Aloe vera a plant extract that has been used for centuries is most recognized for its soothing effects on sunburns. Research however shows a variety of other potential benefits including anti-inflammatory antimicrobial antioxidant and antiparasitic properties. Aloe has been studied for its effect on blood glucose skin tissue engineering wound healing acne and even dentistry. It appears that much of aloe's beneficial effects have to do with its propensity to help combat oxidative stress.
In a 2014 study with 99 non-insulin diabetics participants were split into three groups where one group received no aloe while the other two received 100 mg and 200 mg of aloe vera gel powder respectively. Those in the 200 mg group saw greater reductions in fasting blood glucose postprandial glucose levels total cholesterol LDL VLDL and blood pressure as well as increased HDL.
Animal studies support these findings and doses of 2000 mg/kg/day have shown no adverse effects. In two different studies rats and mice were given a standardized composition of aloe. Changes in lipid peroxidation status and antioxidant enzyme levels in both of these studies suggest aloe may be useful in the management of diabetes and aggravated antioxidant status.Plasma glucose levels and fasting triglyceride levels decreased in both studies while one study showed a significant decrease in body weight gain for males and females receiving a dose of 100 mg/kg/day. In rat studies promise in the area of hyperlipidemia has also been shown. In a February 2014 study dried pulp of aloe succotrina leaves significantly reduced high-fat induced hyperlipidemia in rats through the inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase activity.
Skin Tissue Engineering/Wound Healing
Statistically significant differences were seen when aloe vera juice was used in a topical cream for anal fissures. In fact improvements in pain reduction and wound healing were found by the end of the first week. Treatment of open wounds on rats with aloe vera polysaccharides have also been found to contribute to a faster wound closure rate.
Another interesting area which may not immediately come to mind when we think of open wounds is acne vulgaris. Yet some of these lesions can easily open. Perhaps these wound healing properties of aloe are the reason it has shown promise with mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Compared to topical retinoids and placebo a cream with 50 percent aloe vera gel combined with topical retinoids was well tolerated and shown to be significantly more effective. This is extraordinary considering that topical retinoids are typically the drug of choice for acne while aloe may offer more soothing effects and ease the trauma to the skin.
Although not as common burns can be more traumatic than other skin ailments. Aloe has been shown to ease some of the pain and skin pulling associated with changing a burn dressing in first and second-degree burns. In in vivo experiments with tape stripping adding aloe to vitamin E acetate proved more effective in treating burns than vitamin E acetate alone
It is interesting to note that aloe is quite popular within the glassblowing community. Many glassblowers keep aloe vera plants growing in their hot shops so that they are immediately available in the event these artists are accidentally burned. They simply remove a few meaty leaves from the plant break them open at the widest part and squeeze some gel out of the leaves directly onto the affected site.
If aloe can help heal our skin then why not help regenerate it? Hydrophilic properties and tensile strain as well as fibroblast proliferation were all shown to be favorable when aloe vera was combined with silk fibroin for scaffolds in skin regeneration. Similar results as well as increased thermal stability were found in scaffolds with a combination of aloe vera chitosan and collagen. Enhanced tissue growth and rapid fibroblast growth were greater when aloe vera was added to the combination than with collagen-chitosan alone. The greater the amount of the aloe vera the greater the healing.
These healing properties could be the reason aloe vera shows promise in conditions such as ulcerative colitis and gum disease. With so many of aloe's beneficial properties being studied we are sure to see more updates coming in these and possibly other areas.