A wound is an injury that breaks the skin or other body tissues. It is majorly of two types: Open wound and Closed wound.
Open wound involves an external or internal break in body tissues and skin.
It includes tear, cut, stab, puncture (small hole caused by long pointy objects like needles, nail or ice pick), incisions (piercing caused by sharp objects like knife, glass, blades), abrasions (occurs when skin rubs against a hard or rough surface), avulsions (partial or complete tearing away of the skin) and lacerations (deep tear or cut in skin).
Closed wound includes crushing of tissues or a blood tumour beneath the epidermis, without actually creating an opening outside.
Other types of wounds include thermal wounds (exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures like burns, sunburns and frostbite), chemical wounds (by contacting or inhaling concentrated acids or other chemicals that cause skin or lung damage), electrical wounds (caused by passing of high-voltage electric current in the body), bites ( from humans, dogs, bats, rodents, monkeys and other animals) and stings (from snakes, scorpions, etc.).
Wounds can also occur by radiation, diabetes and skin or soft tissue cancers, fractures, sprains or strains.
Wounds may be caused by accidents by sharp objects or tools, road accidents, falls, hits, weapons, surgery and other things.
The symptoms of a wound depend on site and severity of an injury and generally causes pain, swelling, redness, bleeding and impairment of the function of the wounded area.
Wounds may lead to certain complications such as inflammation, infection, scarring and loss of function of the injured area.
An open wound is more dangerous as it has a risk of developing an infection. The infection causes pus deposits, heat, fever and delay in healing.
Wound Healing requires the following:
- Removal of pathogens or foreign substances from the wound site.
- Reduction of inflammation and pain.
- Regeneration of damaged skin or body tissue.
Aloe vera is universally known as a healing herb. It has been traditionally used for the treatment of various ailments.
Aloe barbadensis miller, known as Aloe vera, is famous for its rejuvenating properties.
It is a xerophytic plant that grows in a dry climate. This herb, belonging to the Lily family, has thick and fleshy leaves that contain the Aloe gel.
It has been traditionally used all over the world for treatment of various ailments. Recently, scientific studies conducted prove its therapeutic value.
Aloe vera is proven to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and rejuvenating properties, all of which are required for healing a wound. Here is how the properties of Aloe vera benefit in Wound Healing:
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Table of Contents
Benefits of Aloe Vera in Wound Healing
Aloe vera shows promising benefits in wound healing. It is a great combination of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial and immuno-modulating properties.
1. It reduces inflammation
A wound often causes inflammation and pain in the particular area. It is the body’s attempt at self-recovery where it eliminates the harmful pathogens and initiates tissue repair.
When an injury is caused, the immune system produces cells to fight against any pathogens that might have entered the site during injury. These cells are also involved is the process of repair and healing.
Aloe vera is considered anti-inflammatory.
Prostaglandins are compounds in our tissues that send signals to the cells of the immune system to accumulate at the injury site and produce substances to fight pathogens.
Aloe vera inhibits the cyclooxygenase pathway and reduces prostaglandin E2 production from arachidonic acid.
Bradykinin, a peptide found in our body is an inflammatory modulator that induces pain. The peptidase bradykinase found in aloe vera breaks down this bradykinin and thereby relieves pain.
What does this mean?
The inflammation, swelling, redness and pain caused by wound can be relieved by application of Aloe vera.
2. It improves antioxidant defences
Phenolic compounds in Aloe vera which are known to have antioxidant properties prevents or inhibits cell damage caused by the free radicals produced as a result of Oxidation.
If the antioxidants in the body are not enough to stabilize the free radicals, they may end up causing cell damage and subsequently, diseases.
Oxidation stress, which is the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants has a detrimental effect on wound healing.
Several low-molecular-weight compounds in Aloe vera inhibit the release of reactive oxygen free radicals from WBC’s at the wound site.
These antioxidant effects may be due to the presence of glutathione peroxides activity, superoxide dismutase enzymes and a phenolic antioxidant in Aloe vera.
What does this mean?
Aloe vera, being an antioxidant prevents the free radicals of oxidation from harming the wound healing process.
3. It accelerates wound healing
Aloe gel has hormones such as Auxins and Gibberellins that promote wound healing and have anti-inflammatory effects.
It has a direct role in wound contraction. The mannose-6-phosphate present in Aloe vera gel leads to the contraction of the wound. This helps in early closure of the wound and prevents infection that can happen if the wound is open for a long time.
It also helps in collagen synthesis. Collagen is the main structural protein found in the skin.
The polysaccharides present in Aloe vera increase the production of fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are cells that help in the production of collagen and stimulate tissue repair.
The polysaccharides also induce the expression of the gene responsible for the process of skin wound repair.
One such polysaccharide called Glucomannan, a mannose-rich polysaccharide and the growth hormone Giberellin stimulate the activity and proliferation of fibroblasts by interacting with its growth factor receptor.
Even the allantoin gel derived from Aloe vera stimulates the functioning of fibroblasts and production of collagen.
