Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) grows in arid climates around the world. This cactus-like plant produces two distinct medicines from the gel and latex resin.
ALOE GEL. The succulent leaves produce a gel comprised mainly of glucomannan polysaccharides. It hastens wound healing by increasing the synthesis of collagen and elastin, reducing inflammation and also hydrating the skin. Research supports the topical application of the gel to speed healing of thermal burns, skin-grafts. However, aloe appears ineffective at preventing or treating radiation burns and sunburns. Gel polysaccharides modulate the immune system and facilitate antibody production imparting it with antiviral activity. Aloe gel shows promising results for other disorders including lichen planus, psoriasis, aphthous stomatitis, herpes, warts, seborrheic dermatitis.
ALOE RESIN. The inner leaf contains a bitter latex resin that contains anthraquinone glycosides. Like other herbs that include these compounds (senna, rhubarb, buckthorn), aloe resin act as stimulating laxatives. Anthraquinone glycosides travel to the large intestine where gut bacteria remove the sugar (glycoside) thus activating them. Free anthraquinones stimulate peristalsis and prevent electrolyte resorption from the lumen of the bowel thus increasing the volume of water in the bowl. The resin typically produces bowel movements with 6-8 hours of oral administration.
Inner leaves contain anthraquinones and have stimulating laxative effects, whereas the gel is high in mucilage. See 'Senna' for discussion about stimulating laxatives. Gel uses are discussed below:
Gastrointestinal (gel, internal use)
• dysfunctional bowels
• irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• general inflammation
• peptic ulcer
Dermatologic (gel, topical use)
• leg ulcers
• pressure ulcers
• varicose veins
• anal fisures
• seborrhoeic dermatitis
• viral infections
• Carbohydrates (E.g. Acemannan )
• Topical (gel): apply the gel liberally to wounds
• Oral (gel): 25 ml of aloe juice qd-qid
• Gel: Generally considered safe when used as indicated.
• Resin: See senna for safety concerns regarding anthraquinones.
• Hypoglycemics • the gel may potentiate their action. Monitor patients blood glucose.
• Hydrocortisone • increased antiinflammatory effects when combined with gel.
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