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Aloe vera chemicals and usages.


Ancient Egyptian papyrus and Mesopotamian clay tablets describe aloe as useful in curing infections, treating skin problems and as a laxative [1]. Cleopatra was said to include aloe cream in her beauty regimen [2]. Aloe was used by Hippocrates and Arab physicians, and was carried to the Western Hemisphere by Spanish explorers. Legend has it that Alexander the Great captured the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean to secure its aloe supplies to treat his wounded soldiers [3]. Aloe is also popular in both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. The Chinese describe aloe's skin and the inner lining of its leaves as a cold, bitter remedy which is downward draining and used to clear constipation due to accumulation of heat (fire) [4] the gel is considered cool and moist. In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of India, aloe is used internally as a laxative, antihelminthic, hemorrhoid remedy, and uterine stimulant (menstrual regulator); it is used topically, often in combination with licorice root, to treat eczema or psoriasis. In Arabian medicine, the fresh gel is rubbed on the forehead as a headache remedy or rubbed on the body to cool it in case of fever, as well as being used for wound healing, conjunctivitis, and as a disinfectant and laxative [5].

Today aloe vera gel is an active ingredient in hundreds of skin lotions, sun blocks and Cosmetics [6]. The gel's use in cosmetics has been boosted by claims that it has similar anti-aging effects to vitamin A derivatives [7]. Aloe first gained popularity in the United States in the 1930's with reports of its success in treating X-ray burns [8,9,10]. Recently, aloe extracts have been used to treat canker sores, stomach ulcers and even AIDS. Some natural health enthusiasts promote aloe gel as a cleansing juice [11]. Some naturopaths promote aloe juice as a way to prevent and treat renal Stones [12]. Many mothers keep a plant handy in the kitchen where it readily thrives in bright sunlight with little care [13]. When faced with a minor burn, a fresh leaf can be cut and the gel of the inner leaf applied directly to the burn immediately after the injury [14]. The inner leaf lining of the plant is used as a potent natural laxative. In a 1990 survey of members of a health maintenance organization, aloe vera was used by 64%; of these, 91% believed it had been helpful [15]. Aloe is also an ingredient in Compound Benzoin tincture [16].


Medicinal species: Aloe vera, A. barbadensis (Barbados aloe), A. vulgaris, A.arborescens, A. ferox (Cape aloe), A. perryi (Socotrine or Zanzibar aloe). There are over300 species of aloe, most of which are native to South Africa, Madagascar and Arabia [5].


* Polysaccharides: glucomannan and acemannan

* Other: carboxypeptidase, magnesium, zinc, calcium, glucose, cholesterol, salicylic acid, prostaglandin precursors (gamma-linolenic acid [GLA]), vitamins A, C, E, lignins, saponins, plant sterols and amino acids [3,24]. The different species have somewhat different concentrations of active ingredients [17,18].

Common names:

Aloe, aloe capensis, aloe spicata, aloe vera, Barbados aloe, Cape aloe, chirukattali (India), Curacao aloe, Ghai kunwar (India), Ghikumar (India), Indian aloes, kumari (Sanskrit), luhui (Chinese), rokai (Japanese), subr (Arabic), Zanzibar aloe [5,19,20]. The name aloe is derived from the Arabic word alloeh meaning a shining bitter substance [16].

Botanical family: Liliaceae: Plant description:

The aloe plant has long (up to 20 inches long and 5 inches wide), triangular, fleshy leaves that have spikes along the edges. The fresh parenchymal gel from the center of the leaf is clear; this part is sometimes dried to form aloe vera concentrate or diluted

with water to create aloe juice products. The sticky latex liquid is derived from the yellowish green pericyclic tubules that line the leaf (rind); this is the part that yields laxative anthraquinones [21,22]. The flowers (not used medicinally) are yellow.

Where it's grown:

Aloes are indigenous to South Africa and South America, but are now cultivated worldwide except in tundra, deserts and rain forests. In the US aloe is commercially cultivated in southern Texas [23].

It takes approximately four years to reachmaturity and has a lifespan of about 12 years.


* Anthraquinone glycosides: aloin, aloe-emodin, barbaloin (15% -30%) [25]. The gel or mucilage obtained from the flesh of the leaf contains quite different compounds from the bitter latex extracted from the leaf lining [26]. Aloe gel is 99% water with a pH of 4.5 and is a common ingredient in many nonprescription skin salves. The gel contains an emollient polysaccharide, glucomannan. It is a good moisturizer, which accounts for its use in many cosmetics [27]. Acemannan, the major carbohydrate fraction in the gel, is a water-soluble long chain mannose polymer which accelerates wound healing, modulates immune function (particularly macrophage activation and production of cytokines) and demonstrates antineoplastic and antiviral effects [28,29,30]. The gel also contains bradykininase, an anti-inflammatory [31] magnesium lactate, which helps prevent itching, and salicylic acid and other antiprostaglandin compounds which relieve inflammation.

