Aloe Ferox USA

Aloe ferox is among the tallest of the more than 400 aloe
species and is native to southeastern and western regions of South Africa.
Compared to the more widely known Aloe vera, Aloe ferox produces 20 times more
bitter sap and has higher nutrient concentrations. Two distinct parts of the
aloe plant are used medicinally. Firstly the aloe exudate (bitter sap) and
secondly the mucilaginous gel from the remainder of the leaf. The aloe bitter
is best known for its use as a laxative. However, in addition to the purgative
effect the anthraquinone (bitter) substance is also an antioxidant, antiviral
and effective for cancer prevention.

Numerous scientific studies on aloe gel are demonstrating its analgesic,
anti-inflammatory, wound healing, immune modulating and anti-tumour activities
as well as antiviral, anti-bacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. The
aloe juice has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides while
demonstrating anti-diabetic activity. Aloe’s medicinal properties can be
attributed to the synergistic effect of the combined nutritional elements
producing a more powerful effect than the individual components. Aloes are
members of the Liliaceae family and are mainly succulents. The nearly 420
species of Aloe are confined mainly to Africa with Aloe ferox among the
tallest. Aloe ferox occurs naturally in a broad belt along the southern and
eastern coast of South Africa. Aloe ferox is a robust, single stemmed, plant
usually 2m (80”) high, but up to 5m (200”) tall in older specimens. They have
broad, fleshy leaves that are dull green to greyish green with brown spines
along the edges. The dry leaves are persistent on the lower portion of the
stem. Bright red or orange flowers appear from May to August and are arranged
in erect, candle-shaped clusters (Van Wyk 2003).

Pollination is by bees and nectar seeking birds and propagates with
ease. New plants reach maturity (to flower and set seed) within four to six
years. Under favourable conditions plants may become in excess of 50 years
old. Aloe ferox is not considered an endangered species. It is not listed on
the United States Endangered Species Act list. Neither is it listed on the
internationally maintained Red List of Threatened Species or on the CITES list
of endangered species. All broad leaf Aloe species have basically the same
leaf structure. A tough green outer layer encloses the translucent fleshy
portion of the leaf.

There are two distinct parts of the plant that are harvested. Firstly
the yellow exudate (better known as the bitter sap), which drains from the
outer green skin of the leaves when cut, and the remainder of the leaf that
contains the mucilaginous gel. The traditional method of harvesting the leaves
is still performed as practiced for more than 200 years. The aloe is harvested
by cutting 4 to 8 of the lower leaves from the plant. Roughly 200 leaves are
stacked in a circle to allow the yellow bitter sap to drain from the leaves.
The bitter sap is collected and boiled to remove excess water to produce the
bitter crystals.

The harvested leaves are processed at the factory to manufacture the
aloe gel and juice. Aloe bitters: (Viljoen 1999, Van Wyk 1995) Anthrones and
chromones are the two major classes of compounds, which are found in leaf
exudates (22% – 29%) Anthrones: aloin and barbaloin (collective name for aloin
A and B) Chromones: aloesin and aloeresin A. Anthraquinones, naphthalene,
alkaloids and various other compounds may be present. Aloe gel: (Mabusela
1990) Primary constituents are glucomannoglycan polysaccharides containing
acetylated monosaccharides. (~70-80%) Acemannan (mannose) and glucomannan
(glucose). Other constituents: Amino acids. (10-15%) Salicylic acid, lignin,
saponins and sterols. Fatty acids (gamma-linolenic acid [GLA]). Enzymes,
vitamins and minerals. A comparison of the chemical composition of Aloe ferox
and Aloe vera was performed based on values available in the literature
(Femenia 1999, Mabusela 1990). It must be noted, however, that concentrations
tend to vary seasonally and geographically (Grindlay 1986).

The different monosaccharide components of the polysaccharides present
in the Aloe ferox and Aloe vera gel are compared (expressed as mol%).
Similarly, scientific tests comparing the differences between Aloe ferox and
Aloe vera plants (whole leafs), growing side by side, were performed at the
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa. (Jan. ’87)
The tests demonstrated the following: The freshly cut leaf of Aloe ferox
produced approximately 20 times more bitter sap, weight by weight, than the
Aloe vera. Aloe vera has a much softer and more translucent inner gel. It is
also notably more mucinous.

