Aloe vera continues to be in the top two herbal ingredients the consumer recognizes and requests in the products they purchase. This succulent and a member of the lily family is known to the consumer market as an ingredient that relieves sun burn pain, aids in healing a wound and relieving dry irritated skin. These benefits have long been observed by users of topical product containing aloe vera.
Today more and more consumers are consuming aloe vera to see the same benefits internally. This the same concept of “beauty from within”. Why is it that this herb delivers these benefits? What is thought to deliver the beneficial activities we see in quality products that contain aloe?
It is the consensus of research that the polysaccharides in aloe vera are responsible for the benefits found in this herb. The polysaccharides are sometimes referred to as acemannan, the biologically active polysaccharide isolated from aloe vera in 1984 by Dr. Bill H. McAnalley at Carrington Laboratories. These polysaccharides have been shown to be predominately mannose with small amounts of glucose and galactose. They are stable and non-toxic. Carrington research has shown these polysaccharides stimulate the macrophage in the body’s innate immune system. Macrophages are phagocytic immune cells that ingest and destroy viruses, bacteria and tumor cells. These cells also secrete a number of important chemicals such as growth factors, enzymes and cytokines. The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) can destroy tumor cells and stimulate fibroblast cells for wound healing. Macrophages can release interleukins that can enhance inflammation against infection.
Macrophages, essential immune cells, act as directors of various immune responses and activities through the coordinated release of compounds like cytokines and chemokines. Several studies have demonstrated that the saccharide portions of several microorganisms and plant polysaccharides, like those in aloe vera, are powerful macrophage activators. Activated macrophages are deeply involved in self-regulated immunomodulation. This accounts for the broad range of benefits historically attributed to aloe like wound healing, infection control, immunomodulation, etc.
Acemannan (aloe polysaccharides), the active component in aloe vera, has been credited with a variety of benefits, which have usually caused disbelief or debate in people. However it is evident acemannan is able to provide these benefits by activating and modulating the activity of the macrophages. Once these cells are activated, they can produce the variety of immune compounds needed to manifest benefits such as, wound healing, infection control, etc. Again, nature has designed a mechanism to activate the immune system with self-regulating immunomodulation.
For those interested in more information on aloe vera, one can contact the International Aloe Science Council (IASC) at iasc.org.