The leaf lining (latex, resin or sap) contains anthraquinone glycosides (aloin, aloe-emodin and barbaloin) that are potent stimulant laxatives. These water soluble glycosides are split by intestinal bacteria into aglycones which effect the laxative action. The laxative effect from aloe is stronger than from any other herb, including senna, cascara or rhubarb root; it also has more severe side effects such as cramping, diarrhea, and nausea [32]. For medicinal use, the leaf lining is dried and the residue is used as an herbal laxative. The products are usually taken at bedtime.

They are poorly absorbed after oral administration, but moderately well absorbed after bacterial hydrolysis. They are eliminated in the urine, bile, feces and breast milk. They turn alkaline urine red [33]. Most herbalists recommend that they be avoided during pregnancy due to the risk of stimulating uterine contractions and also avoided during lactation due to the risk of excretion in breast milk34. Aloe is seldom recommended as a first choice among laxative preparations due to the severe cramping and nausea associated with its use.

It is used for; Gastrointestinal/hepatic, Gastric and duodenal ulcers (gel) [34], Reproductive: Emmenagogue (leaf lining; traditional use) Aloe extracts at doses of 100 - 150 mg/kg had no abortifacient effects in pregnant rats [20], Immune modulation: Immunostimulant and anti-inflammatory (gel) [35,36], In a case series of 14 HIV-1+ patients who were prescribed 800 mg/day of acemannan, there was a significant increase in the number of circulating monocyte and macrophages which mirrored clinical improvements [37]. In a pilot study in HIV-infected persons acemannan increased the number of white blood cells and improved symptoms [38].

Aloe extracts also increased phagocytosis in asthmatic adults [39]. Antimicrobial: Antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal (gel), Antiviral, Acemannan acts alone and synergistically with azidothymidine (AZT)and acyclovir to block reproduction of Herpes and the AIDS virus [40,41,42], AntifungalAloe extract treatment of guinea pig feet that had been infected with Trichophyton mentagrophytes resulted in a 70% growth inhibition compared with untreated animals [43].

Skin and Mucus Membranes:

In humans, aloe has been reported to accelerate healing from deep scrapes, frostbite, flash burns of the conjunctiva, and even canker sores [26,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51]. Only one study has had an opposite effect; that is, aloe-treated surgical wounds healing by secondary intention took longer to heal than comparison wounds [52]. Despite the conflicting research, some dentists and otolaryngologists use aloe gel to promote healing in injured tissues in the mouth, nose, sinuses and ear [53].

Aloe gel has most often been used as a topical treatment for burn wounds [54]. In a study of 27 adults with partial thickness burns, those treated with aloe healed an average of six days faster than those treated with Vaseline gauze [55]. Psoriasis remedy In a 1995 double-blind, placebo controlled study of aloe's effect on 60 patients with psoriasis vulgaris, an aloe vera extract (0.5%) in a hydrophilic cream resulted in a significant clearing of the psoriatic plaques in 83.3% of the aloe-treated patients versus 6.6% of the placebo group [56]. The aloe treatment was well tolerated with no adverse drug-related side effects.


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[2.] Haller, J., 1990. A drug for all seasons: medical and pharmacological history of aloe. Bull NY Acad Sci., pp: 66.

[3.] Atherton, P., 1998. Aloe vera: magic or medicine? Nurs Stand, 12(49): 52-54.

[4.] Bensky, D., A. Gamble, T.J. Kaptchuk, 1993. Chinese herbal medicine: materia medica. Seattle, Wash.: Eastland Press, xxv: 556.

[5.] Ghazanfar, S.A., 1994. Handbook of Arabian medicinal plants. Boca Rato: CRC Press,

[6.] Grindlay, D., T. Reynolds, 1986. The Aloe vera phenomenon: a review of the properties and modern uses of the leaf parenchyma gel. J Ethnopharmacol, 16: 117-51.

[7.] Danhof, I., 1993. Potential reversal of chronological and photo-aging of the skin by topical application of natural substances. Phytotherapy Research, 7: S53-S56.

[8.] Rowe, T., 1940. Effect of fresh Aloe vera in the treatment of third degree roentgen reactionss on white rats. J Am Pharm Assoc., 29: 348.

[9.] Rowe, T., 1941. Further observations on the use of aloe vera leaf in the treatment of third degree x-ray reactions. J. Am Pharm Assn, 30: 266.

[10.] Lewis, W.H., 1977. Medical botany: plants affecting man's health. New York: Wiley,

[11.] McGuffin, M., C. Hobbs, R. Upton, A. Goldberg, 1997. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton. New York: CRC Press, pp: 231.