In addition to increasing the collagen in the body, Aloe vera gel also promotes cross-linking between amino acids of collagen, which creates a stronger tissue.
The stronger bonds between collagen thus created, help the wound to contract and close quickly.
Aloe vera gel contains a glycoprotein which performs cell proliferating and cell-promoting activities.
Aloe gel also increases the blood supply, thereby increasing oxygenation and promoting healing of the wound.
Burn wounds treated with Aloe vera heal faster than other chemical based creams.
A study conducted in patients with second-degree burn wounds revealed that patients who were treated with aloe vera gel as a dressing for burn wounds healed faster than patients who were treated with 1% silver sulphadiazine cream, which is generally used to treat burn wounds.
What does this mean?
The presence of various active components in Aloe vera promote wound healing and can be used externally as well as orally for treatment of wounds.
4. It supports skin regeneration
Aloe vera gels are widely used in skin moisturizing creams.
The skin moisture prevents the eventual scarring of the healed wound.
A lack of moisture at the surface of the wound will stop cell migration in that area, so essential immune cells will not reach or able to function in that area. Also, the nutrients required for healing will not be able to reach there and delay the healing process.
The mucopolysaccharides present in Aloe vera bind the moisture into the skin. By means of humectants, which retain moisture and reduce water activity, Aloe vera gel improves skin hydration.
It increases fibroblast activity. Fibroblasts produce collagen and elastin fibres which makes skin more elastic and less wrinkled.
It sticks the flaking epidermal cells together and softens the hardened skin. It contracts skin cells and tightens the pores which help in retaining moisture.
A study was conducted to determine the effect of Aloe vera on people who get dry skin or dermatitis owing to exposure at work or factory.
They were given dry-coated Aloe vera glove to wear in one hand for 30 days. These gloves provided gradual delivery of Aloe vera to the skin.
It was found that Aloe vera gel gloves helped to keep intact and improve the skin integrity. They also decreased skin redness caused by injury and also prevented wrinkles to appear.
Aloe vera which is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids improves skin conditions and maintain good skin health.
What does this mean?
Moisture is an important component of the wound healing process for proper functioning and transfer of nutrients and cells.
Aloe vera is an excellent moisturizer and aids in this process. It also helps in skin rejuvenation by improving the damaged skin cells.
5. It is a natural anti-microbial agent
The wound is a potential site of infection. If the wound is open or not healed properly, it can cause the growth of several microbes in the area which provides a warm and humid area, suitable for their growth.
The bacteria may interfere with the healing process, consume the host nutrients and may even cause other diseases. This may further result in serious complications like a fever.
It is important to keep the wound site free of contamination by microbes using antiseptic and anti-microbial agents.
It contains 6 antiseptic agents: Lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols and sulfur. They all have an inhibitory action on microbes.
It stimulates the immune system which targets these microbes by the immune cells which kill or digest them by phagocytic activity.
It also contains the anthraquinone Aloin which inactivates various enveloped viruses.
What does this mean?
Application of aloe vera on wound site and treating with it will not only advance the healing, but also prevent infection and contamination by bacteria owing to its anti-microbial nature.
The dosage of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has both external and internal uses. Externally, one can apply Aloe vera gel as an ointment on the affected area. Internally, it can be taken orally in the form of juice or pills.
There are two main preparations of Aloe vera available commercially: Aloe gel or Aloe juice
Aloe gel is extracted from the leaf pulp of the plant, Aloe barbadensis.
Aloe vera consists of the juice of the entire leaf including gel and latex. Aloe latex is the yellow liquid found under the leaf.
Oral dosage should be consulted with a doctor, who can prescribe according to your prevailing condition and symptoms.
Precautions to be taken
- Some people may have allergic reactions to Aloe vera due to the presence of anthraquinones like aloin and barbaloin. Therefore, one must first test by applying to a small area and checking for any redness, burning, stinging sensations, dermatitis or other sensitivities.
- People having known allergy to plants of Lilacae family shown also avoid its application.
- If taking orally, it may cause laxative effects and abdominal cramps, and subsequent electrolyte imbalances.
- Aloe vera treatment is also not advisable during pregnancy as it may stimulate uterine contractions and breastfeeding women, as it may cause gastrointestinal distress in the baby.
- In diabetic patients, the application may reduce blood sugar levels and interact with hypoglycemic drugs and insulin.
- It is important to check the purity and source of Aloe vera for better results and lesser side effects.
- It is always advisable to consult a medical professional before using it for serious ailments, to check if it is suitable for that particular disease and symptoms.
Aloe vera shows promising benefits in wound healing. It is correctly known as a healing herb and is a great combination of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial and immuno-modulating properties.
In addition, it quickens the wound healing process and helps in skin rejuvenation and repair. It can act as a good alternative medicine for wound healing.
It also has lesser side effects and cost as compared to other drugs.
With so many proven benefits, Aloe vera shows great potential in the healing of various types of wounds if taken with care and precautions.