Scope of Aloe vera as Medicinal Plant and Skin Care

 

Abhijit Ray

HOD, Department of Biotechnology, Raipur Institute of Technology, Raipur (CG)

*Corresponding Author E-mail: abhijitray_2001@yahoo.com

 

ABSTRACT

Aloe vera is the oldest medicinal plant ever known and the most applied medicinal plant worldwide. The first written records about the use of aloe vera were found on over 6,000 years old clay tablets found in Mesopotamia. Today also aloe vera is one of the most studied plants worldwide. Actually, there is hardly any plant that can display such a great variety of scientifically-proven active pharmaceutical ingredients (about 200) whose unique combinations properties generate a broad spectrum of activity.

 

Aloe Vera is referred as the ‘Miracle Plant’. From being an antiseptic, anti- inflammatory and a cure for heart burns to helping relieve the symptoms of severe illnesses like cancer and diabetes, to being a beauty aid and health nourisher, this ancient Indian herb has it all. Known for centuries for its unique medicinal properties, it has been rediscovered, recognized and benefited from in the last few years. Aloe Vera is as old as civilization and throughout history it has been used as a popular folk medicine. It is believed to be effective in treating stomach ailments, gastrointestinal problems, skin diseases, constipation, for radiation injury, for its anti-inflammatory effect, for wound healing and burns, as an anti-ulcer and diabetes. It is also known as ‘lily of the desert’, the ‘plant of immortality’, and the ‘medicine plant’ with qualities to serve as alternate medicine. 

 

KEYWORDS: Aloe vera, skin care, immune system

 


INTRODUCTION:

Aloe vera is a species of succulent plant that probably originated in northern Africa. The species does not have any naturally occurring populations, although closely related aloes do occur in northern Africa (Akinyele and Odiyi 2007).The species is frequently cited as being used in herbal medicine since the beginning of the first century AD. Extracts from A. vera are widely used in the cosmetics and alternative medicine industries, being marketed as variously having rejuvenating, healing or soothing properties. There is, however, little scientific evidence of the effectiveness or safety of A. vera extracts for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes, and what positive evidence is available is frequently contradicted by other studies (Ernst 2000; Marshall 2000; Boudreau and Beland 2006; Vogler and Ernst 1999). Medical uses of aloe vera are being investigated as well.

 

Aloe vera is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing upto 60–100 cm (24–39 in) tall, spreading by offsets. The leaves are thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with some varieties showing white flecks on the upper and lower stem surfaces. The margin of the leaf is serrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90 cm (35 in) tall, each flower being pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) long. Like other  Aloe species,  Aloe vera forms arbuscularmycorrhiza, a symbiosis that allows the plant better access to mineral nutrients in soil (Gong et al., 2002).

 

The aloe vera plant has been used since ancient times for healing infection and burns. It was used by African hunters to reduce perspiration. Ancient records of Egyptians, Arabs, Africans and Indians show how aloe vera plant was used. The aloe vera plant also finds mention in the New Testament. Ancient Chinese medicine used aloe vera gel for treating eczematous skin conditions. With a high water content of nearly 96%, the aloe vera plant has been hailed as a medicinal plant with many a beneficial property. The aloe vera plant can easily be grown at home - it is virtually maintenance free. You can then break off a part of the leaf and use the fresh gel to apply on any burn or other wound. . When the aloe vera leaf is broken, it oozes a thick sap that drips from the open end. This bitter sap is used to accelerate wound healing and reduce inflammation.

 

Distribution

The natural range of Aloe vera is unclear, as the species has been widely cultivated throughout the world. Naturalised stands of the species occur in the southern half of the Arabian peninsula, through North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, Egypt) as well as Sudan and neighbouring countries, along with the Canary, Cape Verde, and Madeira Islands. The species was introduced to China and various parts of southern Europe in the 17th century. The species is widely naturalised elsewhere, occurring in temperate and tropical regions of Australia, Barbados, Belize, Nigeria, Paraguay and the United States (Akinyele and Odiyi 2007). It has been suggested that the actual species' distribution is the result of human cultivation.

 

Uses

Preparations made from the plant Aloe vera are often referred to as "aloe vera". Scientific evidence for the cosmetic and therapeutic effectiveness of aloe vera is limited and when present is frequently contradictory (Ernst 2000; Marshall 2000). Despite this, the cosmetic and alternative medicine industries regularly make claims regarding the soothing, moisturizing, and healing properties of aloe vera, especially via Internet advertising (Boudreau and Beland 2006; Kunkel 1984). Aloe vera gel is used as an ingredient in commercially available lotions, yogurt, beverages, and some desserts, although at certain doses, it has toxic properties when used either for ingested or topical applications.

