Aloe, medicinal but over-commercialized

Medicinal herbs fell into oblivion in the mid-20th century, came back into the spotlight in the 1970s, but are now, unfortunately, relentlessly exploited by cosmetic and other small and large companies. Aloe is such a good medicinal plant, which is now ridiculously said to be good for anything and everything. Let the honest, simple and true Aloe rise! Aloe from a distant past.
The Ancient Egyptian “Papyrus Ebers” from the 16th century BC is the first document that mentions Aloe. Originally African, Aloe species were further spread to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Arab traders probably brought them to Asia and Spanish conquistadors and missionaries took them to the “New World”. Aloe can now be found almost all over the world, naturalized and cultivated, in warm, dry regions. The plant appears as a medicine in various folk cultures. The applications generally appear to be remarkably similar, ranging from coughs to headaches to eye complaints. However, its best known use is for skin conditions and as a laxative.

Laxatives: anthraquinones

The latter is marketed as ‘aloe resin’ and is obtained by thickening the sap from the leaves into a solid mass. The laxative effect is caused by the anthraquinone glycosides (aloin), in which certain resins and bitter substances also play a role. These resins were mainly used in conventional medicine.

Especially for the skin: the mucilages.

In recent years, Aloe vera and its effect on the skin have received a lot of attention. Aloe vera is one of almost 300 different species from the aloe genus. It is an example of a herbaceous plant, but there are also shrubs and trees. They are succulents belonging to the Lily family. Succulents are able to quickly absorb and store moisture so that they can survive with a minimum of moisture absorption. Perhaps this property has inspired some to try Aloe on human skin. In addition to the bitter yellow juice, the leaves also contain a jelly-like mass that has a nourishing and moisture-binding effect on the skin, probably due to a combination of substances such as carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, minerals, enzymes and vitamins. The gel can also improve and accelerate healing of wounds. Positive results have been achieved in particular with burns, including those caused by X-rays. In addition to a cooling effect, which postpones progressive damage to skin cells, the gel contains certain anti-inflammatory substances, such as:

  • aloctin A inhibits prostaglandin synthesis, which causes dilation of vessels on damaged skin;
  • magnesium lactate prevents the production of histamine, which is released during injuries and causes symptoms such as redness and swelling;
  • bradykininase that leads to the destruction of bradykinin, a polypeptide with a certain effect on inflammation.


Other substances in the Aloe.

The following substances have other effects:
acemannan is a polysaccharide with an immune-stimulating effect, through an action on the lymphocytes; the sugar mannose is said to be an active growth component that makes damaged skin cells and skin tissue regenerate more quickly;
anthraquinones are present to a limited extent in the gel. Tests showed that these substances had an antiviral and bacteriostatic effect on the skin.

Aloe in the future.

Aloe vera is actually still being researched. Other possible active substances are still being discovered, such as sterols, saponins, lectins and others. It has not yet been possible to pinpoint one substance alone as being responsible for the effect.
What is disturbing is the current “fad” around Aloe vera. The plant is extremely popular, especially in America. Aloe vera seems to be an indispensable ingredient in all kinds of cosmetics and all-purpose drinks. Exaggerated and common. on the expensive side. Commercialization can ultimately only detract from the true value of this ancient medicinal herb.

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