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Aloe (urdu name ghigwar, local name kawar gandal), s genus of shrubby, scattered, succulent plant of the Lily family (Liliaceae). There are over 250 species of Aloe grown around the world and are native to Africa. Most of them have rosette of leaves at the stem, but no stem. Several species are cultivated as ornamentals due to their sharp pointed spiny leaves and colorful clusters of yellow or red flowers. Today two species are grown commercially, namely Aloe barbadensis Miller, also called Aloe vera, and Aloe arborescence [1]. Tubular yellow flowers are produced annually in the spring. The Aloe plant is grown in warm tropical areas and cannot survive freezing temperature. Mature plant grows as tall as two and a half inches to four feet, with the average being around 28-36 inches in length. Each plant has 12-16 leaves that, when mature, may weigh up to 3 pounds. The plant can be harvested every 6 to 8 weeks by removing 3 to 4 leaves per plant. The Aloe barbadensis and Aloe arborescence are grown in the United States in the Rio Grande valley of South Texas, Florida and Southern California. Internationally the plants can be found in Mexico, the Pacific rim countries, India, South America, the Caribbean, Australia and Africa.

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Chemistry of Aloe

There are more than 200 compounds found in Aloe barbadensis, about 75 of which have biological activity [2, 3, 4, 5-11]. The prominent components are anthraquinones [12-15], Aloin [16], Aloe emodine polysaccharides [16-20, 6, 7], enzymes [21, 22], reducing sugars [23], organic acids, metallic cations [24]. The Aloe gel or fillet, which is stored in the inner portion of the leave, contains 99.5% water and 0.5% solid matter. Table-2 shows the chemical constituents of Aloe vera with their activity.

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Biochemistry

The solid ingredients in Aloe gel are divided into large molecules (0.1 %) and small molecules (0.4 %). Large molecules are polysaccharides and the minor constituents include a mixture of proteins (glycoproteins), and compounds of lower molecular weights, such as sterols, terpenes and other molecules.

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ALOE VERA GEL

Aloe vera: Potentially Active Chemical Constituents

  • High molecular-weight constituents e.g
  1. a) Polysaccharides: glucomannan [25,26] and acemannan [27]
  2. b) Glycoproteins
  3. c) Lectins
  • Low molecular weight constituents e.g. anthaquinones, vitamins, saponins, sterols, etc.

(a) Polysaccharides: The polysaccharides make up approximately 20 percent of the solid content and comprise mostly a mixture of polysaccharides of a linear, highly acetylated β 1-4 Mannan, branched dextrans, pectic acids and other polysaccharides with negative charge. Polysaccharides hexose makes up 5 to < 10 % of the total solids. Associated closely with these polysaccharides are small molecules, primary charged ions. The gel or mucilage obtained from the leaf flesh contains quite different compounds from the bitter latex extracted from the leaf-lining. Aloe gel is 99% water with a pH of 4.5 and is a common ingredient in many non-prescriptional skin conditioners. The gel contains an emollient polysaccharide, glucomannan [25, 26]. It is a good moisturizer, which accounts for its use in many cosmetics. Acemannan [27], the main carbohydrate in the gel, is a watersoluble long-chain mannose polymer, which accelerates wound-healing, modulates immune function (particularly macrophage activation and production of cytokines) and demonstrates antineoplastic and antiviral effects.

(b) Proteins: Proteins in the gel, on the other hand, make up 1 % of the solid content of the gel extract. The predominant proteins in gel-extracts are lower molecular-weight (11,000 and 14,000 kDa respectively, for the two peptide chains). They are probably associated with lectin and may account for the mitogenic activity [28].

(c) Glycoproteins: Glycoproteins have been isolated from Aloe. The homogeneous glycoprotein [29] having 34% carbohydrates, of molecular weight 40 kDa, stimulates DNA synthesis in baby hamster kidneycells and exhibits lectin properties by reacting with sheep cells. The glycopreotein fraction from Aloe vera gel exhibits proliferation-promoting activity in human and hamster cells and enhances wound-healing with significant cell- proliferation and migration. Another glycoprotein fraction (protein 82%, carbohydrate 11%) with a molecular weight 29 kD from Aloe vera gel was found to have a proliferation-promoting activity on human and hamster- cells in vitro [30].

