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Aloe Vera

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Aloe vera is a perennial plant which grows wild in eastern and southern Africa. It is cultivated in the West Indies and has been found in the Zapata area of Texas. The plant has a thick fibrous root which produces large basal leaves. The leaves are one to two feet long, two to three feet wide, gradually tapering to a point. They are whitish green on both sides and bear spiny teeth on the margins. Red, yellow, purple, or pale striped flowers are present most of the year, growing in a long raceme at the top of the flower stalk which originates from the center of the basal leaves. The flower stalk can grow up to four and a half feet in height. The fruit is a triangular capsule containing numerous seeds. The medicinal part is the leaves.

Other common names: Barbados aloe, Curacao aloe


 Aloe emodin  Amino acids  Anthraquinones
 Arabinose  Antibiotic principles  Barbaloin
 Carbohydrates  Emodin  Galactose
 Glucomannan  Gum  Lignin
 Proteolytic enzymes  Rhein  Polysaccharides
 Saponins  Wound healing hormones  Cathartic anthraglycosides
 Xylose  Steroids  

* For definition of some of the above terms see the dictionary section of this book.

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  Aloesin   Chloride  Chromium
 Copper   Magnesium  Manganese
 Vitamin B-3  Folic Acid  Vitamin B-12
 Zinc  B Complex Vitamins  


Cathartic - an agent which produces active bowel movements, often causing accompanying cramps; it is usually combined with an antispasmodic.

Emollient - a skin dressing or soothing ointment.

Purgative - a substance which causes a watery evacuation of the bowels.

Stimulant - an agent that temporarily increases activity or physiological processes. Stimulants may be classified according to the organ upon which they act; for example, an intestinal stimulant is that which stimulates the intestines.

Vulnerary - any form of first aid for wounds and skin abrasions

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Aloe vera is thought to have "biogenic stimulators" and wound healing hormone activity. Externally, the juice has been used to treat skin diseases, burns, and bruises, having both soothing and healing properties. When the soft, pulpy leaves are cut or broken, the clear juice flows freely and should be applied to the affected area as quickly as possible. Liquid aloe vera also helps prevent scar tissue from occurring inside the body at the site of an incision. If the gel is applied frequently just after surgery, the incision will heal more rapidly and leave less scar tissue.

Partially disintegrated aloe vera, in which the pulp had lost some of its gumminess and turned a pink color instead of the usual clear, was applied to rats with third degree X-ray burns. The recovery was 23.7% higher than in rats treated with fresh pulp. This led to the hypothesis that aloe vera cells next to the rind seed into the pulp and further improve the healing process. To test this theory, another group of rats was tested with ground mesh aloe vera rinds as an X-ray burn poultice. Their 100% healing suggested that the healing agents are concentrated in the fresh rind, not in the seeds. Recently, Soviet medical personnel have suggested that liquid aloe vera can be given intravenously. Modern physicians have even prescribed this for nuclear and other radiation burns. Further, it has been discovered that, taken internally, liquid aloe vera helps mend tissue damaged by cobalt radiation, a typical result of radiation cancer treatments provided by nuclear medicine. The cut leaves of aloe contain anthraquinone glycosides which are collectively termed "aloin." Aloin consists of the pentosides barbaloin and isobarbaloin, resins, saponins, and other substances. Barbaloin, on hydrolysis, yields a mixture in which aloe emodin has been identified. Aloe emodin content is highest in Curacao aloe.

Aloe vera's mucilaginous pulp has been researched by a number of clinical investigators in an attempt to establish its active principles. It is 96% water, and among its polysaccharides, scientists have isolated glucose, mannose, traces of arabinose, galactose and xylose.

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Some reports indicate that aloes should not be used during pregnancy. Aloes may have purgative affects; it is a common, but unsubstantiated belief that overdoses of strong purgatives will cause abortions as they tend to cause everything in the body to be expelled.

Aloes are widely considered, but are not confirmed to be emmenagogues. Emmenagogues are agents that will promote menstruation. Such agents would tend to promote the aborting of the fetus from the uterus. It is believed to contribute to abnormalities of the fetus if taken orally during the first forty days of pregnancy. Although the emmenagogic activity of aloes have been documented, further research in this area is needed to substantiate this assumption.

Some reports indicate that aloes should not be used in the treatment of hermorrhoids. Aloe products can be purchased in many forms; the most common forms are aloe vera gel and drug aloe. The drug aloe can be taken internally in small amounts for its laxative effects.

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Known Interactions

Aloe vera, due to its cathartic activity, may potentiate anticoagulant therapy by reducing absorption of Vitamin K from the gut. This herb may also inhibit absorption of dextrose from the intestines. As it is a cathartic herb, aloe vera may increase the intestinal transit time of digitalis glycosides, thereby inhibiting absorption and cardiac action. It should also be noted that cathartic induce

hypokalemia increase the toxicity and potency of absorbed digitalis as well as potentiating muscle relaxants. In addition to the specific interactions listed, the cathartic action of aloe vera tends to hasten the passage of all oral medications through the gut, thus inhibiting their action.

Possible Interactions

Laxative induced diarrhea caused by aloe vera may result in the decreased absorption of isoniazid; the same is true of sulfisoxazole, however this appears to be a clinically unimportant interaction effect.


Laxative induced increased speed of intestinal emptying caused by this herb may result in decreased absorption of vitamin K and/or anticoagulants.

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