Aloe vera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Nellie Shapiro
instructor Alakananda Ma
Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula
Common Name: Aloe Vera
English Names: Barbados Aloe, Curacao Aloe, Indian Aloe, Jafarabad Aloe
Sanskrit Names :Kumari, Kanya, Ghrita-kumari, Vipulasrava, Sthuladala, Dirgha Patra, Mandala.
Hindi Names: Ghee-kunwar, Ghee-kuvar, Gvar patha
Habitat: Aloe Vera grows wild predominantly in India, Central/South America
Africa, Arabia, also cultivated in Europe.
Part used : Whole plant
Aloe Vera is a coarse-looking perennial plant with a short stem.
Widely prized in the ancient world as "plant of immortality". Ancient Egyptians buried it with pharaohs in tombs. Cleopatra and Queen of Nile used it for bathing. Many ancient physicians, such as Galen, Pliny, Dioscorides as well as Surushta and Charaka, praised its values. It was brought to the USA from Africa in the sixteenth century. In many countries it has become a common household remedy for the variety of uses.
Ayurvedic Herbal Energetics
Gunas Guru, Picchila, Snigdha
Karmas of Aloe Vera
Vranaropana (wound healing activity), Rasayana(rejuvenative for the skin, intestines, female reproductive system),Artavajanana (promotes menses),Dipana (enkindles the digestive fire),Visphota (removes pustules), Bhedaniya Purgative - powder), Raktapitta (alleviates bleeding),Amapacana (clearing ama),Visahara (destroys poison), Llihayakrdvrddhihara (reduces inflammations of spleen and liver), Granthi(clears tumor).(1)
Aloe Vera works on all dhatus and following srotas: digestive, circulatory, female reproductive, excretory.
Aloe vera contains B12, vitamin A and E, iron, potassium, calcium, protein, folic acid, chromium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, essential fatty acids and amino acids.
In human clinical studies, the juice of the Aloe plant aids digestive irritations like colitis, IBS and soothes stomach ulcers because the plant extract encourages the release of gastric juice enzyme needed to aid digestion called pepsin.
Aloe Vera gel is an excellent tonic for the liver and spleen, for the female reproductive and blood system. Chromium--the mineral that researchers found in the Aloe plant--is known to benefit patients suffering from circulatory problems, as well as cardiac disease. It was found that high concentrations of the Aloe gel stimulated the production of white blood cells in the body.
For 5 years, studies of five thousand patients with atheromatous heart disease were done, adding the 'Husk of Isabgol' and 'aloe vera' to the diet. A noticeable reduction in total serum cholesterol, serum triglycerides, fasting and post-prandial blood sugar level in diabetic patients, total lipids and also increase in HDL were noted. Also, "the clinical profile of these patients showed reduction in the frequency of anginal attacks and gradually, the drugs, like verapamil, nifedipine, beta-blockers and nitrates, were tapered. The patients, most benefitted, were diabetics (without adding any antidiabetic drug)." The exact mechanism of the action is not known, but probably it is working because of high fiber contest. No side effect was noted and all the five thousand patients are surviving till date.(3 )
Chinese scientists researched antioxidant properties and cell protective effects of a polysaccharide from Aloe vera. The result suggested that it "could be a preventive and therapeutic significance to some free radical associated health problems such as coronary heart ailments, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Furthermore, the finding shed as well fresh light helpful for a better understanding of the health-benefiting potential of the edible plant consumed by the Chinese people for a couple of centuries."(4)
It supports the immune system and healthy breathing. Pacifies all agnis, reduces and rejuvenate Pitta. 2t of it can be taken 3 times a day, with a pinch of turmeric as a general tonic (2). Externally, the gel has been used in many ways: cosmetics, wound-healing, psoriases (5). "Freeze-dried Aloe vera extract is a natural effective ingredient for improving skin hydration, possibly through a humectant mechanism. Consequently, it may be used in moisturizing cosmetic formulations and also as a complement in the treatment of dry skin."(6,). Separate studies revealed that adding aloe vera gel in the sunscreen increases efficiency of the formulation more then four times. (6)
Aloe latex is officially approved as a laxative in the US, Germany, England. It is recommended for such conditions as hemorrhoids, fissures, after rectal and anal surgeries. Externally, latex is used as a soothing agent in treating burns and mild cuts in a gel form (7).