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Aloe Vera Juice

ALOE VERA JUICE

(d) Lectins: Lectins [31,32,33,34] with different haemagglutinating activities have been isolated. Aloctin I and Aloctin II were isolated from leaf pulp [33]. The Aloctin II activity was inhibited by N-acetyl-Dgalactosamine, whereas the Aloctin I was not inhibited by different sugars (twenty) tested for specificity. Two lectins [31] had also been isolated from leaves of Aloe arborescence, the P-2 with molecular weight 18000 and S-1 with molecular weight 24 kDa. The P-2 and S-1 contain more than 18% and 50% neutral carbohydrates by weight, respectively. Both of these exhibit haemagglutinating activity, whereas P-2 also exhibits mitogenic activity on lymphocytes. Interestingly, both of them contain a high proportion of acidic amino acids (i.e. Asp and Glu), and low proportion of Met and His. A lectin with a molecular weight 35 kDa was isolated from leaf-skin of Kidachi Aloe [34] that showed Haemagglunating and mitogenic activity. The sequence of this protein is highly homologous to that of mannose-binding lectin from snowdrop bulb.

(e) Anthraquinones: The leaf lining (latex, resin or sap) contains anthraquinone glycosides [12-15] (aloin, Aloe-emodin and barbaloin) that are potent stimulant laxatives. These water-soluble glycosides are split by intestinal bacteria into a glycones which effect the laxative action. The laxative effect from Aloe is stronger than from any other herb, including senna, cascara or rhubarb root; it also has more severe side-effects, such as cramping, diarrhea, and nausea [35]. For medicinal use, the leaf-lining is dried and the residue is used as herbal laxative. The products are usually taken at bedtime. They are poorly absorbed after oral administration, but moderately well-absorbed after bacterial hydrolysis. They are eliminated in the urine, bile, feces and breast milk. They turn alkaline urine red. Most of herbalists recommend that they should be avoided during pregnancy, due to the risk of stimulating uterine contractions and also avoided during lactation, due to the risk of excretion in breast milk. Aloe is seldom recommended as a first choice among laxative preparations, due to the severe cramping and nausea associated with its use.

