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Aloe vera, commonly known as Barbados or Curaçao Aloe, is an herbal medicine with a long tradition of use by a variety of cultures. The succulent plant grows in arid and subtropical climates and is best known for 2 distinct preparations: the clear mucilaginous gel that is widely used for the treatment of minor burns, especially sunburns, and the thick sap of the leaves that turns yellow-brown and has strong laxative effects that caution its use. The traditional uses of the clear mucilaginous gel are manifold, ranging from topical applications to reduce perspiration to oral dosing for diabetes and a range of gastrointestinal ailments.
The efficacy of aloe vera gel to treat burn wounds, genital herpes, and seborrheic dermatitis have been shown in clinical trials, but other indications such as psoriasis or internal application for the treatment of type 2 diabetes remain inconclusive. The main limitation of the current clinical knowledge about aloe vera gel is small clinical studies that often lack rigorous methodology.
Several clinical trials are being conducted to further evaluate the use of aloe vera gel for a variety of disorders, as well as to further confirm traditional uses of the plant extract.
Aloe vera (syn. Aloe barbadensis Mill., Fam. Liliaceae), also known as Barbados or Curaçao Aloe, has been used in traditional and folk medicines for thousands of years to treat and cure a variety of diseases. Although the plant is native to northern parts of Africa, it has rapidly spread across the world because its cultivation is easy.
An important distinction has to be made between the strongly laxative and purgative latex derived from the bundle-sheath cells and the clear mucilaginous gel. The plant has been used by Egyptians, Assyrians, and Mediterranean civilizations, as well as in Biblical times. A variety of aloe species are still used in folk medicines of Africa and Asia. Hunters in the Congo reportedly rub their bodies in the clear mucilaginous gel to reduce perspiration; some African tribes apply the gel for chronic conjunctivitis; the gel is used in India for the treatment of asthma.1 Aloe vera gel is used as an ethnomedicine in Trinidad and Tobago for hypertension.2 The most common folk use of aloe has been for the
treatment of burn wounds and specifically to aid in the healing process, reduce inflammation, and tissue scaring. The gel was described by Dioscorides and used to treat wounds and mouth infections, soothe itching, and cure sores.3 The use of aloe vera gel as a household remedy in the United States was triggered by reports of its beneficial effect on radiation dermatitis4 followed by a boom in cultivation in the 1930s; it remains a common plant and for burns and abrasions.1,5 Important contemporary uses of the gel exist in traditional medicines of India, China, and Mexico, as well as Middle America and the West Indies. Mexico is producing roughly 47% of aloe worldwide with a total sales volume of $123.5 million US dollars as of 2008.6 Despite its widespread popularity, scientific evidence on the aloe vera gel remains sparse. Aloe vera gel is regarded as safe if applied topical with only a few allergic reactions being reported.7 The efficacy of aloe vera gel to treat burn wounds, genital herpes, and seborrheic dermatitis have been shown in clinical trials, but other indications such as psoriasis or internal application for the treatment of type 2 diabetes remain inconclusive. The major application of aloe vera gel remains as a skin moisturizer in cosmetics and as an après treatment for sunburns, for which it has proven its effectiveness.8,9 Conclusions
In conclusion, the use of aloe vera gel or its components for the treatment of a variety of conditions and diseases needs further clinical evidence through well-designed studies with defined aloe extracts and matching placebo controls. Currently (June 2012), 5 national and international clinical studies are listed by the United States National Institutes of Health clinical trial database with a major emphasis on the use of aloe vera in the treatment of wounds.122 This indicates the scientific significance of aloe vera gel and the need to establish it as a valid treatment option for wounds. However, the use of aloe vera gel in topical applications has widely been confirmed in the clinical studies as safe.
The results showed that both the gel and the leaf have inhibitory effect on S. aureus with zone of inhibition 18.0 and 4.0 mm, respectively. Among the bacteria and fungi tested, A. Vera gel possesses greatest inhibitory effect on the S. aureus. This result could be responsible for the popular use of A. Vera gel and leaf to relieve many types of gastrointestinal irritations (Foster, 1999; Grindlay and Reynolds, 1986) since S. aureus form part of the normal microbial flora of the skin, upper respiratory tract and intestinal tract (Cheesbrough, 1984). Also the gel is also said to promote wound healing due to the presence of some components like anthraquinones and homones (Davis, 1997), which posses antibacterial antifungal and antiviral activities. However, most of the constituents are found in the gel and not in the leaf; hence the gel is likely to be more active than the leaf.
The gel also inhibited the growth of T. mentagrophytes (zone of inhibition: 20.0 mm) while the leaf has no effect on the organism. This result indicates that gel and the leaf are made up of different constituents, which is manifested in antimicrobial activities. However, the leaf possesses inhibitory effect on P. aeruginosa (zone of inhibition: 4.0 mm) while the gel had no effect. P. aeruginosa is known to cause skin infection especially
at burns sites, wounds, pressure sores and ulcers.
The inhibitory effect of the leaf of A. Vera on the growth of P. aeruginosa gives an explanation of its reputation as a healing plant for burns. The growth of C. albicans was also inhibited by A. vera leaf but was not affected by the gel. Many different clinical forms of candidiasis are known involving primarily the mucosa surface (thrush gastrointestinal or urogenital tract) and deep-seated infections such as candidaemia or meningitis. Candida vaginitis is a common infection during pregnancy. Candida infection of the mouth and esophagus are common in those with HIV disease (Cheeshrough, 1984). Davis (1997) in his experiment challenged the medical views of the relationship between AIDS and HIV infections and A. vera. He sees a promising role for this natural brood spectrum healing plant because of its immunodulatory properties can also act as an immune stimulant. The results of inhibitions effect on C. albicans also established that the A. vera gel and leaf, though share certain components, are distinct from one another (Foster 1999). In conclusion, more work should also be carried out on the leaf to reveal some of its potentials. This investigation shows that both the gel and the leaf are useful and that they can complement one another in their medicinal capabilities.
Aloe vera gel has so many uses and benefits ranging from reduce of perspiration, diabetes control, treat burn wounds, genital herpes, and seborrhea dermatitis and more. The following lists are some of our recommendations for the use of Aloe vera gel.
Ardines, Lovely Joy
Mrs. Nenette T. Olape
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