Preparations of Aloe Vera have long been used to ease inflammatory processes originating from a wide variety of triggering causes. This sets out the nature of inflammation, how aloe vera works to influence it, and what clinical problems can be helped as a results.
Anti -Inflammatory Action of Aloe in Acute Inflammation
The anti-inflammatory action of Aloe in acute inflammation is one of the best-known actions. It is clearly responsible for all the early benefits from applying Aloe Gel or Whole Leaf Extract, or various preparations and ointments and creams of Aloe to wounds, cuts and abrasions of all kinds. It must also be responsible for the early benefits in sports injuries, frost-bite, burns and radiation burns, in the tissue-damage applications associated with dentistry and otolaryngology, as well as its earliest effects upon arthritis and upon infections. Many kinds of beneficial action which Aloe has been noted to hdve upon other conditions which are primarily inflammatory in nature, would also be examples of this same basis of action, including insect bites and stings of all kinds and also jelly-fish stings. Much skin disease also is associated with a lot of inflammation, and clearly benefits from the same action. It is certainly reasonable to list the antiinflammatory action as being one of the fundamental beneficial actions of Aloe – and as one of those actions which has favourable knock-on consequences.
Quite a significant number of papers have been published which clearly report that Aloe vera, or other Aloe, has a notable anti-inflammatory effect in acute inflammation. For example, “Tissue response to Aloe vera gel following periodontal surgery”, by Payne in 1970, “Topical antiinflammatory activity of Aloe vera as measured by ear swelling.” by Davis, Leitner & Russo, 1987, “Processed Aloe vera Administered Topically Inhibits Inflammation”, by Davis, Roenthal, Cesario &. Rouw, (1989) and “Aloe vera and the inflamed synovial pouch model.” by Davis, Stewart &. Bregman, 1992. However, there have by now been so many publications confirming anti-inflammatory activity that the existence of such activity is in no doubt whatever. The discussion which continues is about the mechanism of the anti-inflammatory effect and which chemical components of Aloe vera are involved in this.
How Exactly does Aloe vera Reduce Inflammation?
Aloe vera contains plant steroids and it is well known that steroids exert an anti-inflammatory effect and are widely used for this in orthodox medicine in the form of steroid drugs. One theory was that the natural plant steroids which Aloe vera contains were capable of acting rather like steroid drugs. This has been investigated by Dr R.H. Davis and his team of Pennsylvania. Several of their papers have enquired into the mechanism of anti-inflammatory effect. Of special importance is “Aloe Vera, Hydrocortisone, and Sterol Influence on Wound Tensile Strength and Anti-inflammation.” Davis, Didonato, Johnson, Stewart, (1994). This paper highlights the fact that steroids exert their well-known anti-inflammatory effect at the expense of partially inhibiting the wound-healing powers of the tissues. Moreover, Aloe contains other antiinflammatory ingredients as well, not just the steroids, so the actual contribution made by steroids to Aloe’s anti-inflammatory action could be quite small, but this has not yet been dearly quantified. The fact that Aloe vera at one and the same time both alleviates inflammation and also promotes healing is due to the fact that Aloe vera also contains very powerful promoters of healing, far stronger and more effective than the inhibitory effect of the steroids. The principal steroids of Aloe vera are called Lupeol, β-Sitosterol and Campesterol.
Again, these same authors also say that Aloe has the enzyme activity called bradykininase. Bradykinin is a peptide substance which causes increased vascular permeability to stimulate inflammation. Bradykininase breaks down bradykinin, reducing inflammation. Aloe possesses bradykininase activity and also decreases inflammation in this way. Other papers confirm the presence of bradykininase enzyme in Aloe. These are “Bradykininase activity in Aloe extract” by Fujita., Teradaira, & Nagatsu, 1976, “Anti-Bradykinin Active Material in Aloe saponaria” by Yagi, A., Harada, N., Iwadare, S & Nishioka, I., 1982 and “Bradykinin-Degrading Glycoprotein in Aloe arborescens var. natalensis.” by Yagi, A., Harada, N., Shimomura, K. Nishioka, I.1986.
Salicylic Acid and Salicylates
Another theory about anti-inflammatory action was that the aromatic acid salicylic acid, and its salts, the salicylates, make an important contribution. Salicylic acid is closely related to aspirin, which does reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of some hormones called “prostaglandins”. Whilst this is entirely possible, it has yet to be shown whether Aloe contains salicylates in the appropriate concentrations to have such a significant effect, and whether the salicylates in Aloe are any higher than their concentrations in numerous other plants which also contain them. Cherries, currants, dates, prunes and raspberries are among the common foods which contain quite high levels of salicylates. Most users of Aloe products would be inclined to assert very strongly, surely, that the benefits they enjoy from Aloe are far more, and are different from, the mere taking of an aspirin or the eating of prunes.
It has also been suggested in literature that Aloe vera exerts an effect inhibiting the production of histamine – one of the important chemical messengers in inflammation. In one paper the magnesium content of Aloe was ascribed to this role, though this seems unlikely because of the low delivery of magnesium in Aloe compared to other sources.
Complaints which may benefit from Aloe by relief of Chronic Inflammation
This is a relatively little researched area and the tendency has been to investigate the performance of Aloe against named illnesses without seeking to ascribe the positive results to the exact mechanism of Aloe’s actions. It can be observed, however, that the following conditions, which have been demonstrated to benefit from Aloe, do involve chronic inflammation, i.e. peptic ulcer, leg ulcers, arthritis, Type II diabetes. These conditions most probably do benefit from relief of the chronic inflammation component which is part of them. Other illnesses with a chronic inflammation component are longer term inflammatory digestive system complaints e.g. intestinal, such as Crohn’s disease, Type I diabetes, psoriasis, eczema, bursitis, tendonitis, lupus erythematosus, gout, complications of diabetes, myositis (prolonged muscle inflammations), hyperthyroidism and multiple sclerosis. Some of these illnesses are the subject of anecdotal reports about the efficacy of Aloe but they do not appear to have been investigated with regard to their response to Aloe. Nonetheless, inherently, because of their chronic inflammation component, one might well expect them to respond. In fact, chronic inflammation is such a fundamental process occurring in pathology, that a high proportion of all the chronic illnesses known to medicine will have such a component, and therefore might well be expected to respond in respect of their chronic inflammation component.