 

Dietary supplement

Aloin is a compound found in the exudate of some Aloe species. Aloe vera has potential toxicity, with side-effects occurring at some dose levels either when ingested or applied topically. Although toxicity may be less when aloin is removed by processing, aloe vera that contains aloin in excess amounts may induce side-effects. Aloe vera juice is marketed to support the health of the digestive system, but there is neither scientific evidence nor regulatory approval to support this claim. The extracts and quantities typically used for such purposes appear to be dose-dependent for toxic effects. Aloe vera leaves contain phytochemicals under study for possible bioactivity, such as acetylated mannans, polymannans,  anthraquinone  C-glycosides, anthrones and anthraquinones, and variouslectins.

 

Commodities

Aloe vera is now widely used on facial tissues, where it is promoted as a moisturiser and/or anti-irritant to reduce chafing of the nose of users suffering hay-fever or cold. It is common practice for cosmetic companies to add sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to products such as makeup, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, incense, shaving cream, and shampoos. Other uses for extracts of aloe vera include the dilution of semen for the artificial fertilization of sheep (Rodriguez et al., 1988), use as fresh food preservative (Serrano et al., 2006)and use in water conservation in small farms. It has also been suggested that biofuels could be obtained from Aloe vera seeds. Aloe is also used as a food substance. Some molecular gastronomists have begun to take advantage of its gelling properties.

 

Research for possible medical uses

Aloe vera may be effective in treatment of wounds (Vogler and Ernst 1999). Evidence on the effects of its sap on wound healing, however, is limited and contradictory (Vogler and Ernst 1999).Some studiesshows that aloe vera promotes the rates of healing (Heggers et al., 1997; Davis et al., 1989), while, in contrast, other studies show that wounds to which aloe vera gel was applied were significantly slower to heal than those treated with conventional medical preparations (Schmidt and Greenspoon 1991; Kaufman et al., 1988). A 2007 review concluded that the cumulative evidence supports the use of aloe vera for the healing of first to second degree burns (Maenthaisong et al., 2007). Topical application of aloe vera may also be effective for genital herpes and psoriasis (Vogler and Ernst 1999). However, it is not effective for the prevention of radiation-induced injuries. Although anecdotally useful, it has not been proven to offer protection from sunburn or suntan (Feily and Namazi 2009).

 

Compounds extracted from aloe vera have been used as an immune stimulant that aids in fighting cancers in cats and dogs (King et al., 1995), however, this treatment has not been scientifically tested in humans.Gels from Aloe vera have been compared to those derived from other aloe species and with other plants belonging to the family Asphodelaceae. Aloe vera extracts might have antibacterial and antifungal activities, which possibly could help treat minor skin infections, such as boils and benign skin cysts and may inhibit growth of fungi causing tinea (Sumbul et al., 2004). 

 

Benefit of Aloe Vera Gel

The benefits of aloe vera are manifold. Aloe vera gel is used to treat first-degree burns for speedy healing. Aloe vera gel is used to shrink warts and lessen the painful effects of shingles. The symptoms of psoriasis can be reduced with aloe vera gel. European folk medicine makes extensive use of aloe vera juice to reduce ulcers and heartburn. Aloe vera is also used in dental problems such as bleeding gums and denture stomatitis.

 

Gel from the Aloe vera leaf has shown good results in treating facial edema. When used a mouth rinse, aloe vera offers benefits for treating lockjaw and cold spores. Recent studies have shown that aloe vera might have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. Aloe Vera can trigger uterine contractions and must not be taken by pregnant women. Children should not be given aloe vera internally too. If you are on drugs that cause potassium loss or diuretics or steroids, it may not be advisable to take aloe vera orally.


Aloe Vera Juice Benefit

Aloe Vera juice is made from the nutritious inner gel. Aloe Vera juice has natural detoxifying powers that ease constipation and cleanse the bowel. Aloe Vera juice is known to benefit those suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). The residues that accumulate within the colon are loosened and naturally dispersed with regular consumption of aloe vera juice. Any internal lesions or ulcers will also be healed.

 

High doses of Aloe vera juice can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and electrolyte imbalance. Aloe vera juice is said to possess soothing properties that help in colitis, peptic ulcers and digestive tract irritations. Aloe vera juice contains some anti-inflammatory fatty acids that alkalize digestive juices and prevent over acidity. Acemannan, found in Aloe vera is being studied for its beneficial effects in boosting T-lymphocyte cells that aid the immune system.


Aloe Vera Creams

Aloe vera gel is made by pulverizing the whole leaves of the plant whereas Aloe juice is made from the inner leaf. Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the benefits of aloe vera. Cosmetics and products using aloe vera are popular. Aloe vera cosmetics are available as lotions, aloe vera creams and powders and soaps.Some manufacturers add a few drops of aloe vera gel and claim to make Aloe Vera products. Most aloe vera products contain stabilizers and preservatives that might take away some of the benefits of Aloe. Unless aloe vera gel is added in significant amounts, it would not have much beneficial effect. This would only mean expensive cosmetics with little value.

