The Healing Science Behind Aloe Vera

“But daddy, it’s so spiky!” my kid said with his head tilted to the side. He was scratching his arm where a tiny pink lump was beginning to form. It was a mosquito bite.

So here I am trying to convince my four year old son about the merits of using Aloe Vera gel to make the itchiness on his arm go away. It felt like being on a high school debate team all over again.

“It won’t hurt, I promise. It will make the ‘itchy’ go away.” I said as I plucked an aloe vera stem from the ground.

The science that backs the aloe vera

For healing wounds – Studies on the topical application of aloe vera particularly on minor wounds are vast. In one article, the key component of aloe vera for wound healing is mannose-6-phospate as noted by Davis, Donato, Hartman and Haas in the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine. (1994)

They tested it in lab mice and noted the improved healing of their wounds. Aside from that, they also discovered the aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory characteristics.

*On the other hand

There’s always a “but” and that’s the beauty of scientific inquiry as opposed to just plain old marketing. Perhaps taking a more contrarian role as to the efficacy of Aloe Vera, Kaufman, Kalderon and others noted that “aloe vera gel hindered the healing process of the present burn wound model when compared with 1% silver sulfadiazine cream”. This study was published in the March 1988 issue of the Journal of Burn Care & Research.

 

So does this mean that aloe vera does not work? Far from it.

It could simply mean that there are specific applications when aloe vera gel could and could not work. According to the study by Kaufman, they don’t work for second degree burns in guinea pigs.

Healing wounds for diabetic mice

The scientific preponderance of evidence for aloe vera’s value in healing wounds far outweigh those with different results. Another positive study was published in 1998 at the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. The researchers, Chithra, Sajithlal and Chandrakasan tested aloe vera topically and orally on mice with full-thickness wounds.

Not only that they noted the improved healing of wounds in mice that have diabetes, they also pointed out that this could be attributable to the hypoglycemic properties of aloe vera.

 

Hypo-what?!

The Aloe Vera’s hypoglycemic properties have many circles buzzing, the most important of which is the scientific community. The importance of this is its possible application for patients (Yes, human patients and not just mice or guinea pigs!) with diabetes.

Researchers Akira Yagia and others have published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal that aloe vera can “lower the glucose and triglycerides level which are often high in diabetic patients”. (2009)

Couple this with the aloe vera’s wound healing properties and scientists may be onto something truly remarkable in the future of diabetes treatment.

Going back to my son, Alex

Somehow, I managed to convince my son to put some aloe vera gel on his arm. For a while, he was very skeptical about the whole thing. So I put some on my arm and showed him that it was pretty harmless. Finally, he let me.

“Yes, it’s like rubbing alcohol, it can also help heal your ‘boo-boo’ (wounds)” I said as I gently lathered the clear gel on his arm.

Afterwards, I gave him what’s left of the succulent stem and let him play with it. He looked at it with the latent curiosity you could find in any four year old boy. Then he looked at the many plants around him with a sense of wonderment that would hopefully change how he looks at the world around him.

 

Image by Daniel Garcia

 

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