Aloe Vera gel showed significant results in treating diabetes mellitus, asthma, and peptic ulcers
In animal studies, aloe gel showed wound healing, anti-inflammatory, gastro protective, spermicidal, antiviral, as well as cholesterol lowering and immune-stimulating qualities (8, 9 ).
Wound healing. A recent study showed aloe is more effective than conventional treatments for burns, frostbite, and intra-arterial damage.
Antiviral and spermicidal effect was shown in an in vitro study. The authors concluded that it might be useful as a contraceptive, especially in preventing the transmission
Gastro protective properties. When aloe gel was given to rats before ulcer inducing stress, the number of ulcers decreased by 80%. After developing ulcers, the animals given aloe vera gel recovered 3 times faster compare to the control animals (9).
Immune stimulation. When given orally to animals, it was shown to lower cholesterol.
Animal studies found antitumor and anticancer activity in alcoholic extract of aloe.
Recent human clinical studies of external use of aloe vera gel for wound healing and psoriasis showed that aloe accelerated healing by 72 hours (patients after dermabrasion).
The wounds of patients with frostbites and burns healed faster and had less tissue loss and fewer complications compare with conventional methods (10).
The internal use of the gel has been studied for treating asthma; diabetes mellitus and peptic ulcers showed and reported positive results ( 8 ).
In addition to gel and powder form, tincture and fermented gel are being used.
The famous classic Ayurvedic medicine, Kumaryasava, uses fermented aloe gel to make a tonic herbal wine, such a wine which is normally flavored using jaagery or honey and varied spices. It is used as a remedy for the treatment of anemia in patients; in the treatment of the digestive system, various female reproductive and liver disorders.
"...This recipe increases strength, color, digestive capacity, weight and taste, acts as a aphrodisiac, relieves pain of indigestion, eight kinds of udara (abdominal inlargment ), severe kshaya (consumption), twenty kinds of prameha (diabetes ), udavarta ( reverse peristalsis ), apasmara ( epilepsy ), sukra dosas ( disorders of the semen ), ashmari ( urinary calculus ), krmi ( parasites ) and raktapitta ( purpura ) without doubt (18-27)." (11).
Aloe can be combined with shatavari as a nutritive tonic, with gentian as a bitter tonic, with manjista as an emmenagogue (12).
Contraindications: pregnancy (powder), powder in vata constipation.
Aloe Vera is contraindicated in cases of known allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family.
Aloe vera is well known and used worldwide as a medicinal plant.
The external use of aloe vera for minor wounds, burns (including radiation burns), and frostbites has been established through extensive use and clinical and pharmacological studies. The internal use of Aloe vera for peptic ulcer, diabetes type 2, asthma, HIV and many other potential uses needs additional studies. Since ancient time, aloe has provided humankind with numerous valuable medicinal products. Human studies continue to confirm its therapeutic use.
1. Dr.Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine. Livingstone: Elsevier, 2006.
2.. Frawley, David, and Dr. Lad ,Vasant. The Yoga of Herbs. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press , 2008
3. Agarwal , OP. "Prevention of atheromatous heart disease". Angiology 1985 Aug;36(8):-: 485-492.
4. Wu JH, Xu C, Shan CY, Tan RX, "Antioxidant properties and PC12 cell protective effects of APS-1, a polysaccharide from Aloe vera var. chinensis". Life Sci. 2006 Jan : 622-630.
5.. Bruneton,J. 1995. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medical Plants. .Paris Lavoisier Publishing.
6. Dal'Belo SE, Gaspar LR, Maia Campos PM., "Moisturizing effect of cosmetic formulations containing Aloe vera extract in different concentrations assessed by skin bioengineering techniques.". Skin Res Technol. 2006 Nov;: 241-246.
7. Bradley,P.R.,1992.British Herbal Compendium.Vol.1.Dorset:British Herbal Medicine Association
8. Davis,R.H.et.al.1994.Mannose-6-Phosphate:Anti-inflammatory and wound healing activity of a growth substance in Aloe vera.J.Appl.Hort.,2(1):10-14
9. Danhof,I. 1991.Potential Benefits from Orally ingested Internal Aloe vera Gel. Irving, Texas: International Aloe Science Council 10th Annual Aloe Scientific Seminar
10.. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, Vol 79, Issue 11 559-562, Copyright © 1989 by American Podiatric Medical Association
11. Bhavaprakasa of Bhavamisra. Chwkhamba Krishnadas Academy
12. "HerbMed". Alternative Medicine Foundation, Inc. 03.29.10 <www.herbmed.org>.