After extraction, the juice of the Aloe vera leaves decolourizes and
loses its viscosity much more rapidly than does the juice of Aloe ferox. The
solids content of the juice in Aloe ferox were constantly greater in volume
than those obtained from Aloe vera. The amino acid content of Aloe ferox is
almost double that of Aloe vera. Aloe ferox and Aloe vera contain
7 of the 8 essential amino acids and all the other 12
non-essential amino acids. Similarly the mineral concentrations of Aloe vera
(Femenia 1999) were compared to typical concentration measured in Aloe ferox
(expressed as % of dry matter). It is evident that Aloe ferox contains a
higher concentration of these minerals, which can potentially ascribed to its
harvesting in its natural habitat and not in domesticated fields. As can be
seen the chemical composition of Aloe vera is comparable to that of Aloe

The healing properties of aloe have been known for millennia. The use of
aloe was discovered on a Mesopotamian clay tablet (ca. 2100 BC). Aloes were
listed in the Ebers papyrus (ca. 1500 BC) as an established cathartic. Legend
has it that aloe was an important part of the beauty regimen of the Egyptian
queens, Nefertiti and Cleopatra. The Greek physician Dioscorides, while
accompanying Nero’s army, mentioned aloe in his writing (ca 100 AD). Alexander
the Great (356–323 BC) was persuaded by Aristotle to capture the island of
Socrota in the Indian Ocean to secure its aloe A. perryi supplies to treat his
wounded soldiers (Bruce 1975). Numerous Aloe species have been used
medicinally but only Aloe ferox, Aloe perryi and Aloe vera have demonstrated
any commercial importance (Grindlay 1986). Scientific literature now documents
various medical applications. Aloe gel has demonstrated anti-inflammatory
(Vázquez 1996, Bautista 2004), wound healing (Davis 1989, 1994, Heggers
1996), anti-tumour (Kim 1999, Pecere 2000), antiviral (McDaniels 1990a,b),
anti-microbial (Wang 1998) and anti-diabetic (Reynolds 1999) activity. It has
also shown immune stimulating (Zhang 1996, Strickland 2001) and cholesterol
lowering activity (Tizard 1989). The active constituent in the aloe exudate
(bitter) is the anthrones. They are degraded in the colon by bacteria to
aloe-emodin, which function as a stimulant laxative (Blumenthal, 1998).
Studies have also demonstated aloe-emodin to be antiviral (Sydiskis 1991), an
antioxidant (Yen, 2000), effective for liver cancer prevention (Kuo 2002) and
inhibits neuroectodermal (embryonic tissue that gives rise to nerve cells)
tumor cell growth (Pecere 2000). Anti-inflammatory Inflammation is a
non-specific immune response by the body to any type of injury. It is
characterized by redness (rubor), heat (calor), swelling (tumor) and pain
(dolor). According to Clayton (1993) the steps in inflammation are:
vasodilation that reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow (causing
redness and heat) followed by swelling due to an excessive amount of tissue
fluid (increased vascular permeability enables blood to move out of the
capillaries into the tissue) and pain (due to bradykinin, stimulates
prostaglandin production and accumulation in inflammatory cells as
macrophages). Vázquez (1996) demonstrated the anti-inflammatory effect of aloe
gel. It inhibited prostaglandin E2 production from arachidonic acid. While
Yagi (1982) showed that the glycoprotein of aloe gel cleaved the bonds of the
bradykinin molecule reducing pain and inflammation. In a later study (Bautista
2004) the antibradykinin effect was associated with the inhibition of
prostaglandin synthesis.

Inflammation is also involved in conditions such as
arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis closely resembles adjuvant arthritis in rats
and was studied by Davis (1992). According to this experiment aloe was
injected and decreased inflammation (50%) and stimulated fibroblast growth
repair. Hanley (1982) showed when rat paws were injected with A. ferox it
decreased inflammation (48%) and inhibited the immune response (72%) [possibly
due to inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis]. A subsequent study (Davis 1985)
showed that when A. ferox was applied topically in a hydrophilic cream it
reduced inflammation (39%) and subsequent arthritis (45%). It has also been
found that aloe has analgesic properties that can be ascribed to the presence
of salicylates, which has an aspirin like effect (Shelton 1991).

