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Aloe Vera Treatment: Description and Benefits

Boon, Heather & Smith, J. Micheal. (2004).The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs. Robert Rose Publishers. p.25-33

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If the book was a stop shop for all the information concerning the Aloe vera species as a traditional and non traditional medical remedy then it has undoubtedly succeeded in providing a concise exposition on the subject matter. Aloe plant is a perennial succulent inhabitant of the East and South Africa. Initially, it was only found in the wild but the discovery of its therapeutic potential has led to its widespread and extensive cultivation worldwide. There are currently documented more than three hundred species of aloe however, A. vera previously referred to as A. barbadensis P. Miller or Aloe vera Lam is the most dominant therapeutic option. Aloe vera can be identified with reference to its rosette form, long spear like leaves with thorny ridges that emanate from the base and taper to a point.

The gel is a clear mucilaginous fluid that is found in the parenchyma and is therapeutically useful as a medicinal agent for treating abrasions and infections of the skin while the aloin is a potent laxative. As early as 550 BC the Greeks used Aloe vera for treating skin infections, hemorrhoids and chapping. Other legends such as the allegation that Aloe vera was the secret to Cleopatra’s beauty attest to its beauty aids. It is also alleged that after the crucifixion of Jesus Aloe vera was applied on his body. Early medical practitioners in India recognized it as cathartic, anthelminthic and stomachic. The Chinese exploited it as a dermatological remedy. It is based on these early interventions that the current non traditional medical uses of Aloe vera are based.

Current medical research confirms that Aloe vera is anti inflammatory, anti fungal and antibacterial. It promotes the healing of lacerations and burns possibly be enhancing the immune defense capacity. Topical applications are currently being used against psoriasis and dental conditions. Aloes have a strong anti viral properties and hypoglycemic properties but being a strong purgative, its clinical uses as regards these two properties is limited in its scope of use. Using fresh leaves, researchers have successfully treated pruritus vulvae and palmar eczema. However, for full thickness wounds Aloe vera has exhibited either negative or insignificant results during the treatment process. Mechanisms of wound healing can be explained by the occlusive nature of Aloe vera hence its pharmacological activity may just be as simple as acting as a protective barrier.

Aloe vera extracts inhibit a wide range of bacterial species. In in-vitro trials, it inhibited Bacillus subtilis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is bacteriostatic to S. aureas, S. pyogenes and Salmonella paratyphi; bacteriocidal to Streptococcus agalctiae, citrobacter species, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterobacter cloacae.

By the early 1930s the investigation on the efficacy of Aloe vera on offering protection against radiation had begun. Several studies have confirmed its effectiveness in treating or preventing the side effects of radiation therapy. The usefulness of aloe vera to diabetic patients is due to its ability to enhance wound healing. In unblinded studies using streptozotocin induced diabetic mice, researchers have demonstrated its ability to improve wound healing, relieve pain and decrease edema.

Acemanan, an isolate of Aloe vera has been demonstrated to possess anti-tumour activity. The same compound is significantly antiviral.

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Braun, Lesley & Cohen, Marc. 2007. Herbs & Natural Supplements: An Evidence- Based Guide. Elsevier Australia. p. 137-145

Aloe vera is also known as Barbados aloe or Curacao aloe has been therapeutically indispensable since the ancient times. As an agent for the treatment of wounds and burns its use has been recorded as early as 2100 BC. Internally, it was used as a tonic, carminative, laxative, antihelminthic, aphrodisiac as well as being an inflammatory agent. Its wound healing effect can be explained by the fact that it can inhibit thromboxane in vitro. Thromboxane has an inhibitory effect on the healing process. Aloe also contains enzymes that break down damaged tissue. Allantoin stimulates epitheliasation while acemannan stimulates the production of macrophages IL1 and TNF which are very crucial for the wound healing process.

Aloe vera is effective in treating radiation induced dermatitis just as mild steroid creams. In a double blinded placebo clinical study on the efficacy of Aloe vera on the treatment of psoriasis it was demonstrated that it exhibits a positive effect on the treatment of chronic psoriasis. In the study the PASI (psoriasis area and severity index) scored means ranging from 4.8-16.7. examination on a weekly basis showed progressive reductions in the lesion size, desquamation through decreased erythema, infiltration and consequently the reduction in the PASI score.

Other studies have yielded positive therapeutic trials for genital herpes, ulcerative colitis and even HIV where it is instrumental as an adjunct therapy to ARVs. The acemannan component may enhance anti-HIV activity as it increases monocyte activity. Even though the effectiveness of Aloe vera in diabetes and cancer ailments is still ongoing, systemic reviews have pointed towards its glycemic control ability in diabetes, for instance it can lower the levels of blood glucose in diabetic patients. In cancer, Aloe vera may have the capacity to reduce the risk to cancer. It is for this reason that it has become an adjunct treatment in cases of chronic poor immunity, chronic disease, HIV and cancer. These results are but preliminary findings, more research need to be done to determine dose ranges for favorable therapeutic outcomes.