 

Aloe Vera Skin Care

Skin care products with aloe vera increase the availability of oxygen to the skin and thereby aid synthesis and strength of the skin tissues. Aloe Vera lotions are widely used for cleansing the skin. Many of the skin care products containing aloe vera are also fortified with Vitamin E and collagen to maintain the skin's elasticity and suppleness and keep the moisture in. You can pick up suntan lotions with aloe vera. The anti-burning properties of Aloe combined with SPF factors make this an excellent skin care product.

 

Aloe Vera Capsule

The benefits of Aloe vera can be availed as capsules too. These capsules contain aloe vera juice in a freeze-dried form. Aloe Vera is used in many products on account of its nutritional benefits. It contains Vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and many amino acids. As a food supplement, aloe vera capsules aid blood and lymphatic circulation and facilitate digestion.

 

Other uses of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is trusted in products because it is used since thousands of years. Aloe vera is being used by human being for more than 5000 years now. The earliest civilizations revered this extraordinary botanical for its astonishing properties. Aloe vera uses are legendary and this information has been passed down through time, enhanced by scientific innovation and centuries of experience.

 

Several health benefits of Aloe veraare listed below.

·        It cleanses and supports our digestive system

·        It hydrates our skin

·        It soothes and promotes skin renewal

·        It supports our immune system

 

REFERENCES:

1.       Akinyele BO, Odiyi AC (2007) Comparative study of the vegetative morphology and the existing taxonomic status of Aloe vera L. Journal of Plant Sciences 2(5):558-563.

2.       Boudreau MD and Beland FA (2006) An Evaluation of the Biological and Toxicological Properties of Aloe Barbadensis (Miller), Aloe Vera. Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part C 24:103–154.

3.       Davis RH, Leitner MG, Russo JM, Byrne ME (November 1989). "Wound healing. Oral and topical activity of Aloe vera". Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 79 (11): 559–62.

4.        Ernst E. (2000) Adverse effects of herbal drugs in dermatology. Br J Dermatol 143: 923–929

5.        FeilyA, Namazi MR (2009). "Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review". G ItalDermatolVenereol144: 84–91.

6.       Gong M, Wang F, Chen Y (January 2002). "[Study on application of arbuscular-mycorrhizas in growing seedings of Aloe vera]" (in Chinese). Zhongyaocai = Zhongyaocai = Journal of Chinese medicinal materials 25 (1): 1–3.

7.       Heggers JP, Elzaim H, Garfield R, et al. (1997). "Effect of the combination of Aloe vera, nitroglycerin, and L-NAME on wound healing in the rat excisional model". Journal of alternative and complementary medicine 3 (2): 149–53.

8.        Kaufman T, Kalderon N, Ullmann Y, Berger J (1988). "Aloe vera gel hindered wound healing of experimental second-degree burns: a quantitative controlled study". The Journal of burn care & rehabilitation 9 (2): 156–9. 

9.        King GK, Yates KM, Greenlee PG, et al. (1995). "The effect of AcemannanImmunostimulant in combination with surgery and radiation therapy on spontaneous canine and feline fibrosarcomas". Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 31 (5): 439–47.

10.     Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books 1984 ISBN 3-87429-216-9

11.      Maenthaisong R, Chaiyakunapruk N, Niruntrapornet al. (2007). "The efficacy of aloe vera for burn wound healing: a systematic review". Burns 33 (6): 713–718.

12.     Marshall JM (2000) Aloe vera gel: what is the evidence? Pharm J 244: 360–362.

13.     Rodriguez F, Baldassarre H, Simonetti J, Aste F, Ruttle JL (1988). "Cervical versus intrauterine insemination of ewes using fresh or frozen semen diluted with aloe vera gel.". Theriogenology 30(5): 843–54. 

14.      Schmidt JM, Greenspoon JS (July 1991). "Aloe vera dermal wound gel is associated with a delay in wound healing". Obstetrics and gynecology 78 (1): 115–7. 

15.      Serrano M, Valverde JM, Guillén F, Castillo S, Martínez-Romero D, Valero D (May 2006). "Use of Aloe vera gel coating preserves the functional properties of table grapes". Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54 (11): 3882–6.

16.      Source- wikipedia

17.     Sumbul S, Ahmed S. Waseemuddin, AzharIqbal (2004). "Antifungal activity of Allium,Aloe, and Solanum species".  Pharmaceutical Biology 42 (7): 491–498.

18.     Vogler BK, Ernst E (1999). "Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness". Br J Gen Prac 49: 823–828.

 

 

 

 

Received on 10.11.2011                    Accepted on 20.12.2011        

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Res. J. Topical and Cosmetic Sci. 3(1): Jan. –June 2012 page 1-3