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October 2022

J Ethnopharmacol. 1986 Jun; 16(2-3): 117-51.

The Aloe vera phenomenon: a review of the properties and modern uses of the leaf parenchyma gel.

Grindlay D, Reynolds T.

The mucilaginous gel from the parenchymatous cells in the leaf pulp of Aloe vera has been used since early times for a host of curative purposes. This gel should be distinguished clearly from the bitter yellow exudate originating from the bundle sheath cells, which is used for its purgative effects. Aloe vera gel has come to play a prominent role as a contemporary folk remedy, and numerous optimistic, and in some cases extravagant, claims have been made for its medicinal properties. Modern clinical use of the gel began in the 1930s, with reports of successful treatment of X-ray and radium burns, which led to further experimental studies using laboratory animals in the following decades. The reports of these experiments and the numerous favourable case histories did not give conclusive evidence, since although positive results were usually described, much of the work suffered from poor experimental design and insufficiently large test samples. In addition some conflicting or inconsistent results were obtained. With the recent resurgence of interest in Aloe vera gel, however, new experimental work has indicated the possibility of distinct physiological effects. Chemical analysis has shown the gel to contain various carbohydrate polymers, notably either glucomannans or pectic acid, along with a range of other organic and inorganic components. Although many physiological properties of the gel have been described, there is no certain correlation between these and the identified gel components.

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