The earliest records of aloe vera come from Egyptian drawings depicting aloe vera on walls of temples as they had named it, “the plant of immortality”. In ancient Egypt, when a Pharaoh died, a mixture of aloe vera and myrrh (gum extracted from thorny plants) was wrapped with him for embalming. The Russians called aloevera “the elixir of longivity” due to its rejuvenating powers. Aloe vera was always found in mission’s yard, during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to America in 1494, as according to him, four vegetables are indispensable at all times for the well being of a man (wheat, grape, olive and aloe).
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Chemical Constituents of Aloevera
- Vitamins: Aloe contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, which are antioxidants. It also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline.
- Enzymes: Aloe contains 8 enzymes namely aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase.
- Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc.
- Sugars: It provides monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides: (glucomannans/polymannose).
- Anthraquinones: It provides 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives, Aloin and emodin.
- Fatty acids: It provides 4 plant steroids namely cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol.
- Hormones: It contains auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing.
- Others: It provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids.
The medicinal value of aloevera has been widely acclaimed for many centuries. Dioscorides, the author of Greek Herbal from first century AD, wrote an extensive report on aloevera for the treatment for conditions like insomnia, stomach disorders, burns, sun burns, facial edema or swelling, inflammation, pain, constipation and fungal infections. Aloevera posses the following medicinal properties (as discovered till now) :
Boosts Immunity system
Antiviral and Anti-tumor
Each leaf of aloevera plant is composed of three layers:
- An inner clear gel that contains 99% water and the rest is made up of glucomannans, amino acids, lipids, sterols and vitamins.
- The middle layer of latex which is the bitter yellow sap, and contains anthraquinones and glycosides.
- The outer thick layer of 15–20 cells also known as rind which has protective function along with synthesizing carbohydrates and proteins.
The glucomannan ( mannose-rich polysaccharide) and gibberellin (growth hormone) in aloe vera interacts with growth factor receptors on the fibroblast, thereby stimulating its activity and proliferation, which in turn significantly increases the collagen synthesis in your body after topical and oral consumption of aloe vera. Aloe gel not only increases collagen content of the wound but also changes the collagen composition (more type III) and increases the degree of collagen cross linking. Aloe vera accelerates wound contraction and increases the breaking strength of the resulting scar tissue.
Cures Skin Conditions
Aloevera gel has a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin. Its Exact role is not known,but due to aloevera gel, metallothionein (an antioxidant protein) gets generated in the skin, which scavenges the hydroxyl radicals and prevents suppression of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase in the skin. It reduces the production and release of skin keratinocyte derived immuno-suppressive cytokines such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) and thus prevents UV-induced suppression of delayed type hypersensitivity.
Aloevera can inhibit the cyclooxygenase pathway and reduce the production of prostaglandin E2 from arachidonic acid. The most recent anti-inflammatory compound called C-glucosyl chromone has been isolated from aloe gel extracts.
Alprogen inhibits calcium influx into mast cells, thereby inhibiting the antigen-antibody-mediated release of histamine and leukotriene from mast cells. Several low-molecular-weight compounds of aloe vera are also capable of inhibiting the release of reactive oxygen free radicals from activated human neutrophils. Aloe Vera when consumed orally keeps you strong and safe against most diseases and infections.
Anthraquinones present in the latex of aloevera leaf are a potent laxative. It increases intestinal water content, stimulates mucus secretion and increases intestinal peristalsis in our body.
Antiviral and Anti-tumor
The antiviral and antitumor actions of aloevera may be due to indirect or direct effects. Indirect effect is due to stimulation of the immune system due to aloe vera and the direct effect is due to anthraquinones. The anthraquinone aloin inactivates various enveloped viruses such as herpes simplex, varicella zoster and influenza. The polysaccharide fraction inhibits the binding of benzopyrene to primary hepatocytes, thereby preventing the formation of potentially cancer-initiating benzopyrene-DNA adducts. An induction of glutathione S-transferase and an inhibition of the tumor-promoting effects of phorbol myristic acetate has also been reported, which suggests a possible benefit of using aloe gel in cancer chemo-prevention as well.
The mucopolysaccharides of aloe vera help in binding moisture to the aloevera leaves, stimulating 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. Zinc acts as an astringent to tighten pores. Its moisturizing effects have also been studied in treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure. Aloe vera gel improved the skin integrity, along with decreasing the fine wrinkles and erythema. Aloe Vera has an anti-acne effect as well.
Aloevera contains 6 antiseptic agents: Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols and sulfur. They all have inhibitory action on fungi, bacteria and viruses.
Oral consumption of aloevera is not recommended during pregnancy due to theoretical stimulation of uterine contractions, and in breastfeeding mothers, it may sometime causes gastrointestinal distress in the nursing infant.