Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
My Aloe Vera Related Pages
Over 200 Bioactive Compounds
Aloe vera is a plant native to Africa and Asia with medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and has been studied in many countries, including the United States. Its compounds have been found to help treat skin burns, bacterial infections such as strep throat, intestinal parasites such as amoebas, and various cancers such as lymphoma. Our article this week focuses on the chemical components of aloe vera that contribute to its varied medicinal applications.
Aloe vera contains over 200 naturally-occurring bioactive compounds that have a wide spectrum of biological activities as identified by scientists. I find that Aloe has many secrets still left to reveal so it is with great excitement I find there is a growing interest in extracting the active components from Aloe vera and also in understanding the science behind the benefits.
A Unique Spectrum of Micronutrients
Aloe vera contains a unique spectrum of micronutrients that give the plant its magical effect. These micronutrients are essential for maintaining human health. They are vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids and organic compounds.
Therefore, in this article we explore the chemistry of Aloe’s medicinal components and how they affect health in profound ways.
NOTE – synergistic action: As with any plant, components work together in harmony to create the medicinal effect. Single “ingredients” won’t provide the whole effect. This is why it is very important to know not only which “ingredients” make up the plant but how they work together to create the therapeutic effect.
Aloe Vera Chemical Constituents in a Nutshell
- Vitamins A, B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12), C, D and E, folic acid, and choline. Antioxidant neutralizes free radicals.
- Minerals: It provides calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc which are essential for the proper functioning of various enzyme systems. Some are also antioxidants.
- Enzymes: aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase. Bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically, while others help in the breakdown of sugars and fats.
- Mono and polysaccharides: monosaccharides are: glucose and fructose, polysaccharides are: glucomannans/polymannose. These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant and are known as mucopolysaccharides.
- Anthraquinones: It contains 12 anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives. Aloin and emodin act as analgesics, antibacterials and antivirals.
- Fatty acids: it contains 4 steroids; cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol and lupeol. All these have anti-inflammatory effect and lupeol which has antiseptic and analgesic properties.
- Hormones: Auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing and also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Amino acids: it contains 20 of the 22 human required amino acids and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids.
- Salicylic acid that possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
- Lignin (an inert substance) when included in topical preparations, enhances penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin. We need to be careful and clean the area well before applying Aloe because it can drag bacteria into the wound.
- Saponins that are the soapy substances form about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic properties.
Aloe Vera Chemical Constituents: The Long Form
Let’s look at Aloe’s chemical constituents in the long form.
Here are the main areas we will be covering:
- Amino acids
- Monosaccharides and polysaccharides
- Salicylic acid
1. Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they are important because they are involved in cell growth and repair, hormonal processes, muscle control and the body’s immune system.
In order to have good health we need 20 of the 22 amino acids and our bodies can only make 12 of them. The rest have to come from external sources (food and drink).
There are 8 essential amino acids and they can all be found inside the Aloe vera leaf: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine and tryptophan.
Non-essential amino acids are: alanine, arginine, asparagine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, proline, serine, tyrosine, glutamine, aspartic acid.
Let’s have a look at each now:
ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
- Isoleucine: May help symptoms of ME
- Leucine: Inhibit levels of tryptophan in the brain
- Lysine: Helps with herpes virus’ symptoms (cold sores, genital herpes, etc)
- Methionine: Combats allergies (i.e. hay fever)
- Phenylalanine: Helps produce hormones, helps reduce pain, natural antidepressant
- Threonine: Natural antidepressant
- Valine: Reduces symptoms of ME
- Tryptophan: Produces serotonin (natural antidepressant)
NON-ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS:
- Alanine: Helps produce glucose.
- Arginine: Increases muscle mass, relaxes blood vessels.
- Asparagine: Helps maintain equilibrium in the nervous system.
- Cysteine: Helps break down toxins in the liver.
- Glutamic acid: Helps produce folic acid.
- Glycine: Helps break down uric acid in the kidneys.
- Histadine: Reduces joint inflammation, helps reduce gastric inflammation when taking painkillers.
- Proline: Slows down gyrate atrophy and speeds up wound healing.
- Serine: Improves memory function.
- Tyrosine: Produces dopamine and helps reduce stress.
- Glutamine: Repairs stomach linings.
- Aspartic acid: It helps the production of red cells after radiation.
Aloe Vera possesses anthraquinones, which are phenolic compounds traditionally known as laxatives. In high concentrations they can be toxic to cells, which is why it is not advisable to exceed 50ppm concentration value. Anthraquinones properties include: anti-microbial (against bacteria, fungi, yeast and mold), anti-inflammatory, anti-viral (against herpes-type viruses like cold sores and genital herpes), antifungal, analgesic and acting as a tonic to digestive system.
