The Aloe vera plant has been known and used for centuries for its health, beauty, medicinal and skin care properties.
Botanical names: Aloe barbadensis miller, Aloe ferox, Aloe spp.
Active components: Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars (monosaccharides, polysaccharides), lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. Anthraquinones: aloin, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives.
Aloe is a genus that contains more than 500 species, it naturally grows in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, India and America.
A brief history of Aloe Vera
Until today Aloe vera is used to sooth the skin and to support healthy digestion (the inner leaf), it may use as a laxative when made from the whole leaf
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 a protective function and synthesizes carbohydrates and proteins.
Why Aloe is so special?
- Healing properties: Aloe gel accelerated wound healing following oral or topical treatment.
- Effects on skin exposure to UV and gamma radiation: Aloe vera gel has been reported to have a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin.
- Laxative effects: Anthraquinones present in latex are a potent laxative. It increases intestinal water content, stimulates mucus secretion and increases intestinal peristalsis.
Only when made from the whole leaf, the inner gel is not laxative, the aloin compound is causing that effect. Aloin can cause unwanted side effects such as electrolyte imbalance, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
The whole leaf is not recommended to use frequently and not to use more than a week.
- Moisturizing and anti-ageing effect: Mucopolysaccharides help in binding moisture into the skin.
Aloe stimulates fibroblast which produces the collagen and elastin fibres making the skin more elastic.
It also softens the skin and has an anti-acne effect.
- Teeth and gums: Aloe vera in tooth gels is as effective as toothpaste in fighting cavities. Aloe latex (the latex is a thin layer of yellow liquid between the skin and the gel of the leaf) contains anthraquinones, compounds that actively heal and reduce pain through natural anti-inflammatory effects.
How to choose Aloe vera product?
There are plenty of products in the market, with a verity of Aloe vera contents from 2% to over 90%.
Always check the ingredients
Aloe vera gel– which contains a high concentration of polysaccharides (acemannan), organic acids, amino acids and vitamins which are really good for you, but also contains aloin, which can have laxative action.
Aloe vera juice from the inner leaf does not contain aloin, but it still preserves the rest of the active ingredients.
Some manufacturers use aloe vera powders in their products, this makes the product to be less powerful than the juice/gel.