My 40 Year Love Affair with Aloe

Interest in Aloe has skyrocketed in the past few years and the reason is simple… it works.

by Jeff Barrie, Aloecorp

40 years ago a friend gave me a small Aloe vera plant and told me of the incredible ability Aloe vera has on a burn.  I graciously accepted it, but I was very skeptical of this “Miracle Plant.”  A short time later I was a believer!
Interest in Aloe has skyrocketed in the past few years and the reason is simple… it works.  In the 40 plus years that I have been formulating, selling and promoting Aloe, this plant has never let me down.  Whether I suggest it for a topical issue or internal issue, Aloe has been there for me and anyone I recommend it too.

Years ago whoever told the best story about Aloe and Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, or Columbus earned the business.  Today, we have sound science to back the claims and anecdotal evidence we stoked and promoted way back in the day.

As the Baby-Boomer generation is starting to collect social security, many of us are looking for ways to turn the clock back and make up for too many years of indulgence, sun-worshipping and overall neglect.  Generations that follow are now learning from their parents and grandparents. Since healthcare costs are so high, a huge number of people are looking for new ways to stay healthy and look younger.   This has been welcome news and a great opportunity for the supplement industry. 

Aloe vera has been around since the dawn of time but only recently has this simple plant juice been the topic of health discussions and research.  Many people know the benefits of applying Aloe vera to the skin with excellent results and now many people are realizing topical application is just the tip of the iceberg.  Studies are being done and the benefits of Aloe vera as a supplement are being promoted.

Most people today are drinking Aloe or taking an Aloe capsule for the digestive health benefits and rightly so.  Aloe has been shown to be an excellent prebiotic.  Probiotics are selling like hotcakes but more consumers are learning about prebiotics and we are seeing more and more references to prebiotics as the days go by. Though Aloe vera gel has long enjoyed a reputation in folk medicine as being beneficial for a healthy digestive system, there was little beyond anecdotal evidence to support this idea until an early small clinical study took a look at some of the possible effects (Bland 1985).

Overall, Aloe vera juice appears to act as a gastrointestinal “tonic” by stabilizing gastrointestinal pH, facilitating gastric motility, normalizing gut flora composition, reducing intestinal putrefaction, facilitating protein digestion, and preventing gastric and systemic inflammation.  This simple plant juice has changed lives for the better and made believers out of the skeptical.  

Supplemental antioxidants is a tremendous category for natural products and may help reduce oxidative stress, but the body naturally produces a host of antioxidants to defend itself against reactive oxygen species (ROS).  Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen and the body's ability to detoxify the reactive intermediates or easily repair the resulting damage.  Oxidative stress is involved in many diseases and is thought to contribute to aging. 

Phase II enzymes will reduce oxidative stress and Aloe vera has been shown to stimulate the production of natural phase II antioxidants.  Since humans have an antioxidant system, daily dosing of Aloe vera will stimulate that system for maximum benefits.  Using Aloe vera as a supplement along with some of the proven antioxidants will provide a 1 – 2 punch to fight oxidative stress. 

Another relatively new category for natural products is “Inside Beauty” or as some call it “Beauty from Within.”  New products are popping up in the marketplace and slowly but surely this concept is taking hold.  Many new products with promises of younger looking skin are also antioxidants. There are a few ingredients with human clinical studies to back those promises.  Lycopene, Astaxanthin, GliSODin® and Pycnogenol all have studies to back up their claims.  Aloe vera has been used and also has a human clinical study to support what promoters of Aloe vera have been saying for years.
A recent human clinical study was completed by the Department of Dermatology, Seoul National University Boramae Hospital, Seoul National University College of Medicine and funded by a grant from the Korean Food and Drug Administration. 

Thirty healthy female subjects over the age of 45 were given different doses (low-dose: 1,200 mg/d, high-dose: 3,600mg/d) of Aloe vera gel supplementation for 90 days.  After completion of the 90 day period, the KFDA had concluded that Aloe vera gel showed a significant reduction in facial wrinkles and a significant increase in skin elasticity.  There were no adverse events reported.  There was also an increase in collagen production and a decrease in collagen-degrading MMP-1 gene expression.

In another study, oral treatments with Aloe vera were found to have a positive influence on the synthesis of glycosaminoglycan (GAGs) and thereby beneficially modulate wound healing.  Other studies were done and these studies show Aloe vera can increase the collagen content of the granulation tissue. Of course, more studies are needed but there is a clear indication that Aloe vera as a supplement will help the skin look better. 

