Volume 21, Issue 1
From skin benefits to digestive system support, aloe has much to offer.
Aloe vera is an herb that has been used since ancient times by cultures throughout the world for its healing properties. The first recorded use of aloe dates to the Ebers Papyrus from the 16th century B.C. in Egypt.1 Traditional medicine supports the broad use of aloe as a remedy and modern science continues to validate its beneficial mechanisms of action.
The two main components of the aloe leaf are the latex and the inner leaf gel. The latex is a source of anthracene compounds, which have strong laxative effects. The gel, on the other hand, contains polysaccharides including glucomannan and galactan, as well as glycoproteins.
Aloe has historically been used for its wound-healing properties when applied topically, while evidence also supports its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-health benefits.2 Recent studies highlighted here attest to the beneficial effects of aloe on blood sugar and cardiovascular health, digestive function, healthy skin aging, and antioxidant support.
1. Bahmani M, et al., “Aloe: An update on its phytomedicinal, pharmaceutical and therapeutic properties,” Der Pharmacia Lettre, vol. 8, no. 1 (January 2016): 206-213
2. Choi S et al., “Relationship between aloe components and their biologic effects,” Seminars in Integrative Medicine, vol. 1, no. 1 (March 2013): 53-62
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Blood Sugar Management
A recently published meta-analysis reviewed the evidence related to aloe supplementation and blood sugar metabolism. As the incidence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome continues to rise, the need for effective measures to manage blood sugar levels is critical.
William Dick and colleagues examined the literature for human clinical studies of assessing aloe’s effect on fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), insulin resistance, and response to oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) in both prediabetic and diabetic individuals.3 The researchers identified and examined nine studies that measured fasting blood glucose levels, five of which also assessed HbA1c values.
On average, aloe consumption reduced fasting blood glucose levels by 46.6 mg/dL while HbA1c values were reduced by an average of 1.05%. In addition, reductions in fasting blood glucose levels were greater in individuals with levels exceeding 200 mg/dL at baseline. The results of the meta-analysis suggest that oral aloe is beneficial for blood sugar and HbA1c support in diabetic and prediabetics, while the magnitude of the result may be greater in those with more advanced blood sugar dysregulation issues.
2. Dick WR et al., “Reduction of fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin a1c using oral aloe vera: a meta-analysis,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 22, no. 6 (June 2016): 450-457
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Healthy Skin Aging
Recent evidence also points to benefits with oral aloe supplementation on skin conditions. Aloe gel is a source of compounds known as sterols that, according to preliminary research, have been found to stimulate collagen and hyaluronic acid production in human skin cells.
Researchers from Japan led by Miyuki Tanaka of Morinaga Milk Industries Co., Ltd. (Zama City, Japan) recently conducted a study investigating the effects of oral aloe sterol supplementation on skin elasticity, hydration, and the collagen score in 64 healthy women (average age 44.3 years).4 In the 12-week, double-blind placebo–controlled study, women received either yogurt supplemented with aloe gel powder (40 mcg of sterols per 100 g) or a placebo yogurt.
Measures of skin hydration were significantly greater at four, eight, and 12 weeks in the aloe group compared to baseline; by contrast, skin hydration decreased over the 12-week period in the placebo group. Transepidermal water loss decreased in the aloe group while it increased in the placebo group over the study period, indicating a hydration-preserving effect with aloe supplementation. Skin elasticity was also superior in the aloe group; likewise, skin collagen content was greater in the aloe group compared with the placebo. Thus, supplementation with aloe gel containing sterols supports several parameters of healthy skin and may be useful for combating skin aging.
4. Tanaka M et al., “Effects of Aloe sterol supplementation on skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen score: a 12-week double-blind, randomized, controlled trial,” Skin Pharmacology Physiology, vol. 29, no. 6, (2016): 309-317
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Digestive Health and Function
Aloe is commonly regarded as a remedy for digestive issues because it has a soothing effect on the digestive tract. A group of researchers led by Yunes Panahi from Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences (Tehran, Iran) aimed to investigate the effects of aloe syrup in individuals with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).5 In this four-week randomized, controlled, comparative study, 79 individuals with GERD were asked to consume either 10 mL/d of aloe syrup (containing 5 mg of polysaccharides per mL); omeprazole (20 mg/d), a proton-pump inhibiting drug; or ranitidine (150 mg twice daily), a heart burn drug. The frequency of eight common GERD symptoms were evaluated at two and four weeks. These included heartburn, food regurgitation, flatulence, belching, dysphagia, nausea, vomiting, and acid regurgitation.
Aloe supplementation provided significant relief and was found to reduce the frequency of all GERD symptoms, with all but the reduction in vomiting reaching statistical significance versus baseline values. The popular drugs ranitidine and omeprazole also reduced the frequency of the majority of GERD symptoms. The investigators determined the efficacy of aloe syrup to be comparable with both drugs for reducing symptoms of GERD.
5. Panahi Y, et al., “Efficacy and safety of Aloe syrup for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a pilot randomized positive-controlled trial,” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, vol. 35, no. 6 (December 2015): 632-636
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Antioxidant and Immune Health
Previous research has found the inner leaf juice of aloe to have immune health supportive properties. However, there is less research investigating the effects of decolorized aloe leaf juice. Decolorization is a purification process whereby the laxative components of aloe are removed.
Caroline Ingles from Herbalife (Torrance, CA) led a recent study in collaboration with researchers from NIS Labs (Klamath Falls, OR) aiming to compare the antioxidant and immune-modulating effects of aloe decolorized leaf juice to the inner leaf juice in vitro.6 The researchers assessed the preparations for total antioxidant capacity and direct immune-modulating effects in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells as well as looking at their ability to activate other immune cell populations, including natural killer (NK) cells, NKT cells, and T-lymphocytes.
The study found that decolorized leaf juice significantly enhanced total antioxidant capacity and activation of T-lymphocytes and monocytes. Further, the decolorized leaf juice showed the ability to increase the expression of immune markers on NK cells. By contrast, the inner leaf juice showed only a limited immune-modulating activity on T-cells. These results indicated that the decolorized leaf juice has a greater immune-stimulating effect than the inner leaf juice, showing support for the innate immune system.
These findings point to the potential benefits of decolorized leaf juice and pave the way for additional research to corroborate these effects in human studies.
6. Ingles C, et al., “Antioxidant and immune-modulatory effects of aloe decolorized leaf juice vs. inner leaf juice,” The FASEB Journal, vol. 31, no. 1 (April 2017): Supplement lb400. Published online April 2017.
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