Aloe Vera 'The Medicine Plant'
It is great to hear General Practitioners speak positively about
natural complimentary products being beneficial in supporting our health.
Dr Peter Atherton's book 'Aloe Vera - The Medicine Plant' is worth reading in full,
but below are some captions of his views published after his studying and trialling the use of Aloe Vera with seen results in his patients case studies.
The medicinal use of herbs is said to be as old as mankind with a distinct advantage of causing very few, if any, side effects (providing they are of course used correctly). And specific conditions have responded positively to herbal remedies when orthodox medical treatments have failed.
Plants that have already shown to provide powerful drugs: heroin from the opium poppy, the heart drug - digitalis from foxgloves; ergot from rye (used to treat migraines) and aspirin from willow bark. The efficacy of many plants is being confirmed by modern scientific trials and testing and mounting evidence now supports the healing power of plants, as well as their chemical counterparts.
Despite decades of scientific research, it remains true that for a whole range of illnesses conventional medicine is of limited effectiveness. It is therefore no surprise that many patients, particularly those suffering from disease which is chronic in the sense of long-lasting, turn to complementary or alternative medical remedies. One of the most widely used of these approaches is herbal therapy, of which Aloe Vera is a prominent example.
Aloe Vera - The Plant
There are only five reported varieties of aloe which possess documented medicinal benefits - Aloe Barbadensis, Aloe Linne, Aloe Vulgans and Curacao Aloe. Aloe Barbadensis is the only species that should be called by the name ‘Aloe Vera’ (which translates as ‘True Aloe’). It takes four-five years for the plant to reach maturity with a lifespan of 12 years.
Outer rind, dark green in colour, has a hard waxy surface. The hardness is due to the large amounts of calcium and magnesium present. The colour denotes the presence of chlorophyll, carbon dioxide and water. The Sap consists of vascular bundles or tubes of xylem and phloem.
What kind of Aloe
One which maximises desired constituents, minimises any ingredients with negative effects, maintains constituents in an unaltered and active form, preserves actions and benefits and is present in amounts which can bring the desired result when used as recommended.
The best form is considered to be 100% pure aloe. Look for ones that are International Aloe Science Council (ISAC) certified to guarantee the product meets with approved criteria and one that is pure aloe gel extract rather than cheaper whole leaf products. Cold stabilised aloe gel (usually 97% pure) is the nearest that you can get to the natural raw gel extract.
The Leaf and its Contents
There are over 75 known ingredients in the Aloe Vera leaf, which are divided into eight distinct categories but it is suspected that there are still others to be discovered. Aloe vera gel is one of nature's most potent cocktails and contains an array of nutrients to balance and contribute to supporting good health. Aloe Vera is also praised for its cleansing and purifying properties.
Lignin: a cellulose-based substance found in the gel with no known specific medicinal properties although its presence in topical aloe is thought to provide the ability to penetrate the human skin.
Saponins: glycosides - soapy substance containing antiseptic properties capable of cleansing.
Calcium - an important structural role in bones and teeth, but also essential for cellular structure and nerve transmission. It requires a balance of phosphorus and magnesium to work effectively and needs Vitamin D for its absorption.
Manganese - a component of many enzymes and necessary for the activation of others. These substances are complex proteins, which act biochemical catalysts, speeding up the route of clinical reaction in the plant.
Sodium - a very important mineral, responsible for balancing the level of acid/alkaline in the body fluids; involvement in the electrical conductivity in muscles and nerves plus facilitating the uptake of nutrients by individual cells.
Potassium - like sodium, is involved in the acid-base balance in the body as well as electrical conductivity in nerves and muscles.
Copper - also a component of a number of enzymes and facilitates the action of iron as an oxygen carrier in red blood cells
Magnesium - intimately involved in the metabolism of calcium during bone formation and needed by nerve and muscle membranes to enable them to conduct electrical pulses.
Zinc involved in major metabolic pathways contributing to the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates (sugars) and fats. Inadequate intake would have adverse effect on any tissue which dies and then renewed rapidly, such as skin, gut lining or the immune system. Studies have shown that schizophrenia may, in part, be associated with zinc deficiency. Zinc is also recognised as a very important factor in men’s health and reproductive function.
Chromium - necessary for the proper function of insulin, which in turn controls blood sugar levels.
Vitamin A - Retinol (antioxidant, transmission of light stimuli from eyes to brain.
Maintains healthy eyes, immune system and skin)
Vitamin C - Ascorbic Acid (antioxidant, skin health)
Vitamin E - helps the body utilise oxygen; prevents blood clots, plus improves wound
healing; fertility and is good for the skin.
Important antioxidant vitamins, essential in the fight against damaging free radicals. All three positively influence the immune system, and Vitamin C in particular assists in wound healing; makes collagen and supports bones, skin and joints.