So much has been written about oxidative stress or as some call it Syndrome X that boomers are trying all sorts of products to fight it.  Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical problems that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  Some people feel the prevalence of oxidative stress is an estimated 25% of the U.S. population.  The number of people with oxidative stress only goes up with age. 

A recent placebo controlled human clinical showed the group that was taking Aloe vera had a significant reduction in risk factors associated with oxidative stress.  The results of this research showed levels of C-reactive protein dropped by 38% and isoprostanes dropped by 32%.  Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. and a major cause of disability.  A key prevention to heart disease is lowering cholesterol.  There have been a number of studies done in the U.S and abroad that have shown Aloe vera as a supplement helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  One human study showed the group taking Aloe had a 10% drop in total cholesterol.  This same study showed a drop in LDL and triglyceride levels to near optimum levels. 

Science has given us ways to enhance our immune system and ways to show these supplements are working.   Tests have been developed to determine if an ingredient is increasing Peripheral Blood Monocyte (PBM) CD 56 and the cell-killing capability of natural killer cells.  A study sanctioned by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA), showed the group taking Aloe vera as a supplement enhanced the immune system by increasing PBM CD56 and the cell killing capability of natural killer cells.  As a result of this study, the KFDA has allowed claims for enhancing the Immune System to be made for products containing Aloe vera. 

For years, many people have called Aloe vera miraculous.  Research has supported that statement and more and more people are benefiting from Aloe vera and other natural products that have become available.  As more research papers are published more and more “skeptics” will come to believe the benefits associated with natural products.  We are going to see more products developed and launched in the U.S. and worldwide.  Already, there are oral care products containing Aloe vera. 

Another human clinical study was done by the Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics Government Dental College and Research Institute Fort, Bangalore, Karnataka, India and published in the Journal of Periodontology.  The results showed the group using the toothpaste containing Aloe vera, had “significant improvement in gingival and plaque index scores as well as microbiologic counts compared to placebo dentifrice. These improvements were comparable to triclosan containing toothpaste.”  Companies producing oral care products and particularly companies producing toothpaste should take a hard look at this study and replace triclosan which has been the subject of some negative press.

There is no doubt taking Aloe vera as a supplement has benefits.  The scientific as well as anecdotal evidence is available but all Aloe is not alike.  The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) has set standards for certification.  Using Aloe vera that has been certified by the IASC will assure consumers that this product represents truth in labeling, the quantity in aloe content, the quality of aloe meets with IASC current standards and the aloe used in the products comes from a certified source.  The IASC members are dedicated to providing quality Aloe vera. 

Certification by the IASC now has a greater importance with the new cGMP requirements.  Identity, purity and strength testing of a dietary ingredient prior to its use is required by 21 CFR 111.75(a)(1)(i).  These new requirements for testing will expose any adulteration of the Aloe.  Adulterated Aloe vera has been a problem.  Some 200X Inner Leaf Aloe vera powders were found to contain maltodextrin when an IASC Certified and unadulterated 200X Inner Leaf Aloe vera powder is pure Aloe vera solids.  Many growers, processors and suppliers of Aloe vera have welcomed the new cGMP requirements.  Manufacturers of Aloe vera drinks and supplements should embrace these new rules and be confident they are receiving “real Aloe vera.”  Manufacturers using should also be using IASC Certified Aloe since the release of an article from Bloomberg News and other sources reported lawsuits regarding finished products claiming strong amounts of Aloe but no Aloe was found.       

Today, there are many natural products available to consumers to help live better, fuller, healthier and happier lives.  Aloe vera is one of them and in an age when products come and go Aloe has a strong league of dedicated supporters.  That group will only grow as new products with Aloe vera are created and launched.  Interest in Aloe vera as a key ingredient for new beverages is running high.   The demand is expected to increase from 2016 – 2020 which will boost the growth of the aloe vera-based drinks market,” says Manjunath Reddy, one of the lead analysts at Technavio for non-alcoholic beverages research.

After drinking Aloe for over 40 years I have been rewarded with excellent health.  I swear by Aloe and the future for Aloe vera is bright.  Interest in Aloe and clinical studies with Aloe will grow for one simple reason… Aloe vera works!