[12.] Murray, M.T., J.E. Pizzorno, 1991. An Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing,

[13.] Duke, J.A. 1997. Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, pp: 507.

[14.] Ship, A., 1977. Is topical aloe vera plant mucus shelpful in burn treatment? JAMA, 238: 1770.

[15.] Brown, J.S., S.A. Marcy, 1991. The use of botanicals for health purposes by members of a prepaid health plan. Res Nurs Health, 14: 339-50.

[16.] Robbers, J.E., M.K. Speedie, V.E. Tyler, 1996. Pharmacognosy and pharmacobiotechnology. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, ix: 337.

[17.] Yagi, A., M. Tsunoda, T. Egusa, K. Akasaki, H. Tsuji, 1998. Immunochemical distinction of Aloe vera, A. arborescens, and A. chinensis gels [letter]. Planta Med, 64: 277-8.

[18.] Wyk, van B.E., van Rheede van M.C. Oudtshoorn, G.F. Smith, 1995. Geographical variation in the major compounds of Aloe ferox leaf exudate. Planta Med., 61: 250-3.

[19.] Kapoor, L.D., 1990. CRC handbook of ayurvedic medicinal plants. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

[20.] Ross, I.A., 1999. Medicinal plants of the world: chemical constituents, traditional, and modern medicinal uses. Totowa, N.J.: Humana Press, xi: 415.

[21.] Murray, M.T., 1995. The healing power of herbs: the enlightened person's guide to the wonders of medicinal plants. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub., xiv: 410. J. Kathi Kemper, M.D., MPH Aloe Vera pp: 17. and Victoria B.A. Chiou, Revised July 29: 1999. Longwood Herbal Task Force:

[22.] Schulz, V., R. Hansel, V.E. Tyler, 1997. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to Herbal Medicine. Berlin: Springer, pp: 306.

[23.] Foster, S., 1999. Aloe. Herbs for Health, pp: 5960.

[24.] Afzal, M., M. Ali, 1991. Identification of some prostanoids in Aloe vera extracts. Planta Medica, 57: 38-40.

[25.] Bradley, P.R., 1992. British herbal compendium: a handbook of scientific information on widely used plant drugs / published by the British Herbal Medicine Association and produced by its Scientific Committee. Bournemouth, Dorset: The Association.

[26.] Klein, A.D., N.S. Penneys, 1988. Aloe vera. J Am Acad Dermatol, 18: 714-20.

[27.] Henry, R., 1979. An updated review of aloe vera. Cosmetics and toiletries., 94: 42-50.

[28.] Peng, S.Y., J. Norman, G. Curtin, D. Corrier, H.R. McDaniel, D. Busbee, 1991. Decreased mortality of Norman murine sarcoma in mice treated with the immunomodulator, Acemannan. Mol Biother, 3: 79-87.

[29.] Zhang, L., I.R. Tizard, 1996. Activation of a mouse macrophage cell line by acemannan: the major carbohydrate fraction from Aloe vera gel. Immunopharmacology, 35: 119-28.

[30.] Ramamoorthy, L., M.C. Kemp, I.R. Tizard, 1996. Acemannan, a beta-(1,4)-acetylated mannan, induces nitric oxide production in macrophage cell line RAW 264.7. Mol Pharmacol, 50: 878-84.

[31.] Yagi, A., N. Harada, H. Yamada, S. I.N. Iwadare, 1982. Antibradykinin active material in Aloe saponaria. J., Pharmaceut Sci., 71: 1172-74.

[32.] Schilcher, H., 1997. Phytotherapy in paediatrics: handbook for physicians and pharmacists: with reference to commission E monographs of the Federal Department of Health in Germany: includes 100 commission E monographs and and 15 ESCOP monographs. Stuttgart: medpharm Scientific Publishers, 181.

[33.] Bissett, N.G., 1994. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: MedPharm CRC Press, pp: 566.

[34.] Parmar, N., 1986. Evaluation of Aloe vera leaf exudate and gel for gastric and duodenal antiulcer activity. Fitoterapia, pp: 57.

[35.] Hartt, LA., van P.H. Enckevort, H. van Dijk, R. Zaat, de K.T. Silva, R.P. Labadie, 1988. Two

functionally and chemically distinct immunomodulatory compounds in the gel of Aloe vera. J Ethnopharmacol, 23: 61-71.

[36.] 'Hartt, L.A., van den A.J. Berg, L. Kuis, van H. Dijk, R.P. Labadie., 1989. An anti-complementary polysaccharide with immunological adjuvant activity from the leaf parenchyma gel of Aloe vera. Planta Med., 55: 509-12.