Wound healing A wound to the skin may pierce two layers,
the dermis and epidermis. Healing follows the following steps (Reynolds 1999)
by: temporary repair is effected by fibrin clot (granulation tissue) to fill
the gap which is invaded by cells that produce the inflammatory response and
carry out the permanent repair. The epidermis is repaired in 3 phases: (Davis
1994) fibroblasts migrate to the wound site causing granulation tissue to fill
the gap, they proliferate and mature to produce collagen, elastin and
proteoglycans. Proteoglycans form the basis in which collagen and other
connective fibres are embedded. (new connective tissue is found in the dermis)
It is essential to avoid microbial infection, as this will retard wound

Wounds treated with aloe showed rapid granulation and increased oxygen
supply as a result of the increased blood flow (Davis 1989). The skin punch
wounds healed more rapidly. The aloe gel reduced wound diameter, seemed to
reduce scarring and inhibited acute inflammation. In another study, (Heggers
1996) stimulation of fibroblast activity and collagen proliferation was
demonstrated. Aloe also expedites wound contraction and enhanced wound
breaking strength. Choi (2001) isolated a glycoprotein from Aloe vera that
stimulated the formation of epidermal tissue. It also enhanced wound healing
with significant cell proliferation and migration. In the treatment of burn
wound Heggers (1993) showed that the gel penetrated the tissue, relieve pain,
reduce inflammation and increase blood supply by inhibiting the synthesis of
thromboxane A2, a potent vasoconstrictor. (Gel delays the inflammatory
response and speeds up recovery time for first and second degree burns)

A recent study (Barrantes 2003) demonstrated aloe gel enriched with
aloins (bitter) to inhibit collagenase and metalloproteases activity, which
can degrade collagen connective tissue when unchecked. This activity supports
the use of aloe in the treatment of chronic ulcers, burns and wounds. Immune
modulation Research on immune stimulation has indicated that acemannan, a
polysaccharide within aloe, stimulated macrophage cytokine production and
killer T cells (Zhang 1996). Chronic exposure to UV radiation causes sunburn,
premature aging of the skin and genetic mutations leading to skin cancer. UV
radiation causes systemic suppression of immune responses. Strickland (2001)
showed that the gel prevented systemic suppression of T cell mediated immune
response and the production of IL-10. The aloe polysaccharides are
immunostimulants by interfering with the activation of suppressor mechanisms.
Acemannan used for HIV-1+ patients showed a significant increase in the number
of circulating monocytes and macrophages (McDaniels 1990a).

In a pilot study treating HIV infected people acemannan increased the number of white
blood cell and improved symptoms
(McDaniels 1990b). Gastrointestinal functions The aloe juice has been used as
a tonic in a series of trials (Bland 1985) on human patients. It indicated a
tonic effect on the intestinal tract with: a reduction in pH; a reduction in
bowel transit time; intestinal bacterial flora benefited with a reduction in
yeast; bowel putrefaction was reduced and protein digestion and absorption was
improved. Yamamoto (1973) showed that a component of A. ferox suppresses ulcer
growth and L-histidine decarboxylase in rats. Recently the gastropreventative
of aloe was demonstrated by inhibiting gastric acid secretion, which makes it
suitable for peptic ulcer treatment (Yusuf 2004). When juice is given orally
to animals, mannans have been shown to lower cholesterol by inhibiting
cholesterol absorption (Tizard 1986). In a small trial with monkeys it was
found that aloe juice lowered total cholesterol by 61% with a proportionate
rise in HDL (Dixit, 1983). Aloe juice has been used with success to lower
blood sugar and triglyceride levels. Diabetic patients that failed to respond
to other medication responded to aloe treatment (Reynolds, 1999).

It has been demonstrated that both the aloe exudate (bitter) and gel
decreased blood glucose levels in mice. Similarly it has been found that both
compounds have a protective effect against hepatotoxic liver injury (Can
2004). The cathartic and laxative action of aloe bitter is well established.
Its primary effect is caused by its influence on the motility of the colon
(inhibition of stationary and stimulation of propulsive contractions). This
results in an accelerated intestinal passage and a reduction in liquid
absorption increasing water content in the faeces (Blumenthal 1998). In
addition to the purgative effect the anthraquinone (bitter) substances
stimulate the flow of gastric juices thus improving digestion. Soeda (1964)
found that fractions from A. ferox gave a prophylactic (prevents infection)
effect. While in a subsequent study, Soeda (1966) found the aloe juice to have
inhibitory action against some bacteria and fungi, particularly Pseudomonas
aeroginosa and Proteus vulgaris.

