Can an Aloe vera extract modulate cellular activity in the gastrointestinal tract?

Published on: 

A lead scientist from Herbalife discusses how her team conducted a study to identify new Aloe vera extract effects on gastrointestinal cell balance.

Aloe vera is widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory, restorative, and soothing properties. The plant has been used for thousands of years to alleviate traditional therapeutic and topical cosmetic issues, as well as gastrointestinal and metabolic symptoms including digestion and stomach issues. In folk medicine, the ingestion of Aloe vera whole-leaf juice (including the latex) was used to relieve diabetic symptoms and lower cholesterol. Today, Aloe vera gel beverages are prepared and consumed to support a healthy metabolism by helping the body maintain normal glucose levels and a normal lipid profile.

However, in comparison to other herbal ingredients on the market, limited information is available around Aloe vera’s biological effects after decolorization. Some scientific research addresses the safety concerns about the plant, most of which is due to improper processing to remove the latex and other toxins.

For nearly a decade, Herbalife, a global health and wellness company, has been working on increasing current scientific knowledge about the Aloe vera plant and its derivatives. This includes benefits and characteristics that may not have been explored yet, and how to enhance its health benefits for consumers.

The benefits of aloe are attributable to the plant’s unique composition of phytochemicals and, in particular, the complex polysaccharides present in the gel. Most commercially produced Aloe vera juice is purified using a decolorization process, which removes latex constituents from the gel via activated charcoal filtration.

A Case Study: Aloe Vera’s Capacity to Modulate Gut Cells

In this study, we hypothesized that decolorized Aloe vera polysaccharide–enriched extracts have the ability to alleviate gastric and intestinal discomfort in humans. Several plausible mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory properties, healing effects, mucus-stimulating effects, and regulation of gastric secretions, have been attributed to Aloe vera gel’s unique composition—in particular, the presence of polysaccharides.

A necessary part of the healing of any wound, including gastric ulcers, is vascularization of the wound clot and granulation tissue. In previous studies, we developed samples, by specific technique, that allowed us to enrich the polysaccharide content. We tested the effects of those samples in different parameters of angiogenesis using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). These unique extracts interacted on several aspects of endothelial function in HUVECs and showed positive effects on endothelial cell proliferation and migration associated with wound healing.

These previous results encouraged us to develop specific decolorized Aloe vera polysaccharide–enriched extracts that could positively impact gut cell dynamics.

To this end, we developed decolorized enriched polysaccharides samples from the whole-leaf and inner-leaf starting material, and we evaluated the effects of these samples on the physiology of two human cell lines: the stomach gastric adenocarcinoma (AGS) and intestinal myofibroblast (InMyoFib) cells. We hypothesized that these enriched preparations would have beneficial effects in these gut cell models. We tested six different preparations at three different concentrations, and we evaluated different cellular parameters like proliferation, wound healing, and apoptosis.

Our results found that decolorized Aloe vera polysaccharide-enriched preparations can modulate gastrointestinal cellular activity, thus preventing apoptosis and inducing wound healing. This means that eventually the consumption of these particular preparations may support a better cell balance and thus a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Further experiments are needed in order to validate this activity and verify that this potential modulation is also pertinent to a human biological response.

Sharing Aloe vera Research with the Industry

Herbalife scientists validated that decolorized Aloe vera polysaccharide–enriched preparations have beneficial effects on human gastrointestinal cell lines in the form of soothing and healing wounds within the intestinal tract. The data was presented at the inaugural American Physiology Summit (APS) in Long Beach, CA, in May 2023.1

The findings in this study provide evidence that not only can Aloe vera be an aid for digestion, but decolorized polysaccharide–enriched samples have healing effects on the intestinal tract. This work is part of Herbalife’s ongoing Aloe Research Program, which has led to three peer-reviewed publications on the analysis and characterization of chemical composition of Aloe vera, and two aloe patents. This recent study underscores Herbalife’s commitment to being a leader in nutrition science and advancing the science of Aloe vera.

Unbalanced diets are strongly associated with overweight and metabolic disruption development. As part of our ongoing research strategy, we will continue to explore and develop decolorized Aloe vera ingredients that may aid in support of a healthy metabolic profile for consumers.

About the Author

Isabel Garcia Tornadu, PhD, is a principal research scientist of global product science and safety at Herbalife.


  1. Garcia-Tornadu, I.; Riaño-Gomez, J.; He, K.; Lux-Lantos, V.; Smillie, T. Decolorized Aloe vera polysaccharide enriched preparations and their effects on human gastrointestinal cell lines. American Physiological Society. May 23, 2023. DOI: 10.1152/physiol.2023.38.S1.5788154