. After one week, all patients were cured of diarrhea, four
had improved bowel regularity, and three reported increased energy.
Researchers concluded that aloe was able to rebalance the intestines by
"regulating gastrointestinal pH while improving gastrointestinal
motility, increasing stool specific gravity, and reducing populations of
certain fecal microorganisms, including yeast." Other studies have shown
that aloe vera juice helps to detoxify the bowel, neutralize stomach
acidity, and relieve constipation and gastric ulcers.
Reduces Blood Sugar in Diabetes
Aloe reduced the blood sugar levels in diabetics, as reported in Hormone
Research. Five patients with adult (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes were
given 1/2 teaspoon of aloe extract daily for up to 14 weeks. Blood sugar
levels were reduced in all patients by an average of 45%, with no change
in their total weight.
Reduces Arthritic Swelling
Aloe can help prevent arthritis and reduce the inflammation in joints
already affected by arthritis, according to the Journal of the American
Podiatric Medical Association. Aloe can also inhibit the autoimmune
reaction associated with certain forms of arthritis, in which the body
attacks its own tissues.
Animals were injected with a bacterium to cause arthritic symptoms,
namely inflammation and swelling. To determine if it could prevent
arthritis, aloe (150mg/kg body weight) was injected under the skin daily
for 13 days. Physical measurements were taken daily to determine the
amount of swelling and inflammation.
Several compounds from aloe showed antiarthritic activity, according to
the researchers. One organic acid in aloe reduced inflammation by 79.7%
and suppressed the autoimmune response by 42.4%. Another aloe compound (anthraquinone)
reduced inflammation by 67.3% but had no effect on the autoimmune
Stimulates Immune Response Against Cancer
Aloe may help prolong survival time and stimulate the immune system of
cancer patients, according to recent research.
In a 1994 study in the Japanese medical journal Yakhak Hoeji, mice with
cancerous tumors were given aloe orally for 14 days. While the aloe did
not suppress tumor growth, the average life span of the mice was
prolonged by 22% for those given 50mg aloe/kg body weight and by 32% for
those given 100mg/kg daily. A simultaneous experiment on human cancer
cells (in vitro) found that high doses of aloe significantly suppressed
the growth of these cancer cells.
Researchers writing in Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy found that a
compound (lectin) from aloe, when injected directly into tumors,
activated the immune system to attack the cancer. Killer T cells, white
blood cells that bind to invading cells and destroy them, began to
attack the tumor cells injected with lectin.
Aloe turns on the immune system by activating macrophages (white blood
cells which "swallow" antigens), causing the release of
immune-activating (and anticancer) substances such as interferons,
interleukines, and tumor necrosis factor. In addition, aloe promotes the
growth of normal (non-cancerous) cells, researchers said.
Benefits Lung Cancer
Aloe's protective effect was confirmed in a study of 673 lung cancer
patients in Okinawa, Japan, published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer
Research. This survey looked at the connection between smoking,
comparative amounts of 17 plant foods in the diet, and the occurrence of
lung cancer over a five-year period.
Aloe was the only one of the plant foods that was protective against
cancer. "The results of plant epidemiology suggests that aloe prevents
human pulmonary carcinogenesis," stated the researchers. Further, aloe
is "widely preventive or suppressive against various human cancers."
Dosage, Applications, Formulaes, and Contraindication
A dose is from .3 – 1.5 grams. Short duration only.
Juice or gel:
Taken orally, 1 tbsp., up to 3 times daily. 12% by volume.
5-30 drops. 25% by volume concentrate
Dissolve 1/2 tsp. aloes in 1-cup water. If desired, add 1 tsp. boric
acid as a preservative and to help in healing.
Gel or Crème consisting of 95% or greater Aloe Gel extract. To prepare.
Squeeze Extract from aloe leaf and combine with petroleum based ointment
in 2 to 1 mixture ratio.
Pregnancy and Menstruation. Not recommended in Children under 12.
Legends, Myths and Stories
"I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon" (Proverbs 7:17).
For more than 3,500 years, healers and physicians have touted the
benefits of this fragrant desert lily.
Queen Cleopatra regarded the gel as a fountain off youth and used it to
preserve her skin against the ravages of the Egyptian sun. The Egyptians
were also believed to have used the aloe plant in their embalming
Aloe was known to Greeks and Romans, who used the gel for wounds; one of
Pliny's many recommendations was to rub leaves on "ulcerated male
Aloe was a favorite purgative during the Middle Ages. In China, similar
uses developed to those in the West, although only the gel is used; in
India, the gel is a highly regarded cooling tonic. Aloe reached the West
Indies in the 16th century and is widely cultivated there.
In the East Indies, aloes are used as a varnish, to preserve wood from
worms and other insects; and skins from insect bites, and even living
animals are anointed with it for the same reason.
Aloes have been found effectual in preserving ships from the ravages of
the worm and the adhesion of barnacles. The resinous part of this juice
is not soluble in water so the ship's bottom, for this purpose, is
smeared with a composition of hepatic aloes, turpentine, tallow, and
white lead, (equal parts).
One blade of aloe can be used for weeks. The severed end of the blade is
self-healing. The thin film can easily be broken with each use.
The juice of aloes was formerly used in Eastern countries in embalming
and to preserve dead bodies from putrefaction.