Anti-cancer activity An early report by Soeda (1969)
reported anti-tumour activity of A. ferox. Both plant fractions have been
shown to inhibit tumour growth. Aloe-emodin has shown mutagenesis inhibition
as well as the glycoproteins (lectins) and polysaccharides from the gel. Kuo
(2002) has demonstrated that aloe-emodin induced apoptosis (cell
disintegration) and acted as an effective anticancer effect in human liver
cancer. Similarly, Pecere (2000) found that aloe-emodin did not inhibit
fibroblast proliferation while selectively inhibiting human neuroectodermal
tumour cells. A purified polysaccharide indicated anticarcinogenic effects by
inhibiting the uptake of B[a]P and subsequently binding to cellular DNA. It
also had no cytotoxic effect (destructive to cells) (Kim 1999). Strickland
(2001) demonstrated the polysaccharides efficacy to prevent non-melanoma skin
cancers by preventing T cell immune suppression. Anti-microbial Reynolds
(1999) has reviewed the antimicrobial activity of aloe. Antibacterial: The
aloe gel and bitter is bactericidal against: a variety of common wound
infecting bacteria: Streptococcus pyogenes, Serratia marcescens, Klebsiella
pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Mycobacterium tuberculosis,
Pseudomonas auruginosa and Corynebacterium xerose. The gel is effective
against: Streptococcus faecalis responsible for urinary infection. Ferro
(2003) showed effective growth inhibition of Shigella flexneri and
Streptococcus pyogenes responsible for gastroenteritis. Aloe-emodin in bitter
has been shown to inhibit: growth of Helicobacter pylori, which is responsible
for peptic ulcers (Wang 1998). Citrobacter, Enterobacter aerogenes, Serratia
and Klebsiella that cause gastroenteritis. Proteus vulgaris an opportunistic
pathogen of the urinary tract and Salmonella paratyphi causing fever.
Antiviral: Aloe gel has been proven to be virucidal to: HIV-1+ patients
showing increased numbers of white blood cells and improvement in symptoms
(McDaniels 1990b). Herpes simplex infection with significant faster healing
time and higher number of healed lesions compared to the control (Syed 1997).
Aloe bitter was virucidal: by disrupting the coating of the herpes and
influenza virus (Sydiskis 1991). Antifungal: Aloe gel is shown to be
fungicidal to: Candida albicans responsible for yeast infections of the mucous
membranes. Trichophyton spp. by A. ferox juice (Soeda 1966) responsible for
infections such as athlete’s foot and candidiasis (thrush).

Skin The skin is composed of polypeptide chains that form
aggregates of collagen fibrils, which influences the swelling and water uptake
by the skin. The diffusion of water through the skin is limited and controlled
by the stratum corneum (skin surface) that is in equilibrium with the
atmosphere and underlying tissue. Since aloe is approximately 99% water it
penetrates through the surface of the skin (stratum corneum) to the vascular
dermal area thus hydrating the skin. Concurrently, the gel forms a cover to
prevent the escape of moisture in the skin. Aloe gel increases the penetration
of the skin by water hydration, occlusiveness (closes passage) and by
increasing compound solubility. Subsequently, Davis (1991) has demonstrated
that aloe gel enhanced the penetration of hydrocortisone and adds to its
biological activity. Concomitantly, aloe gel increased oxygen supply as a
result of increased blood flow (Davis 1989) and stimulates fibroblast activity
and collagen proliferation (Thompson 1991) essential for skin tissue
regeneration. Subsequently aloe gel it is used extensively in cosmetics. Aloe
gel reduces photo aging by restoring the activity of epidermal cells reduced
by UV exposure. The gel increase soluble collagen levels and biosynthesis
possibly through macrophage stimulation (Lindblad 1994) In a large clinical
trial Syed (1996) studied the effect of an Aloe cream on psoriasis vulgaris.
They found that the aloe cream cured 83.3% of the patients compared to 6.6% of
the placebo group with a concomitant clearing of the psoriatic plaques. There
were no adverse drug reactions or side effects. A study by Vardy (1999) has
demonstrated the effectiveness of an aloe lotion for treating seborrheic
dermatitis (excessive excretion of sebaceous glands, dandruff) when applied on
the skin twice a day. External use: Allergic reactions are rare and there is
no reported toxicity.

Internal use: Aloe juice: Aloe juice appears safe and
there is no reported toxicity. The mucilage in the aloe juice may interfere
with the absorption of other oral medications taken concurrently Aloe bitter:
The anthraquinones in the aloe bitters can cause severe diarrhoea and
intestinal cramping when overdosed. Chronic internal use of anthraquinones can
lead to potassium loss, dehydration and intestinal dependence on laxatives.
The aloe bitters may reduce absorption of drugs due to decreased bowel transit
time, may increase potassium loss in patients taking corticosteroids or
thiazide diuretics, and may potentiate digitalis and other cardiac glycosides
due to low potassium levels. Aloe bitters is not recommended for people with
intestinal obstruction, intestinal inflammation (eg. Crohn’s disease,
ulcerative colitis), appendicitis and abdominal pain of unknown origin. It is
clinically proven that the use of anthranoid laxatives, even in the long term,
does not cause cancer (Nusko 2000).

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