Aloe Vera

The Aloe vera plant has been known and used for centuries for its health, beauty, medicinal and skin care properties. The name Aloe vera derives from the Arabic word “Alloeh” meaning “shining bitter substance,” while “vera” in Latin means “true.” 2000 years ago, the Greek scientists regarded Aloe vera as the universal panacea. The Egyptians called Aloe “the plant of immortality.” Today, the Aloe vera plant has been used for various purposes in dermatology.

The botanical name of Aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis miller. It belongs to Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family, and is a shrubby or arborescent, perennial, xerophytic, succulent, pea- green color plant.

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The plant has triangular, fleshy leaves with serrated edges, yellow tubular flowers and fruits that contain numerous seeds. Each leaf is composed of three layers: 1) An inner clear gel that contains 99% water and rest is made of glucomannans, amino acids, lipids, sterols and vitamins. 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. Inside the rind are vascular bundles responsible for transportation of substances such as water (xylem) and starch (phloem).3

Active components with its properties: Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids.46

  1. Vitamins: It contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, which are antioxidants. It also contains vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline. Antioxidant neutralizes free radicals.

  2. Enzymes: It contains 8 enzymes: aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase. Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically, while others help in the breakdown of sugars and fats.

  3. Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. They are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways and few are antioxidants.

  4. Sugars: It provides monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and polysaccharides: (glucomannans/polymannose). These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant and are known as mucopolysaccharides. The most prominent monosaccharide is mannose-6-phosphate, and the most common polysaccharides are called glucomannans [beta-(1,4)-acetylated mannan]. Acemannan, a prominent glucomannan has also been found. Recently, a glycoprotein with antiallergic properties, called alprogen and novel anti-inflammatory compound, C-glucosyl chromone, has been isolated from Aloe vera gel.7,8

  5. Anthraquinones: It provides 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials and antivirals.

  6. Fatty acids: It provides 4 plant steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory action and lupeol also possesses antiseptic and analgesic properties.

  7. Hormones: Auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing and have anti-inflammatory action.

  8. Others: It provides 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids. It also contains salicylic acid that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Lignin, an inert substance, when included in topical preparations, enhances penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin. Saponins that are the soapy substances form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.

Glucomannan, a mannose-rich polysaccharide, and gibberellin, a growth hormone, interacts with growth factor receptors on the fibroblast, thereby stimulating its activity and proliferation, which in turn significantly increases collagen synthesis after topical and oral Aloe vera.

Aloe vera inhibits the cyclooxygenase pathway and reduces prostaglandin E2 production from arachidonic acid. Recently, the novel anti-inflammatory compound called C-glucosyl chromone was isolated from gel extracts.

Alprogen inhibit calcium influx into mast cells, thereby inhibiting the antigen-antibody-mediated release of histamine and leukotriene from mast cells.

Anthraquinones present in latex are a potent laxative. It increases intestinal water content, stimulates mucus secretion and increases intestinal peristalsis.

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. Its moisturizing effects has also been studied in treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure where aloe vera gel gloves improved the skin integrity, decreases appearance of fine wrinkle and decreases erythema.It also has anti-acne effect.

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