Aloe Vera For Wound Healing

  • Farwah AlamBS(Hons)in Microbiology and Molecular genetics, University of the Punjab, Pakistan
  • Irenosen AddehMaster of Science (MSc), Public Health, University of Debrecen, Hungary
  • Kajal MadhavaniMSc in Biomedical Science(Cancer Biology), University of Westminster

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Introduction

Do you know that a simple plant can provide powerful healing properties for wounds? Do you know aloe vera has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for various skin conditions, including wound healing? Yeah! You read that right. Aloe vera- the miracle plant has been used for centuries for the healing of different skin conditions, including skin cuts and burns.1 In this blog article, we'll explore the science behind the wound-healing capabilities of aloe vera. 

Background

Skin is the largest organ of the human body and protects the internal environment of the body. When there is a lesion or rupture on the surface of the skin due to physical, thermal, or chemical trauma, it is known as a wound. So wounds can be called tissue trauma that needs medical therapy.

Wound healing

Wound healing is the use of a series of cellular and molecular mechanisms to treat the injury that is the result of trauma. These complex and advanced mechanisms of wound healing involve cell types, cytokines, mediators, and the vascular system. Wound healing is dependent on the duration, and period of healing. Based on these two main factors, wounds are classified as acute and chronic wounds.

Acute wound

Wounds that healed within a period of 8-12 weeks.

Chronic wound

Wounds that heal slowly due to recurring or repeated damage. The healing of such wounds exceeds 12 weeks. Examples include wounds in diabetic patients. 

Stages of wound healing

Wound healing occurs in three stages: inflammatory, proliferative, and tissue remodeling.

Inflammatory stage

In this stage, hemostasis, chemotaxis, and vascular permeability occur. Closure of wounds occurs in this stage, thus reducing the further damage. This stage usually lasts for several days.

Proliferative stage

In this phase, granulation of tissue is formed, and re-epithelialization and neovascularization occur. This stage also occurs for several days.

Tissue remodeling stage

At this stage, maximum strength is achieved by the wound as it matures.2

What is aloe vera?

Aloe vera, with the botanical name Aloe barbadensis miller, is a member of the Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family. This cactus, a succulent plant, typically grows in dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. For the first time, Egyptians used aloe vera for the treatment of wounds, burns, and infections, and later it was used by Greeks, Spanish, and African people.

A total of 75 different compounds are present in aloe vera, including 20 minerals, 20 amino acids, vitamins, and water. It is believed that the special biological, therapeutic, and pharmacological effects of aloe vera are due to the multitude of components that make up the composition of aloe vera.

These components are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and homeostatic, particularly associated with the treatment of skin injuries such as cuts, burns, radiation, and electrical injuries.3

Anatomy of aloe vera

The structure of aloe vera is in the form of three layers: the inner layer, the middle layer, and the outer layer. 

Inner layer

First, the inner layer is a transparent gel that comprises 99% water and 1% solid matter of over 75 different compounds. This aloe gel is the main product produced from aloe vera.

Middle layer

It is the bitter latex that is a form of yellow juice rich in glycosides and anthraquinones.

Outer layer

This layer is the thick cortex that produces carbohydrates and proteins.

Chemical composition of aloe vera

Since aloe vera is a succulent plant, water comprises 90-95% of its chemical composition. The remaining part of aloe vera is made up of minerals, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, polysaccharides, phenols, sterols, and additional organic compounds.

The inner layer of aloe vera comprises 55% polysaccharides, 17% sugars, 16% minerals, 7% amino acids, 4% fatty acids, and 1% phenolic compounds. The chemical compositions of aloe vera vary according to species, climatic conditions, and the growth environment.5

Active components with its properties

Active aloe vera includes vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignins, saponins, salicylic acid, and amino acids.

Vitamins

Vitamins A, C, and E which are antioxidants and neutralize free radicals are present in aloe vera. Vitamin B12, choline, and folic acid are also present.

Enzymes

Aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase are the 8 enzymes present in aloe vera. When aloe vera is applied topically, bradykinase reduces excessive inflammation.

Minerals

Minerals such as calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc are present in aloe vera. These minerals help in the proper functioning of enzymes. 

Sugars

Aloe vera contains simple sugars like glucose and fructose, as well as complex carbohydrates such as glucomannans (or polymannose). These are referred to as mucopolysaccharides. Mannose-6-phosphate is the main single sugar present, while the most prevalent complex carbohydrates are known as glucomannans [beta--acetylated mannan].

Additionally, a prominent type of glucomannan called Acemannan has been identified in Aloe vera gel. More recently, researchers have also discovered alprogen - a glycoprotein with anti-allergic properties - and a new anti-inflammatory compound known as C-glucosyl chromone within Aloe vera gel.