There are 12 anthraquinones found in Aloe:
- Aloetic acid – Antibiotic
- Aloe emodin – Bactericidal
- Aloin – Antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic
- Anthracene – Antiinflammatory, antibiotic
- Anthranol – Antibiotic
- Barbaloin – Analgesic, antibiotic
- Chrysophanoic acid – Fungicidal
- Emodin – Bactericidal
- Cinnamic esters – Anaesthetic, analgesic
- Etheral oil – Analgesic
- Isobarbaloin – Antibiotic, analgesic
- Resistanol – Bactericidal
The role of enzymes is to help the body break down foods into amino acids which are absorbed by our body and then converted into proteins.
Enzymes >> amino acids >> protein
The synergistic action of all of the nutritional components in Aloe vera can be attributed to the enzymes that are present in it. Enzymes are responsible for the breakdown of every major nutrient that you take into your body, they also break down toxic substances.
Here are the main enzymes that we can find in Aloe vera:
- Amylase – which is one of the 2 main digestive enzymes
- Bradykinase – which helps stimulate the immune system, is antiinflammatory and also analgesic
- Catalase – which helps prevent the accumulation of water in the body
- Cellulase – which aids in the digestive process
- Lipase – which also aids in the digestive process
- Alkaline phosphatase
- Proteolytiase – which hydrolises proteins
- Creatine phosphokinase – which aids metabolism
Lignin is a type of insoluble fiber and it is found in the cell walls of plants. It is also an inert substance but when included in topical preparations, it enhances the penetrative effect of the other ingredients into the skin.
Lignin >> Aloe vera gel >> skin
Minerals are necessary for normal growth, maintenance and repair of body tissues and for the coordination of chemical reactions within the body.
The most common minerals found in Aloe Vera are:
- Calcium – which is needed for bone growth, muscle contraction and nerve signalling. It is also important in blood clotting and immune system development.
- Chromium – which is important in blood sugar regulation and also helps in maintaining a healthy, fresh looking complexion.
- Copper – which is essential in the production of red blood cells and affects pigmentation of hair & skin.
- Iron – which helps transport oxygen in the blood, component of haemoglobin in the red blood cells.
- Magnesium – which helps maintain healthy muscles and nervous systems, helps activate enzymes.
- Manganese – which helps build healthy bones and also acts as factor in enzyme activation.
- Potassium – which is important for muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission and water balance.
- Phosphorous – which is important in the formation of bones and teeth, and helps regulate pH in the body.
- Sodium – which is necessary for the normal functioning of nerve cells, muscles and to maintain the fluid balance in the body.
- Zinc – which is an essential component of enzymes that breakdown fats, carbohydrates and proteins, healing wounds, healthy immune function and cell division, mental alertness, aids the reproductive, immune and digestive systems.
6. Mono and Polysaccharides
- Glucose – the sugar that is produced in the body when food is broken down by digestion.
- Fructose – found in most land and marine plants and some fruits.
- Mannose – a monosaccharide derived from glucose.
Polysaccharides or Glucomannans:
- Acemannan – boosts immune system, antiviral.
- Aloeride – a new high-molecular-weight polysaccharide with potent immunostimulatory activity
7. Salicylic acid
Lowers body temperature, reduces fever, reduces inflammation.
With cleansing as well as antiseptic properties.
Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antiseptic properties. Main ones are campesterol, lupeol, beta sitosterol.
- Vitamin A: supports normal immune function and has a protective effect in the skin.
- Vitamin B1: aids in the formation of red blood cells, brain function.
- Vitamin B2: for energy production, healthy skin.
- Vitamin B3: for energy production and also regulates metabolism.
- Vitamin B6: helps hormone balance and metabolism.
- Vitamin B12: for energy production and also regulates metabolism, keeps nervous system healthy. Rarely found in plants.
- Vitamin C: anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Vitamin E: protects the skin’s tissues from the aging effects of sunlight, antioxidant.
- Folic Acid: healthy skin, good for hair growth.
Aloe vera has a wide range of benefits, both externally and internally. It is a natural remedy that is effective in supporting the body’s natural healing process.
It is excellent for the treatment of burns and wounds, skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and pigmentation. It is a strong anti-bacterial and antiviral agent that can help support against infections.
Research into the benefits of aloe vera has shown that it also helps in treating impetigo, ringworm, athlete’s foot, oral thrush and mouth ulcers. It can help protect the skin from harmful UV rays by increasing the amount of melanin in the skin. It helps maintain healthy overall health by enhancing immune function and helping to detoxify harmful chemicals being released into the body.
I use it regularly and always have a bottle with my own aloe vera gel on hand.