KUMARI – Aloe indica
Sanskrit: Kumari, Kanya, Kumarika
Aloe vera, commonly known as “kumari” refers to the young ladies which states its medicinal property for young ladies especially in the menstrual disorders and also states its property of rejuvenation power for maintaining youth.
The name Aloe vera probably stems from the Arabic word alloeh, meaning ‘shining, bitter substance’. Over the centuries there have been many references to Aloe vera in the literature of various cultures, including the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman, as well as those of the Indian, Chinese, and Arab peoples. The first reference to Aloe vera in English was in a translation by John Goodyear in 1655 of Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (AD 41-68). Aloe, he wrote, “is of a strong scent and very bitter to the taste … It hath the power of binding or procuring sleep, of drying, of thickening bodies, and loosening of ye belly and of cleansing ye stomach. It also stops ye spitting of blood and cleanseth ye icterus (liver).”
Taste: Bitter, Sweet
Properties: Heavy, Oily, Mucinous
Post digestive Action: Pungent
Prabhava [Special Potency]: Bhedana
Effect on Doshas: Eliminated Trdosha
PHARMACOLOGY AND EFFECTS
99.0-99.5% of Aloe is water, with an average pH of 4.55.
Aloe’s general nutritional effect involves the synergistic action of the minerals, vitamins, trace elements, and enzymes, but this of course is dependent on the amount ingested.
Contains many vitamins, excluding vitamin D, but including the important antioxidants A, C, and E, as well as the B group. Some authorities also suggest there is a trace of vitamin B12, which is normally only available from animal sources.
Biochemical catalysts such as amylase and lipase, aid digestion by breaking down fats and sugars. An important enzyme, carboxypeptidase, inactivates bradykinin, which produces pain associated with vasodilation; its hydrolysis therefore has an anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect. The enzyme bradykinase inhibits proteases, thereby leading to a reduction in swelling and redness.
Magnesium lactate, present in Aloe vera, inhibits histidine decarboxylase, thus blocking the formation of histamine from the amino acid histidine in mast cells. Since histamine is liberated into the skin from mast cells in many allergic reactions, leading to intense itching and pain, this reaction may account for aloe’s powerful antipruritic effect. Hence Aloe vera is very effective treatment for both acute and chronic urticaria.
These are derived from the mucilage layer of the plant which surrounds the inner parenchyma or gel. They comprise both mono- and polysaccharides, but by far the most important are the long-chain polysaccharides. Unlike other sugars, which are broken down prior to absorption, the polysaccharides are absorbed complete and appear in the bloodstream unchanged. When taken orally, some bind to receptor sites lining the gut and form a barrier, possibly helping to prevent ‘leaky gut syndrome’, whilst others are absorbed whole by a method of cellular absorption known as pinocytosis. Here they act as immunomodulators capable of both enhancing and retarding the immune response. And so, enhancement of the skin’s immune system, mediated by the long-chain polysaccharides, which afford protection against damaging ultraviolet rays. And the moisturization of the skin is also brought about by the action of the polysaccharides.
These phenolic compounds found in the sap – the ‘bitter aloes’ – are made up of free anthraquinones and their derivatives. In large amounts these exert a powerful purgative effect and so, Aloe vera works on the wall of intestine by breaking down the impacted food residues in the intestinal wall and it increase rate of peristalsis, creating a faster movement of food through the gut. But in small amounts they appear to aid absorption from the gut, so the low dose of Aloe vera juice stimulates the digestive fire.
Topically they can absorb ultraviolet light, and inhibit tyrosinase activity, reducing the formation of melanin, thereby reducing any tendency to hyperpigmentation. This has the effect, with prolonged use, of reducing the formation of ‘liver spots’ or ‘age spots’.
This woody substance, inert in itself, endows penetrative ability, taking the other active ingredients with it deep into the skin to nourish the dermis. Using Aloe vera topically is particularly effective because the active substances penetrate into the skin, owing to the lignin component, rather than remaining on the surface.
These soapy substances form 3% of the gel and are general cleansers with antiseptic properties. Aloe vera kills most wound pathogens-e.g. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus-in vitro. Apart from these common pathogens, it has also been shown to kill yeasts such as Candida albicans and fungi such as those involved in ringworm and athlete’s foot. It is virucidal for the herpes simplex and herpes zoster.
An aspirin-like compound possessing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Topically it has a keratolytic effect which helps to debride a wound of necrotic tissue. And the enzymic degradation of necrotic tissue is also possibly due to amylase and aloctin-A, which stimulate the activity of macrophages.
Salicylic acid also prevents the biosynthesis of prostaglandins from arachnidonic acid through its inhibition of cyclooxygenase, reducing the vascular effects of histamine and serotonin. In this way both the inflammatory and immune response are regulated.
Aloe Vera gel provides 20 of the 22 amino acids required by the human body, and seven of the eight essential amino acids which the body cannot synthesize. Although the amounts of all these compounds are very small, the evident healing effect of this plant appears to come from the synergistic effect of all the components working together in concert.
Aloe vera works in epithelial tissues – a layer of cells that covers the surface of the body or lines a cavity that communicates with it. The skin, the largest organ of the body, is also the largest epithelial surface, but epithelial tissues also include the lining of the nose, sinuses and lungs, the mouth, oesophagus and alimentary tract as well as the genital tract. Its action on surfaces and membranes rather than solid organs accounts for the variety of problems that aloe can address by promoting faster healing.
It accelerates the healing of wounds and it is used in burns. The production of thromboxane, which would bring about vasoconstriction and increased platelet adhesiveness, is inhibited by Aloe vera. This action makes it particularly useful in the treatment of burns, where increased blood flow is beneficial. An increase in collagen and elastin deposition due to the stimulation of dermal fibroblasts is also a most important effect in wound healing, for, in vitro, fibroblasts under the influence of Aloe vera replicate themselves three to four times more than a control. Cosmetically this reduces the tendency for ageing skin to wrinkle.
Aloe vera juice helps in the purification of blood and also enhances the quality of skin. It can be used in various skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, ulcers, seborrhoeic dermatitis and mouth ulcers as well. The juice acts as a vehicle for carrying medicines to all the tissues, especially the plasma, blood and reproductive tissues. So, it can be used along with other drugs as a co-therapy.
Aloe vera juice also has soothing effect of the walls of stomach so, can be used in gastritis. Because of its hepato-protective property, it is used in various hepatic disease like jaundice, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) and also in splenomegaly (enlarged spleen).
Image credit: Dr. Chandana Nandadeva
Aloe is an effective remedy for intestinal worms in children. It is used as a stimulant for hair growth. And it is also used to cure oligomenorrhea, dysmenorrhea and weakness of the body.
Pregnancy [due to its purgative nature].
However drug interaction of Aloe vera has not been reported yet.
Leaf pulp juice: 12-20 ml
Gel: 15- 30 g
Dr. Indunil Weerarathne
07 July 2012