Before going ahead and find how aloe vera can help in inflammation, lets understand it in brief. In common language inflammation is our body’s attempt to safeguard itself from harmful stimuli.
We always associate inflammation with something bad but it is not always the case, it is actually part of our body’s healing process.
Inflammation can occur in various parts of the body and it could be due to two reasons.
One is the process off fighting off foreign bodies like viruses and bacteria, which attack our immune system, by chemicals and white blood cells.
This is natural response and is much needed. The other is an autoimmune disease which causes an inflammatory response even when there are no foreign bodies to fight off. This results in damage to tissues by our own immune system.
The most common inflammatory disorders are associated with our joints like gout, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
Our digestive system can also suffer from inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Some chronic inflammatory diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus. These diseases could be debilitating and are common especially among older people.
Aloe Vera As An Anti-inflammatory
Aloe vera is a perennial plant that grows well in tropical and subtropical regions which has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial and antioxidant agent.
The medicinal benefits of aloe vera can be got from the gel which is found in the center of each leave and the latex is yellow in color and found below the plant’s skin.
Aloe vera gel has been used to heal wounds, skin infections and minor burns for centuries. It contains 99% water and 1% glycoproteins, polysaccharides like glucomannan and acemannan, tannins, sterols, lipids, amino acids, enzymes and vitamins C, E, B12 and A, magnesium, zinc, calcium, essential fatty acids and protein.
Glycoproteins are powerful compounds which can hasten healing process and reduce pain and inflammation. Aloe latex contains anthraquinone glycosides that is said to have laxative properties.
Preliminary studies on both humans and animal laboratory studies have shown promise for the use of aloe vera gel for skin inflammation and wound healing since it has immunomodulatory properties.
Aloe vera gel is widely used to treat minor burns. It is an ingredient in many cosmetics and skin lotions. It contains active compounds that could reduce inflammation and pain and promote skin repair and
One study found that burns treated with topical aloe vera gel healed quicker that the sites treated with traditional burn medication like silver sulfadiazine.
In another study on use of aloe vera gel for herpes and other skin conditions, it was found that aloe vera had superior anti-inflammatory effects compared to a placebo gel or 1% hydrocortisone cream. It is suggested that aloe vera gel could be used to treat other inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and ultraviolet induced erythema.
It displayed bradykinase activity and prostaglandin F2 and thromboxane inhibition which contributed to its anti-inflammatory benefits.
It was found that aloe vera gel contained plant sterols which reduced inflammation caused by croton oil-induced edema by up to 37%. Of the 3 plant sterols found in aloe vera gel, lupeol was found to be the most active in reducing inflammation. This was dependent on the dosage.
Wound healing is usually poor in patients with diabetes. Hence, the benefits of aloe vera and gibberellin were studied for their anti-inflammatory capabilities in laboratory rats with diabetes.
The dosage varied between 2-100mg/kg body weight. Both gibberellin and aloe vera had similar anti-inflammatory effects in a dose-dependent manner.
Aloe vera gel contains mannose-6 phosphate which is said to be an anti-inflammatory agent and helps with wound healing. When mice were given mannose-6 phosphate (300mg/kg) they displayed improved wound healing compared to saline controls. Studies have found that aloesin derivatives found in aloe vera extracts offer anti-inflammatory and wound healing benefits.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of aloe vera have been studied in patients with stomach ulcers, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
An in-vitro study suggests that aloe vera can stimulate production of pepsin – the stomach enzyme required for good digestion. It can also help with wound healing in those suffering from stomach ulcers.
Various ethanol, chloroform and aqueous extracts of aloe vera were studied on their effects in reducing inflammation in rats with paw edema. All three extracts showed positive anti-inflammatory activity.
In a study on patients with asthma, it was found that aloe vera could help with removal of certain particles which could act as asthma triggers and therefore prevent further asthma attacks. Anti-inflammatory agents found in aloe vera could also stimulate the immune system therefore helping those with asthma.
However its benefits for acute asthma attacks have not been proven.
Aloe vera gel can be used orally and topically to treat inflammatory conditions. It promotes wound healing and reduces inflammation in many skin infections. The following conditions can be treated with aloe vera.
- Psoriasis – 0.5% aloe vera extract thrice daily
- Genital herpes – 0.5% aloe vera cream thrice daily
- Wound healing – aloe gel can be applied on the gauze dressing daily till required
- Diabetes (type 2) – 15ml (1 tbsp) oral aloe vera gel daily
Check the label instructions carefully and always consult a doctor before using aloe vera for any inflammatory condition.
Usually topical application of aloe vera gel does not cause any side effects. Rare cases of burning skin and contact dermatitis have been reported when the gel was applied to dermabraded skin.
This could be due to the presence of anthraquinone contaminants in the gel. Hence take care to purchase topical cream free from anthraquinone if required and do not use on deep cuts and burns.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised against using aloe vera products for there is no research regarding its side effects.
Anyone with known sensitivity to plants of the Lilaceae family like onions, tulips and garlic must avoid aloe vera products, for prolonged use could cause hives, skin eruptions or dermatitis. Anyone with diabetes, kidney or liver disease must be careful when using aloe vera for it could react with certain medications.