Aloe vera – power from the desertThe juice of the desert lily is still very much in vogue. Whether pure as a drink, as a capsule or in cosmetics – Aloe Vera is said to help with countless problems. Is it worth giving the miracle drug a try??
As early as 6000 years ago, aloe vera was one of the most important medicinal plants for the ancient Sumerians. The "desert lily" is also used by many other peoples a popular cosmetic. Panacea for a wide range of complaints. Applied externally, its active ingredients are said to rejuvenate the skin. heals wounds in an extremely short time. Aloe vera is therefore found in countless cosmetics such as skin cream or roll-on deodorants and is recommended for sunburn, insect bites, radiation damage and allergies. In recent years, aloe vera products for oral use have become increasingly popular. The cold-pressed juice, mixed aloe vera drinks or the dried pith in capsules are said to strengthen the immune system, detoxify the body and even help against pain and cancer.
The plant resembles agave in appearance, but is a lily that thrives in the dry and semi-arid regions of America, Africa and Australia. Aloe vera products imported into Germany come mainly from the USA, Central and South America, Spain and Australia. The plant stores enormous amounts of water in its fleshy leaves. This allows it to survive for several months without rain. Only a few of the approximately 300 different aloe species contain large quantities of the sought-after active ingredients. The highest concentrations are found in the leaves of Aloe Vera Barbadensis Miller. Your "little sister Aloe miloti feels very comfortable on German windowsills, but contains much smaller amounts of the valuable ingredients.
Aloe vera: preservation a problem
The leaves of the aloe vera plants are pressed either whole or peeled to juice. To make the juice of the whole leaves edible, bitter and laxative substances must be filtered out beforehand. However, some of the desired active ingredients are also lost in the process. More commonly, the juice from the fleshy pith of the leaves, also called gel, comes into commerce. To avoid the bitter components, the leaf bark and the leaf green are removed by hand or by machine before pressing.The freshly squeezed juice is very sensitive to oxygen. For this reason, the leaves must be processed within a few hours of harvesting. The liquid obtained can be stabilized. Since high heating would damage the ingredients too much, the liquid is usually treated at low temperatures for three days and essential oils or antioxidants are added. But also preservatives such as benzoic acid. Potassium sorbate are used.
To date, more than 200 different active substances have been identified in the leaves of the aloe vera plant. These are mainly mucopolysaccharides, anthraquinones, salicylic acid, saponins, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. Since individual substances are sometimes found only in low concentrations, their combination is held responsible for the diverse healing effects. The anthraquinones contained in the leaf bark, such as aloin. Aloe emodin have a strong laxative effect. Therefore, the boiled down or dried juice of the leaf bark, also called aloe latex, is used to treat constipation. However, carcinogenic. genetic damage cannot be ruled out. Therefore, aloe latex is not recommended as a laxative.
Sugar molecules: protection against infections?
The mucopolysaccharides, in particular acemannan, are another speciality. The human body produces the long-chain sugar molecule itself until puberty. If it is supplied via aloe vera products, it is supposed to be stored in all cell walls and thus support the body in its fight against tumor cells, infections and fungal diseases. According to field reports, aloe vera also achieves significant improvements in diabetes mellitus, lipid metabolism disorders or neurodermatitis. However, there are hardly any independent studies on this. In addition, only small amounts of aloe vera can be ingested. An overdose causes gastrointestinal or kidney irritation in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions have also been reported. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid aloe vera as a precaution.
Because of its moisture-retaining, antibiotic and analgesic properties, aloe vera gel is also used in cosmetics as well as for cuts, burns, abrasions and sunburns. However, in a controlled study, it did not work better on prere ulcers than gauze soaked in saline solution.
Aloe vera: processing reduces effectiveness
Many of the touted healing properties of aloe vera are controversial. The effect seems to be strongest when the juice comes directly fresh from the plant. However, what is offered to consumers in this country as a natural substance has usually undergone extensive industrial processing. This also often changes the effectiveness of the ingredients. In order to extract as much juice as possible from the plants, aloe vera is intensively cultivated in monocultures. This reduces the concentration of valuable ingredients. Aloe vera from controlled organic cultivation is a more environmentally friendly alternative. It is, however, very rare and correspondingly expensive.How effective the individual products are in the trade is not apparent to the consumer. In addition, most of the claimed effects are based on empirical reports. Are not confirmed by independent studies. Whether it is therefore justified to mass-produce aloe vera, given its costly production, problematic preservation and long transportation, remains questionable.
Online version of: Kuhn, A.: UGB-Forum 6/02, p. 332-333