Aloe vera’s ingestible health benefits are gaining marketing traction.
As the baby boomer generation starts collecting Social Security, many boomers are looking for ways to turn back the clock and make up for too many years of indulgence, sun worshipping, and overall neglect. Also, having witnessed skyrocketing healthcare costs and the healthcare struggles of their parents and grandparents, today a huge number of people—young and old—are looking for new ways to stay healthy and look younger. All this, of course, has been welcome news and a great opportunity for the vitamin and dietary supplements industry.
Aloe vera has been around since the dawn of time, but only recently has this simple plant and its juice been the topic of health discussions and emerging research. Many people know the benefits and excellent results of applying Aloe vera to the skin. More and more, however, many are realizing that topical application is just the tip of the Aloe vera iceberg in terms of health potential. As such, more studies are being done to investigate Aloe vera’s benefits as an ingestible supplement.
Ahead, we look at the developing research in emerging health categories supporting this amazing ingredient.
Aloe Vera: Antioxidants
Oxidative stress has been implicated in many diseases and the aging process, and is caused by an imbalance in the production of reactive oxygen species and the body’s ability to detoxify the reactive intermediates or easily repair the resulting damage. Although the body naturally produces a host of antioxidants to defend itself against reactive oxygen species, supplemental antioxidant products have nevertheless become a tremendous category for natural products, including food and supplements.
How does Aloe vera factor in? Phase II enzymes are known to reduce oxidative stress, and Aloe vera has been shown to stimulate the production of natural Phase II antioxidants. Daily dosing of Aloe vera can stimulate a person’s natural, inherent antioxidant system to help fight oxidative stress.
Aloe Vera: Inside Beauty
In the beauty industry, the beauty-from-within category continues to grow. As new products launch in the marketplace and in the United States, slowly but surely this concept is taking hold. Many new products promise younger-looking skin, and here, science—including a recent human clinical study—supports the cosmetic benefits that have been touted of Aloe vera for years.
This recent human clinical study was completed by the Department of Dermatology at Seoul National University’s Boramae Hospital, Seoul National University College of Medicine, and was funded by a grant from the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA).
Thirty healthy female subjects over the age of 45 were orally supplemented with either a low or a high dose (low dose=1,200 mg/day; high dose=3,600 mg/day) of Aloe vera gel for 90 days. After completion of the 90-day period, the KFDA concluded that ingested Aloe vera gel resulted in a significant reduction in facial wrinkles and a significant increase in skin elasticity. There were no adverse events reported. There was also an increase in collagen production and a decrease in collagen-degrading MMP-1 gene expression.
In another study, oral treatments with Aloe vera were found to have a positive influence on the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, thereby benefitting wound healing. Still other studies have been done specifically showing Aloe vera can increase the collagen content of the granulation tissue, the fibrous tissue involved in wound healing. While more studies are needed to further explore the ingestible benefits of Aloe vera, there is a clear indication that Aloe vera as a supplement will help the skin look better.
Aloe Vera: Cardiovascular Benefits
*Study on Aloecorp’s (Seattle, WA) Qmatrix Aloe vera
Cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer in the United States. Lowering cholesterol is a key prevention in mitigating the risk of heart disease. A number of studies done in the United States and abroad have shown Aloe vera taken as a supplement can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. One human clinical study showed that the group taking aloe experienced a 10% drop in total cholesterol. This same study showed a drop in LDL and triglyceride levels to near optimum levels.
Cardiovascular health, as well as metabolic syndrome and related issues like diabetes, is also linked to oxidative stress. A recent placebo-controlled human clinical trial showed that the group taking Aloe vera had a significant reduction in risk factors associated with oxidative stress, including C-reactive protein, a marker of oxidative stress and inflammation. In the Aloe vera group, C-reactive protein dropped by 38%, and isoprostanes, compounds formed by the peroxidation of essential fatty acids, dropped by 32%.
Aloe Vera: Immune Health
*Study used Aloecorp’s Qmatrix Aloe vera
Science has shown us ways to enhance our innate immune systems through supplementation, with tests now able to determine if an ingredient is increasing Peripheral Blood Monocyte (PBM) CD56 and the cell-killing capability of natural killer cells.
A study sanctioned by the Korean Food and Drug Administration indicated that the group taking an Aloe vera supplement saw increased PBM CD56 and the cell-killing capability of natural killer cells, indicating immune enhancement. As a result of this study, the KFDA has allowed immune-health claims to be made for products containing Aloe vera.
Aloe Vera: Oral Care
Oral care is another emerging interest area surrounding Aloe vera. Consider a human clinical study done by the Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics at the Government Dental College and Research Institute in Bangalore, India, and published in the Journal of Periodontology. Results showed that the group using a toothpaste containing Aloe vera had “significant improvement in gingival and plaque index scores as well as microbiologic counts compared to placebo dentifrice. These improvements were comparable to triclosan-containing toothpaste.”
Companies producing oral care products, particularly toothpastes, should take a hard look at this study and perhaps consider Aloe vera as an alternative to triclosan, which is an ingredient that has been the subject of some negative press.
For years, many people have called Aloe vera miraculous. More and more, anecdotal evidence and developing research seems to corroborate this opinion. There is no doubt that taking Aloe vera as a supplement has benefits. And as more Aloe vera products launch in the United States and worldwide, more people are realizing the benefits of Aloe vera.
But remember that not all aloe sources are alike. The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) has set standards for Aloe vera certification for both ingredients and products. Using IASC-certified Aloe vera assures consumers of an Aloe vera product’s aloe content and that the quality of aloe meets IASC current standards and comes from a certified source. The IASC is now part of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD), and its members are dedicated to providing quality Aloe vera.
Additionally, certification by the IASC is now of even greater importance in light of the cGMP requirements now governing dietary supplements. Identity, purity, and strength testing of a dietary ingredient prior to its use is required by 21 CFR111.75(a)(1)(i). These new requirements for testing will hopefully expose any aloe adulteration. And adulterated Aloe vera has been a problem. For instance, although something labeled as a “200x inner leaf Aloe vera powder” should contain purely Aloe vera solids, some 200x inner leaf Aloe vera powders have been found to contain maltodextrin. As such, many growers, processors, and suppliers of Aloe vera have welcomed the new cGMP requirements. Manufacturers of Aloe vera drinks and supplements should embrace these new rules and test vigorously to be confident they are receiving real Aloe vera.
Aloe’s Coming of Age
Today, there are many natural products available to consumers to help them live better, fuller, healthier, and happier lives. Aloe vera is one of these. At a time when products come and go quickly on the market, aloe retains a strong league of dedicated supporters. That group will only grow as new products with Aloe vera are created and launched.
Interest in Aloe vera as a key ingredient for new beverages is especially high. Tom Vierhile, director of innovation insights for market researcher Datamonitor, stated, “Aloe is starting to get some real traction. It has always been highly regarded in Asian specialty stores, but most Americans are familiar with aloe as a cosmetic ingredient and are just learning about the benefits of aloe as a nutraceutical.” He points to the recently launched Aloe Gloe aloe-containing beverage as helping to “Americanize” the aloe market, even stating that aloe is still just at the sales level where the now very successful coconut water market stood only four years ago.
The future for Aloe vera is bright, and the reason Aloe vera will grow is simple: Aloe vera works.