The benefits of aloe vera for digestion

Aloe vera is a plant with a long tradition, used by for thousands of years by the Chinese, Arabs and Greeks, who recognised its benefits for health, medicine and beauty. Its name derives from the Arabic word “alloeh”, which means “shining bitter substance”, while “vera” comes from Latin and means “true”. Its gastrointestinal tract cleansing and repairing properties, and its benefits as a tonic, an antiseptic and for skin health were well known (1) (2).

The industry falls at its feet

Today, aloe vera is the most widely sold species of this plant genus, and the pulp inside its leaves has become an extraordinary global health resource. For example, in the food industry it has become a veritable functional food, marketed in the form of juices and healthy drinks made from the gel extracted from the inside of its leaves.

The cosmetics industry has also taken notice of aloe vera, using it as a base material for making creams or shampoos because of its beneficial properties for the skin. And then of course there is the wide range of food supplements, for which concentrated powder of aloe vera leaves is used in the preparation of capsules (3). Why so much interest? Because both aloe vera gel and the dry extracts from its leaves have demonstrated a long list of health benefits. 

Aloe vera gel is a natural source of antioxidants that help to increase the body’s overall antioxidant capacity, helping to protect it from free radicals and premature cell ageing (4). In addition to providing defence against oxidation, it contributes to the maintenance of the immune system as a support against microorganisms (5), and also helps to promote digestion (6) and skin health (7).

A unique nutrient concentration

This long list of benefits is no coincidence. The aloe vera plant offers one of the most important and complete biochemical compositions, containing more than 70 nutrients and biologically active principles, including vitamins, minerals, fibres, polysaccharides, amino acids, enzymes, anthraquinones, lignins, terpenes, carotenoids and saponins (8)(9) We are talking about a plant that is virtually a complete food in itself!

Aloe vera’s extraordinary nutritional composition is that gives it its therapeutic and modulating role for various biological activities in the body, including antioxidant, digestive, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic and anti-tumour actions (10) (11) (12). This explains the many conditions that can benefit from regular consumption of aloe vera gel, such as diabetes, gastrointestinal ulcers, infection, inflammatory diseases, some types of cancer and even skin burns (13-18). 

High-level digestive health

Its digestive application is perhaps one of the most documented areas. Studies show how aloe vera gel has been successfully used to help detoxify the body, promote good digestion and even in specific cases of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and infection by Helicobacter pylori, the main cause of gastric ulcers (19)(20). Its clinical efficacy and safety has been evaluated in cases of ulcerative colitis and chronic ulcers (21)(22), as well as in with irritable colon (23) to reduce pain and inflammation, and in cases of gastroesophageal reflux (24). Anyone who suffers from acidity, slow and heavy digestion, abdominal swelling and stomach pain can therefore benefit from the gel extracted from aloe vera. 

Its laxative effect in cases of constipation is also certainly worth highlighting. Two main components, the gel and the aloe juice, are obtained from the whole leaves of aloe vera.  Aloe Vera Burm.f (aloe barbadensis Miller) is a perennial plant that develops water storage tissue inside its leaves, allowing it to survive in adverse conditions, such as excess heat and/or dry spells. From a health perspective, the interior of these leaves is particularly interesting, since the water is retained in the form of a viscous mucilage in the large cells of the parenchyma of their walls. Inside these thick and fleshy leaves we find the most important components of aloe vera gel, the polysaccharides responsible for many of the beneficial properties of the products made from this plant with gastroprotective and immunomodulatory applications (25).

As for its powerful laxative effects, these are related to the other part: aloe juice, a yellowish substance located in the filaments inside the leaves and rich in anthraquinones. Among these anthraquinones, aloin, responsible for increasing intestinal peristalsis, stands out (26)(27). The effect is so potent that premium quality aloe vera gel products should be made without aloin, to avoid diarrhoea. 

The key is knowing how to choose the best product

Not all aloe vera products are the same. As we have just seen, the first step towards choosing a quality product is ensuring that it does not contain aloin. You can find products made from aloe vera leaf gel (in a drink format) or aloe vera leaf powder (in capsule format).  