[37.] McDaniel, H., C.H.R.M. COmbs, Carpenter R, M. Kemp, B. McAnalley, 1990. An increase in circulating monocyte/macrophages (M/M) is induced by oral acemannan in HIV-1 patients. Am J Clin Pathol, 94: 516-7.

[38.] McDaniel, H., R. Carpenter, M. Kemp, J. Kahlon, B. McAnalley, 1990. Extended survival and prognostic criteria for Acemannan (ACE-M) treated HIV Patients. Antiviral Res Suppl, 1: 117.

[39.] Shida, T., 1985. Effect of aloe extract on peripheral phagocytosis in adult bronchial asthma. Planta Medica., 51: 273-5.

[40.] Lorenzetti, L., R. Salisbury, J. Beal, J. Baldwin, 1964. Bacteriostatic property of Aloe vera. J Pharmacol Sci., 53: 1287.

[41.] Kemp, M., J. Kahlon, A. Chinnah, et al. 1990. In vitro evaluation of the antiviral effects of acemannan on the replication and pathogenesis of HIV-1 and other enveloped viruses: modification of the processing of glycoprotein precursors. Antiviral Res Suppl., 1: 83. Kathi J. Kemper, MD, MPH Aloe Vera pp: 21 and Victoria Chiou, BA Revised July 29: 1999. Longwood Herbal Task Force:

[42.] Kahlon, J.B., M.C. Kemp, N. Yawei, R.H. Carpenter, W.M. Shannon, B.H. McAnalley, 1991. In vitro evaluation of the synergistic antiviral effects of acemannan in combination with azidothymidine and acyclovir. Mol Biother, 3: 214-23.

[43.] Kawai, K., H. Beppu, K. Shimpo, et al. 1998. In vivo effects of Aloe arborescens Miller var. natalensis Berger on experimental tinea pedis in guinea pig feet. Phytotherapy Research, 12: 17882.

[44.] Heggers, J., R. Pelley, M. Robson, 1993. Beneficial effects of Aloe in wound healing. Phytotherapy Research, 7: S48-S52.

[45.] McCauley R.L., J.P. Heggers, M.C. Robson, 1990. Frostbite. Methods to minimize tissue loss. Postgrad Med., 88: 67-8, 73-7.

[46.] Fulton, J.E., Jr. 1990. The stimulation of postdermabrasion wound healing with stabilized aloe vera gelpolyethylene oxide dressing. J Dermatol Surg Oncol, 16: 460-7.

[47.] Plemons, J., T. Rees, W. Binnie, J. Wright, I. Guo, J. Hall, 1994. Evaluation of acemannan in the treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis. Wounds: a compendium of clinical research and practice, 6: 40-45.

[48.] Heggers, J.P., M.C. Robson, K. Manavalen, et al. 1987. Experimental and clinical observations on frostbite. Ann Emerg Med., 16: 1056-62.

[49.] Lawrence, D., 1984. Treatment for flash burns on the conjunctiva. N Engl J Med., 311: 413.

[50.] Garnick, J.J., B. Singh, G. Winkley, 1998. Effectiveness of a medicament containing silicon dioxide, aloe, and allantoin on aphthous stomatitis. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod, 86: 550-6.

[51.] Anonymous., 1995 Aloe vera product achieves a label claim for the relief of pain associated with canker sores. Holistic Health News, 8: 8.

[52.] Schmidt, J.M., J.S. Greenspoon, 1991. Aloe vera dermal wound gel is associated with a delay in wound healing. Obstet Gynecol, 78: 115-7.

[53.] Thompson, J.E., 1991. Topical use of aloe vera derived allantoin gel in otolaryngology. Ear Nose Throat J., 70: 119.

[54.] Heck, E., M. Head, 1981. Aloe vera gel cream as a topical treatment for outpatient burns. Burns, 7: 291-4.

[55.] Visuthikosol, V., B. Chowchuen, Y. Sukwanarat, S. Sriurairatana, V. Boonpucknavig, 1995. Effect of aloe vera gel to healing of burn wound a clinical and histologic study. J Med Assoc Thai., 78: 403-9.

[56.] Syed, T.A., S.A. Ahmad, A.H. Holt, S.H. Ahmad, 1996 Afzal M. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: a placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Trop Med Int Health, 1: 505-9.

Sharrif Moghaddasi, M.

Islamic Azad University, Saveh branch, Iran

Corresponding Author: Sharrif Moghaddasi, M., Islamic Azad University, Saveh branch, Iran E-mail:

Sharrif Moghaddasi, M.: Aloe Vera Chemicals and Usages
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Title Annotation:Original Article
Author:Sharrif Moghaddasi, M.
Publication:Advances in Environmental Biology
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Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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