Gage, Dianne. (1996). Aloe Vera: Nature’s Soothing Healer. Inner Traditions/ Beer & Company. p. 1-94

Gage (2004) posits that of the 275 species that constitute the genus Aloe, four are commercially exploited and the most predominant is the Aloe barbadensis Miller (sometimes referred to as Aloe vulgaris Lamarck, Aloe vera Linne but commonly Aloe vera or true aloe).

Descriptively, the plant has thick, thorn edged leaves that can range from grey to bright green. To a majority of the world populace Aloe vera is but a folk remedy passed down from generation to generation. Initially a popular remedy for minor cuts and burns and a decorative house plant. Presently, Aloe vera has been demonstrated to home natural ingredients that are the main driving force of the multi million dollar industry of health supplements, dietary supplements, pharmaceutical creams and beauty aids. Not only has it been successful in drawing the enthusiasm of medical researchers and scientists to elucidate the healing properties of the translucent juice and soothing gel that constitute the inside of its leaves.

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Novel research findings such as the acemannan; a carbohydrate complex rich in active ingredients has led to more therapeutic applications such as the treatment and management of cancers, ulcers, tumors, wounds, ulcers, inflammatory diseases and even the dreaded infectious viral diseases such as Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus(HIV) and Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS). Aloe vera creams have always been useful in the treatment of thermal injuries, acne, eye inflammations, gum inflammations.

The pharmacological activity of Aloe vera can only be made with respect to two main constituents; the aloe gel and the aloe drug. The drug is a derivative of the juice from the leaves. Purification of this juice yields resins, anthraglycosides and anthraquinones. Aloin and barbaloin (commercially aloe-emodin) are derived from the anthraglycoside component. Aloin exhibits a strong cathartic effect useful as a laxative. The screening properties of Aloe vera have been exploited by the cosmetics industry to produce ultraviolet protection creams. The gel which is mainly an adaptation necessity for survival of the Aloe species in extreme dry climatic conditions. This gel has a special chemical make-up consisting of water and several other therapeutic substances such as inorganic substances like sodium, potassium, phosphorus, chloride and calcium as well as organic compounds such as glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, protein, salicylic acid and traces of zinc and magnesium.

Kelly, L., Bagchi, D. & Preus, G. Harry. (2004). Phytopharmaceuticals in Cancer Chemoprevention. CRC Press. p. 94.

Aloe vera; a cactus like plant is believed to be indigenous to Africa. This plant is the most prominent of the family which is constituted of more than three hundred species. Originally regarded as a folkloric medicine, aloe vera has grown from being a form of traditional therapeutic intervention to being a non traditional medicine in that its efficacy is ongoing trial even in the management and treatment of diseases such as cancer which are not traditional. The last decades has seen growing popularity of Aloe vera as an adjunct and considerably effective therapeutic intervention in heal burns and side effects after radiation therapy. This non traditional medical use has strong correlation with the traditional use of aloe where it was beneficial in the healing of burns and cuts.

There are a currently a large number of research reports that allude to the fact that aloe vera possesses protective effects against radiation ulcers and skin injury induced by radiation treatments. In a randomized, blinded clinical study carried out to test the efficacy of aloe vera against such radiation induced side effects; Aloe vera gel was demonstrated to exhibit a protective effect hence preventing skin reactions among patients undergoing radiotherapy. Other Phase III trials demonstrated no significant protective effect. Additionally, Aloe vera was also found to possess antifungal and antibacterial properties. Aloe vera increases the blood flow to areas of tissue injury, stimulate fibroblasts hence stimulating the growth of skin cells that are responsible for the healing of the wounds.

When experimental tumors in rats and mice were treated with aloe juice, it exhibited chemopreventive, anti-tumour, and anti carcinogenic properties. There was a significant reduction of metastasis frequency, tumor mass and metastatic foci. From a bioassay guided purification of the aloe therapeutic components, its was elucidated that the component hydroxyanthraquinone (aloe-emodin) significantly inhibited human neuroectodermal tumors and P-388 lymphocytic leukemia that were planted and expresses in mice. These properties are attributable to the immune stimulation and modulation that aloe stimulates through antigen (macrophage) activation. The resultant effect is the release of interleukins, interferons and tumor necrosis factor. By inhibiting angiogenesis, the aloe gel ensured that the process of the formation of blood vessels supplying the tumor was inhibited.

Other studies of anti-tumour activity have demonstrated the ability of the combination of Aloe vera and melatonin to delay metastasis onset among patients presenting advanced stage solid tumors. This is inclusive of breast cancer. The general safety of Aloe vera either in oral or topical therapeutic applications is godsend. In addition to its approval by the Food and Drug Association (FDA) as a flavoring agent, its benefits have created an impetus to the medical research community. Further studies may yield favorable health outcome to the world’s populace.

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