Anthraquinones

aloe vera provides 12 anthraquinones. Aloin and emodin have antiviral, antibacterial, and analgesic properties.

Fatty acids

Four plant steroids: cholesterol, campesterol, β-sitosterol, and lupeol are the active components of aloe vera. All of them have anti-inflammatory properties, and lupeol also has antiseptic and pain-relieving qualities.

Hormones

Auxins and gibberellins that help in wound healing are present in aloe vera. These hormones also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Others

It has 20 amino acids. It also has salicylic acid, with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Lignin, another substance in it, helps other ingredients penetrate the skin more effectively when used topically. Saponins make up about 3% of the gel and have cleansing and antiseptic effects.

Created by Kajal Madhavani using Canva

Mechanism of action

Aloe vera has several mechanisms of action that contribute to its effectiveness in wound healing. 

  1. First and foremost, aloe vera reduces inflammation through its anti-inflammatory compounds, inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and alleviation of swelling and redness in wounded areas
  2. Secondly, it promotes the synthesis of collagen by stimulating fibroblasts for the production of collagen, thus enhancing the strength and elasticity of the tissue, and contributing to scar tissue formation and the closure of wounds
  3. Thirdly, it accelerates the proliferation of the cell by impacting the division and growth of the cell, leading to faster regeneration of damaged tissues and support for the overall wound healing process

Application of aloe vera for wound healing

Aloe vera can be applied topically for minor wounds, burns, and cuts, and is effective in reducing pain and wound healing compared to traditional burn treatments. Aloe vera is also compared to antibiotic ointments, and its healing rates are found to be much more effective and less costly. 

Scientific evidence supports Aloe vera's efficacy in wound healing, and clinical trials have evaluated patient responses to Aloe vera treatment. Best practices for using Aloe vera include choosing high-quality products, proper application and frequency, and being aware of potential side effects or contraindications.7

Side effects

Recent studies show that aloe vera may contain toxic components that can cause some adverse side effects like transient pain, stinging sensations, burning, redness, and rare cases of dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions are mainly attributed to anthraquinones, so it's advisable to test on a small area first.

Summary

Aloe vera is known as a natural remedy for its role in healing wounds, backed up by scientific evidence and used for centuries. The gel from the plant has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce swelling and redness. It also promotes the synthesis of collagen, making tissues stronger and more elastic, which helps in scar formation and wound closure.

Aloe vera speeds up cell growth, helping damaged tissues regenerate faster. Applying it topically to minor wounds provides soothing effects without any negative side effects. Aloe vera is also effective for burns, providing a cooling sensation while forming a protective layer.

Research suggests that aloe vera may have promising healing abilities compared to traditional treatments based on evidence from clinical trials, as it is composed of bioactive compounds. Choosing high-quality aloe vera products and following application guidelines are important for optimal results without side effects.

References

  1. Jangra, Alka, et al. “The Dark Side of Miracle Plant-Aloe Vera: A Review.” Molecular Biology Reports, vol. 49, no. 6, June 2022, pp. 5029–40. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11033-022-07176-9.
  2. Wallace, Heather A., et al. “Wound Healing Phases.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2024. PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470443/.
  3. Hekmatpou, Davood, et al. “The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review.” Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 44, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 1–9. PubMed Central, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6330525/.
  4. Chelu, Mariana, et al. “Aloe Vera-Based Hydrogels for Wound Healing: Properties and Therapeutic Effects.” Gels, vol. 9, no. 7, July 2023, p. 539. www.mdpi.com, https://doi.org/10.3390/gels9070539.
  5. Massoud, Diaa, et al. “Aloe Vera and Wound Healing: A Brief Review.” Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 58, Jan. 2023, p. e20837. SciELO, https://doi.org/10.1590/s2175-97902022e20837.
  6. Surjushe, Amar, et al. “ALOE VERA: A SHORT REVIEW.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 53, no. 4, 2008, pp. 163–66. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5154.44785.
  7. Hekmatpou, Davood, et al. “The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review.” Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 44, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 1–9. PubMed Central, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6330525/.
  8. Massoud, Diaa, et al. “Aloe Vera and Wound Healing: A Brief Review.” Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 58, Jan. 2023, p. e20837. SciELO, https://doi.org/10.1590/s2175-97902022e20837.

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Farwah Alam

BS(Hons)in Microbiology and Molecular genetics, University of the Punjab, Pakistan

Farwah, a research scholar in microbiology and molecular genetics, is a passionate science communicator. She simplifies complex concepts, expressing her love for science and aspiring to contribute meaningfully to health research.

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