It contains a wide range, but the most important ones are the antioxidant vitamins C and E and Beta-Carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. It is also one of the few plant sources in the world of vitamin B12 - so very useful to vegetarians and vegans.
These include magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, chromium, calcium,sodium,and potassium.
The human body requires 22 amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and Aloe Vera gel contains 20 of them. More importantly, it provides seven of the eight essentialamino acids that cannot be manufactured by the body and which therfore have to be consumed as food.
These include the important muco-polysaccharides which act on the immune system as well as helping to detoxify the boby.
Lipases and proteases which break down food and aid digestion.
The three main types act as a powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
This woody substance bestows on Aloe Vera its penetrative ability to reach deep into the skin.
These are soapy substances that exert a powerful anti-microbial effect against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts such as candida or 'thrush'.
The most important ones being aloin and emodin, but altogether they are strong painkillers, and are acknowledged to possess anti-bacterial and viruscidal activity. In there pure form, they are very powerful laxatives.
The physical and chemical properties of Aloe Vera
The aloe plant, being a cactus plant, is between 99 and 99.5 per cent water, with an average pH of 4.5. The remaining solid material contains over 75 different ingredients including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, sugars, anthraquinones or phenolic compounds, lignin, saponins, sterols, amino acids and salicylic acid. These are described in more detail below.
The plant contains many vitamins, excluding vitamin D but including the important antioxidant vitamins A, C and F. Vitamins B (thiamine), niacin, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), choline and folic acid are also present. Some authorities suggest that there is also a trace of vitamin B12 (Coats1979).
When taken orally, several of these biochemical catalysts, such as amylase and lipase, can aid digestion by breaking down fats and sugars. One important enzyme, a carboxy-peptidase, inactivates bradykinins and produces an anti-inflammatory effect. During the inflamma-tory process, bradykinin produces pain associated with vasodilation and, therefore, its hydrolysis reduces these two components and produces an analgesic effect (Obata et al 1993, Shelton 1991).
Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, chromium and iron are all found in the aloe plant. Magnesium lactate inhibits histidine decarboxylase and prevents the formation of histamine from the amino acid, histadine (Shelton 1991). Histamine is released in many allergic reactions and causes intense itching and pain. The prevention of its formation may explain the antipuritic effect of aloe vera.
Sugars are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant under the rind, surrounding the inner parenchyma or gel. They form 25 per cent of the solid fraction and comprise both mono- and polysaccharides. By far the most important are the long chain polysaccharides, comprising glucose and mannose, known as the gluco-mannans (Beta - (1, 4) - linked acetylated mannan). When taken orally, some of these bind to receptor sites that line the gut and form a barrier, possibly helping to prevent ïleaky gut syndromeÍ. Others are ingested whole by a method of cellular absorption known as pinocytosis. Unlike other sugars which are broken down prior to absorption, the polysaccharides are absorbed complete and appear in the blood stream unchanged. Here, they act as immuno-modulators „ capable of enhancing and retarding the immune response (Green 1996, Kahlon etal 1991, Sheets etall9gi).
These phenolic compounds are found in the sap. The bitter aloes consist of free anthraquinones and their derivatives:
Barbaloin-lO- (1151 „ anhydroglucosyl) „ aloe-emodin-9-anthrone)
Anthrone-C-glycosides and chromones.
In large amounts these compounds exert a powerful purgative effect, but when smaller they appear to aid absorption from the gut, are potent antimicrobial agents (Lorenzetti et all 964, Sims eta/i 971 a), and possess powerful analgesic effects. Topically, they can absorb ultra violet light, inhibit tyronase activity, reduce the formation of melanin and any tendency to hyper-pigmentation (McKeown 1987, Strickland eta/i 993). Lignin This woody substance, inert in itself, endows topical aloe preparations with their singular penetrative ability to carry other active ingredients deep into the skin to nourish the dermis (Coats 1979).
These soapy substances form 3 per cent of the gel and are general cleansers, having antiseptic properties (Hirat and Suga 1983).
Sterols These include Campesterol, f3 Sitosterol and Lupeol (Coats 1979).
This is an aspirin-like compound possessing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Topically, it has a kerolytic effect which helps to debride a wound of necrotic tissue.
These are the building blocks of proteins. Aloe vera gel provides 20 of the 22 necessary amino acids required by the human body and seven of the eight essential amino acids which the body cannot synthesise. These must be ingested in food.