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REFERENCES
  1. Wang Yin-Tung, “Long- term Monitoring of Fieldgrown Aloe vera, IASC. 12th Annual Aloe Scientific Seminar”, Irving TX, 3, July 17th (1993).
  2. Obata, “Mechanism of Anti-Inflammatory and AntiThermal Burn Action of Carboxypeptidase Aloe arborescence Miller, Netalensis Berger in Rats and Mice”, Phsiotherapy Research, 7, Special Issues, 530-533. (1993).
  3. S. Shelton, “Aloe vera, Its Chemical and Therapeutic Properties”, International Journel of Dermatology, 30, 679-683.
  4. C. Coats, The Silent Healer, “A Modern Study of Aloe vera, Texas”, Garland (1998).
  5. Atherton, “The Essentials of Aloe vera, The Actions and The Evidence”, 2nd Eddition, (1997).
  6. P. Lawrence, “The Health and Medical Use of Aloe vera” {ISBN: 0-943685-21-4}, (1998).
  7. H. Davis, “Aloe vera: A Scientific Approach” {ISBN: 0533-12137-x}, (1997).
  8. C. Coats And R. Ahola, “The Silent Healer, a Modern Study of Aloe vera” 3rd Eddition, (1996).
  9. Gage, “Aloe Vera: Nature’s soothing Healer” {ISBN: 0-89281-627-9}, (1997).
  10. Mckeon, “Anthraquinones and Anthracenic Derivatives Absorb UV light”, Cosmetics and Toiletries, 102, 64-65 (1987).
  11. M. Strickland, R.P. Pelly, M.L. Kripke, “Prevention of Ultraviolet Radiation and Induced Supperssion of Contact and Delayed Hypersensitivity by Aloe barbadensis Gel Extrect”, Journel of Investigative Dermatology, 9, 197-204, (1994).
  12. P. Brown, “A Review of the Genetic Effects of Naturally Occuring Flavanoids, Anthraquinones and Related Compounds”, Mutat. Res., 75, 243-277 (1980).
  13. E. Sandelbach, “A Review of the Toxicity and Carcinogenicity of Anthraquinone Derivatives”, Toxicology, 57, 227-240 (1989).
  14. Westendorf, H. Marquardt, B. Poginnsky, M. Dominiak, and J. Schmidt, “Genotoxicity of Naturally Occurring Hydroxy-anthraquinones”, Mutat. Res., 240, 1- 12 (1990).
  15. Wolfe, C. Schumatte, J. Westendorf, and H. Marquardt, “Hydroxy-anthraquinines as Tumor Promoters, Enhancement of Malignant Transformation of C3H Mouse Fibroblasts and Growth Simulation of Primary Rat Heptocytes”, Cancer Res., 50, 6540-6544 (1990).
  16. H. McAnalley, “Identification of Polysaccharides (the Acetylated B1-4 Mannan)”, U.S. Patents, 4, 735, 935, 4, 851, 22, 4, 959, 214 and 4, 966, 892 (1988).
  17. Suzuki, H. Saito, S. Inueo, and Takahashi, “Purification and Characterisation of Two Lectins from Aloe barbadensis Miller”, Jap. Biochem., 85, 163- 171 (1979).
  18. Winters Wendal, “Immunoreactive LectinMitogenes From Aloe Barbadensis Mill” International Congress of Phytotherapy, organised by The Pharmaceutical Society of Korea and Aloe Research Foundation, U.S.A., October abstract SB1(1991).
  19. C. Coats, The Silent Healer, “A Modern Study of Aloe vera, Texas”, Garland (1998).
  20. Wang Yin-Tung, “Long- term Monitoring of Fieldgrown Aloe vera, IASC. 12th Annual Aloe Scientific Seminar”, Irving TX, 3, July 17th (1993).
  21. Obata, “Mechanism of Anti-Inflammatory and AntiThermal Burn Action of Carboxypeptidase Aloe arborescence Miller, Netalensis Berger in Rats and Mice”, Phsiotherapy Research, 7, Special Issues, 530-533. (1993).
  22. S. Shelton, “Aloe vera, Its Chemical and Therapeutic Properties”, International Journel of Dermatology, 30, 679-683.
  23. . J.E. Hodge, and B.T. Hofrieter, “Determination of Reducing Sugars and Carbohydrates”, Methods of Carbohydrate Chemistry, 1, 380-394 (1962).
  24. D. Bouchey and G. Gjerstad, “Chemical Studies of Aloe (barabadensis) Juice.II: Inorganic Ingredients”, J. Crude Drug Res., 9, 1445-1453 (1969).
  25. Mendal and A. Das, “Characterisation of the Polysaccharides from Aloe barbadensis, PartII, Structure of the Glucomannan Isolated from the Leaves of Aloe barbadensis Miller”, Carb. Res., 87, 249-256 (1980).
  26. N. Haq and A. Hannan, “Studies of Glucogalactomannan from the Leaves of Aloe Vera Tourn. (Ex.linn)”, Bangaldesh J.Sci. and Ind. Res., 16, 68-72 ( 1981).
  27. H. McAnalley, “Identification of Polysaccharides (the Acetylated B1-4 Mannan)”, U.S. Patents, 4, 735, 935, 4, 851, 22, 4, 959, 214 and 4, 966, 892 (1988).
  28. Winters Wendal, “Immunoreactive LectinMitogenes From Aloe Barbadensis Mill” International Congress of Phytotherapy, organised by The Pharmaceutical Society of Korea and Aloe Research Foundation, U.S.A., October abstract SB1(1991).
  29. Yagi, K. Machi, H. Nishimura, T. Shida, I. Nishioka, “Effect of Aloe Lectin on Deoxyriboneuclic Acid Synthesis in Baby Hamster Kidney Cells”, Experientia 41, 669-671 (1985).
  30. Yagi, T. Egusa, M. Arase, M. Tanabe, H. Tsugi, “Isolation and characterization of Glycoprotein Fraction with a Proliferation-Promoting Activity on Human and Hamster Cells in Vitro form Aloe vera Gel”, Planta Med., 63, 18-21 (1997).
  31. Suzuki, H. Saito, S. Inueo, and Takahashi, “Purification and Characterisation of Two Lectins from Aloe barbadensis Miller”, Jap. Biochem., 85, 163- 171 (1979).
  32. Winters Wendal, “Immunoreactive LectinMitogenes From Aloe Barbadensis Mill” International Congress of Phytotherapy, organised by The Pharmaceutical Society of Korea and Aloe Research Foundation, U.S.A., October abstract SB1(1991).
  33. Akev, A. Can, “Seperation and Some Properties of Aloe vera Pulp Lectins”, Phytother. Res., 13, 489-493 (1999).
  34. Koike, H. Beppu, H. Kuzuya, K. Maurata, K. Shimpo, M. Suzuki, K. Titani, K. Fujita, “A 35 kDa MannoseBinding Lectin with Hemaglutinating and Mitogenic Activities from ‘Kidachi Aloe’ (Aloe brborescence Miller Var. Natalensis Berger)”, J. Biochem. (Tokyo), 118, 1205-1210 (1995).
  35. M. Strickland, R.P. Pelly, D. Hill and M.I. Kripke, “The Effect of Topical Administration of Aloe barbadensis Gel Extract Upon UVB-Induced Suppression of Contact Hepersensitivity in C3H Mice”, J. Invest. Dermatology, 98, 120s, (1992).