Secondly, products should be selected that guarantee high polysaccharide content, such as acemannan. Why? Because studies consider acemannan to be one of the main bioactive polysaccharides of aloe vera, which in synergy with the other components demonstrates immunoregulatory, digestive, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties (28)(29).

This is why Anastore has developed two products based on aloe vera leaves, with two different administration formats, to adapt to the needs of each individual and, of course, with the guarantee of high polysaccharide content. 

On the one hand, Anastore produces organic aloe vera juice. A product obtained from the gel extracted directly from the inner part of the freshly harvested leaf is produced cold, with the addition of organic lemon juice for effective conservation. It guarantees a minimum content of 1000 mg acemannan per litre, and a maximum aloin content of 0.1 mg/kg, to offer a product of the highest quality and effectiveness.  

In addition, Anastore offers another natural solution: organic aloe vera in capsule form. Each capsule contains highly concentrated (200:1) organic aloe vera leaf powder obtained from the inner part of the leaves.

Thirdly, and no less importantly, both products are made from organically farmed aloe vera grown sustainably in Spain. This ensures the high quality of its raw material. These products are suitable for vegans and for consumers seeking guaranteed results. 

Without a doubt, few plants offer as many benefits as aloe vera. 

Bibliographie

(1) Aloe Genus Plants: From Farm to Food Applications and Phytopharmacotherapy
 (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163315/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92765/ 

(3) Antibacterial activities and antioxidant capacity of Aloe vera (2013) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3729540/

(4) 27-01-2012 EFSA Journal 2010; 8(2):1489.

(5) 27-01-2012 EFSA Journal 2010; 8(10):1733.

(6) Extracted from the European Comission compilation list, under EFSA validation (ID 3957).

(7) Effects of plant sterols derived from Aloe vera gel on human dermal fibroblasts in vitro and on skin condition in Japanese women (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4345938/

(8) Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness (1999). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1313538/

(9) Aloe vera. Its chemical and therapeutic properties (1991). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1823544/

(10) Aloe vera: Potential candidate in health management via modulation of biological activities (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4557234/

(11) Composition and applications of Aloe vera leaf gel.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245421/

(12) Aloe vera as an herbal medicine in the treatment of metabolic syndrome: A review. (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31456283

(13) Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera L. juice II. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide (1996) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23195078/

(14) Assessment of Anti HSV-1 Activity of Aloe Vera Gel Extract: an In VitroStudy (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4771053/

(15) In Vitro Susceptibilities of Shigella flexneri and Streptococcus pyogenes to Inner Gel of Aloe barbadensis Miller (2003). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC149334/

(16) Dietary aloe vera gel powder and extract inhibit azoxymethane- induced colorectal aberrant crypt foci in mice fed a high- fat diet (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25684508

(17) The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6330525/

(18) Crude Aloe vera Gel Shows Antioxidant Propensities and Inhibits Pancreatic Lipase and Glucose Movement In Vitro (2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4736367/

(19) Anti-inflammatory effects of Aloe vera on leukocyte-endothelium interaction in the gastricmicrocirculation of Helicobacter pylori-infected rats (2006). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16899957/ 

(20) In vitro activity of Aloe vera inner gel against Helicobacter pylori strains. (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24597562

(21) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis (2004) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15043514

(22) Effectiveness of Aloe Vera Gel in Chronic Ulcers in Comparison with Conventional Treatments. (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103537/

(23) Aloe vera Is Effective and Safe in Short-term Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis (2018) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175553/

(24) Efficacy and safety of Aloe vera syrup for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a pilot randomized positive-controlled trial (2015)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26742306

(25) Composition and applications of Aloe vera leaf gel. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245421/

(26) Studies of aloe. V. Mechanism of cathartic effect. (4). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7920425/

(27) Aloe vera: a short review (2008). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/

(28) Extraction, Purification, Structural Characteristics, Biological Activities and Pharmacological Applications of Acemannan, a Polysaccharide from Aloe vera: A Review (2019) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515206/

(29) Acemannan, an extracted polysaccharide from Aloe vera: A literature review. (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25233608