B1 - Thiamine (muscles and central nervous system),
B2 - Riboflavin (carbohydrate metabolism, skin, eyes and nervous system),
B3 - Niacin (hydrogen transfer in cells, maintenance of skin and immune system)
B6 - Pyridoxine, Pyridocal, Pyridoxamine (amino acid metabolism, immune and
B9 - Folic Acid (formation of red blood corpuscles)
B12 - Cyanocobalamin (animal protein necessary for the manufacturing of red blood cells, conversion of volatile fatty acids into sugars, skin, hair, immune and
nervous system - Aloe Vera is one of the rare plant sources of Vitamin B12)
Amino Acids - 30 amino acids are required for good health to be maintained and all but 8 can be manufactured in the body. The others, known as essential amino acids, need to be taken as food. Together they form the building blocks of proteins from which we manufacture and repair muscle. Aloe Vera contains 19 of the 20 amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential ones. The missing amino acid is tryptophan and this has said to be in there too but has not shown enough conclusive evidence to be documented.
Enzymes - Aloe Vera contains many enzymes: Peroxidase, Carboxypeptidase, Lipase, Cellulose, Catalase, Alkaline Phosphatase, Aliiase and Amylase, which can be divided into two groups, those that aid digestion and those that are anti-inflammatory Amylase is known to break down starch and sugar whilst others like lipase help break down fats. Consequently allowing the nutrients in our food to be more efficiently absorbed.
Sugars - Aloe Vera contains two sorts of sugars, monosaccharaides, such as glucose and fructose, and long chain sugars called polysaccharides, the main one being glucomannose which is often referred to as Acemannan.
Sterols - The plant sterols are important anti-inflammatory agents, Campesterol, Sitosterol and Lupeol. Lupeol also acts as an antiseptic and analgesic agent.
Salicylic acid - metabolised in the body to an aspirin-like compound which, together with lupeol, provides some of its pain killing properties
Other small molecules found in the solid matter are various plant hormones
How does it work?
It is believed the answer lies in its synergistic action. Synergism is the combined effect that exceeds the sum of the individual effects. It is reported that the best quality product result from filleted aloe inner leaf gel rather than the whole leaf.
Aloe Vera has 3 main important qualities:
* Provides essential micro nutrients * Kills bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts * Reduces inflammation
The positive combination of nutrients, reduction in infection and inflammation promotes new cell growth and rapid healing. When Aloe Vera was added to human fibroblast cell culture, there was shown to be an eight-fold increase in replication. Fibroblasts are essential cells involved in the healing process. They provide collagen fibres of the scar tissue, which knot wounds together. This may be the single most important factor influenced by Aloe Vera in the acceleration of healing process without any known side effects,
Burns - soothes, relieves pain, reduces inflammation and promotes healing with minimal scar formation.
It has also shown beneficial to conditions such as chronic leg ulcers, chronic itching, eczema, psoriasis and acne - without the undesired side effects of long term use of steroid creams.
Extremely used in cosmetic industry because of its ability to penetrate tissues due to lignin content and partly due to its anaesthetic, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and ant-inflammatory effects.
A healing and anti-ageing agent because of its ability to moisturise, reduce wrinkling through increased formation of collagen and elastin plus reduction of pigment formation.
Where does it work?
Aloe vera is not a ‘cure all’, it merely contains properties which help support our natural body functions, particularly surface and membranes such as skin, lining of sinuses, nose, throat, stomach and bowel plus lungs and genital tract and also supports the immune system from aggressors such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Skin is the largest organ in the body and is remarkably resilient, however, prolonged exposure to extremes of weather and external pollution, poor nutrition and the effects of internal stress can result in damage and tendency to develop disorders. Aloe vera can help us balance what is needed to supress such conditions as well as more day to day problems such as insect bites, stings, bruises and burns. And it is recorded to be more beneficial when taken orally as well as applied topically.
Internally, conditions involving damaged tissue, i.e., asthma, as well as stomach and bowel problems plus fungal organisms, Herpes Zoster (shingles) and is a bactericidal to at least 6 species of bacteria including Staphylococcus, yeast Candida and fungi which causes Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis).
It is also recorded to have successful effects treating conditions involving the lining of the digestive tact, such as indigestion, heartburn, peptic and duodenal ulcers, diverticulitis and ulcerative colitis, bowel disorders and other ‘irritable’ organs such as bladder including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Those who drink Aloe Vera Gel regularly, report to feel generally better and studies showing Aloe Vera Gel to help balance the immune system, making it more effective, with fewer coughs, colds and sore throats.
Key players in the immune system
Cells called lymphocytes (B cells + T cells) and phagocytes are found in tissue and circulating in the blood. B-lymphocytes produce antibodies but T-lymphocytes orchestrate the response system by helping cells to make antibodies; recognise and destroy cells infected with viruses; activate phagocytes and control the level and quality of the immune system. The immune response is delivered by chemical messengers (cytokines) and the cytokine system orchestrate the lymphocytes.
It is at this level where the polysaccharide ‘Acemannan’ - a major component of Aloe Vera - works as it acts as an ‘immunomodulator’ and has the ability to either enhance or reduce the immune response. Positive aspects of polysaccharides, including Acemannan, are that they line the colon to prevent absorption of toxic waste, producing a barrier against microbial invasion, providing critical lubrication of joints, help maintain the capacity of movement of fluids, allow transfer of gases to the lungs plus facilitate absorption of water, electrolytes and nutrients in the gastro intestinal track.