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The Components of the Aloe Leaf

by Dr Peter Atherton(more info)

listed in aloe vera, originally published in issue 20 - May 1997

Cross-Section of an Aloe Leaf

 

 

 

The components of Aloe Vera can be divided into the following groups:

 

1. Vitamins
It is rich in all vitamins excluding Vitamin D, especially the antioxidant Vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E and even contains a trace of Vit. B12, one of the very few plant sources of this vitamin. This is important for vegetarians and vegans.

2. Enzymes
Several different types of these biochemical catalysts when taken orally aid digestion by breaking down fat and sugars.
One in particular, Bradykinase, helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically and therefore reduces pain, whereas others help digest any dead tissues in wounds. Lipases and proteases which break down foods and aid digestion are present.

3. Minerals
Calcium, Sodium Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium, Copper, Zinc, Chromium and the anti-oxidant Selenium.
Although minerals and trace elements are only needed in very small quantities, they are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems in different metabolic pathways.

4. Sugars
These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant which surrounds the inner gel. and are known as mucopolysaccharides, which enhance the immune system and help to detoxify. Aloe Vera contains both mono and polysaccharides, but the most important are the long chain sugars involving glucose and mannose or the gluco-mannans which I have already referred to. These sugars are ingested whole from the gut, not broken down like other sugars, and appear in the bloodstream in exactly the same form. This process is known as pinocytosis. Once in the blood stream they are able to exert their immuno-regulating effect. Some of these polysaccharides are not absorbed but stick to certain cells lining the gut and form a barrier preventing absorption of unwanted material so helping to prevent a "leaking" gut syndrome. In topical preparations the sugars are also the main moisturisers.

5. Anthraquinones
There are twelve of these Phenolic compounds which are found exclusively in the plant sap. In small quantities, when they do not exert their purgative effect, they aid absorption from the gastro-intestinal tract and have anti-microbial and pain killing effects. In some commercial health drinks, the anthraquinones are removed because of the fear of producing abdominal pain or diarrhoea, but I feel that they are actually beneficial in small amounts. The important ones, Aloin and Emodin, act as painkillers. They also function as anti-bacterials and anti-virals.

6. Lignin
This in itself is an inert substance but when included in topical preparations it endows Aloe Vera with a singular penetrative effect so the other ingredients are absorbed into the skin.

7. Saponins
These soapy substances form about 3% of the Aloe Vera gel and are capable of cleansing, having antiseptic properties. These act powerfully as anti-microbials against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts.

8. Fatty Acids
Cholesterol, Campesterol, b. Sisosterol and Lupeol.
These four plant steroids are important anti-inflammatory agents.

9. Salicylic acid
An aspirin-like compound possessing anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

10. Amino Acids
The body needs 22 amino acids – the gel provides 20 of these. More importantly, it provides 7 out of the 8 essential amino acids which the body cannot synthesise.

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About Dr Peter Atherton

Dr Peter Atherton M.B.Ch.B., D.Obst. R.C.O.G., M.R.C.G.P. is currently a research Fellow at Oxford University studying the medicinal effects of Aloe Vera. His recent book The Essential Aloe Vera can be purchased from Mill Enterprises, Thornborough Mill, Buckingham, MK18 2ED, at a price of £6.00 incl. p&p.

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