The Physical And Chemical Properties Of Aloe Vera
The aloe plant, being a cactus plant, is between 99 and 99.5 per cent water, with an average pH of 4.5. The remaining solid material contains over 75 different ingredients including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, sugars, anthraquinones or phenolic compounds, lignin, saponins, sterols, amino acids and salicylic acid. These are described in more detail below.
What Makes Aloe Vera Work?
It is surprising that the evident healing effects of aloe vera can be produced by such a small quantity of solid material. Some people believe that there is a synergistic action between all the component ingredients, giving a result which is greater than the sum of the individual actions.
The combined action of all herbal preparations taken from whole stems, roots, leaves or fruits containing huge numbers, but very small amounts of phytochemicals, stretches the boundaries of the conventional medicinal paradigm. In all allopathic (orthodox) medicine, the practice is to isolate, in a chemically pure form, the biologically active substance of the consitutent ingredients. These extracted drugs must be uniform in their composition in order to demonstrate a consistent physiological effect.
Perhaps there is some truth in an ancient Ayurvedic text from India: ‘Extracting drugs from a part of the plant is taking out the intelligence and throwing away the wisdom.’ Whole plant preparations, though less potent, are generally considered to be safer with fewer side effects.
The evidence suggests that the primary sites of action for aloe vera are:
Should It Be Taken Internally Or Applied Topically?
Aloe vera can be taken internally as a drink or applied topically. The principle ingredient of any product should be the stabilised aloe vera gel which is as near to the inner gel of the natural plant as possible. It must not, therefore, be treated with excessive heat or filtered during the manufacturing process, as this destroys or reduces the effect of certain essential compounds, such as the enzymes and polysaccharides. Regrettably there are many products which contain virtually no aloe and yet are marketed as though they do. Caution applies particularly to cheap capsules of dried aloe leaf.
Not only does aloe vera provide nutrition and produce an anti-inflammatory action, it also has a wide range of antimicrobial activity. In-vitro experiments have been carried out on numerous organisms and have regularly shown that, in normal strength, aloe vera is either bactericidal or bacteriostatic against a number of common wound pathogens.