Aloe Vera: An Ancient Herb for Modern Uses

Aloe vera is an herbaceous and perennial pea- green color plant that belongs to the Liliaceae family. The leaves of aloe vera are succulent, erect, and form a dense rosette. Aloe species are widely distributed in the South Africa where it originated from, and the eastern European continents, and are spread almost throughout the world. Many medicinal uses are contributed by the inner gel obtained from the plant’s leaves. This plant is one of the richest natural sources of health for human beings coming. The chemistry of the plant has revealed the presence of more than 200 different biologically active substances. It has numerous medicinal properties for example antitumor, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antidiabetic functions. Moreover, aloe vera has also been endorsed for constipation, gastrointestinal disorders, and for immune system deficiencies. It has been used in folk medicine for more than 2000 years, and has maintained a vital component in the traditional medicine of many contemporary cultures, such as China, India, the West Indies, and Japan.

Here in this article, we review the aloe vera plant, its properties, clinical uses on skin healing and antidiabetic functions, and their mechanism of actions.


Chemical Properties

Aloe vera contains mainly water (over 98%) and polysaccharides, including pectins, cellulose, hemicellulose, glucomannan, and acemannan, the latter being considered as the main functional component1. So far 75 known compounds have been isolated in Aloe vera, including 20 minerals, 20 amino acids, vitamins, and water2,3.


Clinical Uses

Aloe vera has been researched for its clinical effectiveness against a wide variety of affections and disorders of the skin, for example, wounds and burns, and also for its effect as anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antiseptic, skin healing and protection properties1,3.  


Mechanism of Action

In terms of skin wound healing, multiple laboratory studies and researches performed on living organisms have demonstrated that aloe vera can stop thromboxane, thereby promoting the cutaneous wound healing process, and reducing signs of inflammation4,5. Magnesium lactate, a type of mineral found in the aloe vera juice can block the synthesis of histamine that initiates prickling and skin rashes6,7. Glucomannan, rich in polysaccharides, stimulates the activity and propagation of fibroblast growth factor receptors, consequently expanding the amount of collagen and affect its composition, ultimately increasing the collagen cross-linking and boosting wound healing8. Mucopolysaccharides together with amino acids and zinc in Aloe vera result in strengthened skin integrity, greater moisture retention, lowered erythema or redness, and aids to prevent skin ulcers9.

In the aspect of diabetes control, aloe vera has demonstrated a reduction in serum glucose and significantly increased serum insulin levels in scientific papers. Blood levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) are lowered while blood glutathione (GSH) is increased by aloe treatment. The aloe polysaccharides that inhibit apoptosis or cell death, and endoplasmic reticulum stress signalling, are responsible for the decrease of blood glucose levels by preventing glucotoxicity of insulin-producing pancreatic cell death10,11. Aloe-emodin-8-O-glycoside isolated from aloe vera gel is shown to improve glucose transport by modulating the proximal and distal markers involved in glucose uptake and its transformation into glycogen12, thereby taking away the blood sugar molecules from the bloodstream.



Aloe vera is a common plant with a wide variety of uses. It has been traditionally used to treat skin injuries. This article aims to reveal one of the modern uses, which is antidiabetic, amongst the many newly discovered actions like anticancer and antimicrobial properties. We will discuss more of the aloe vera functions in the future.





  1. Quispe C, Villalobos M, Borques J, Simirgiotis M. Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Activity of Aloe vera from the Pica Oasis (Tarapacá, Chile) by UHPLC-Q/Orbitrap/MS/MS. Journal of Chemistry. 2018. Article ID 6123850 |
  2. Subramanian S, Kumar DS, Arulselvan P. Wound healing potential of Aloe vera leaf gel studied in experimental rabbits. Asian J Biochem. 2006; 1:178–85.
  3. Sahu PK, Giri DD, Singh R, Pandey P, Gupta S, Shrivastava AK, et al. Therapeutic and medicinal uses of Aloe vera: a review. Pharmacol Pharm. 2013; 4:599–610. doi: 10.4236/pp.2013.48086.
  4. Shelton RM, Aloe vera. Its chemical and therapeutic properties. Int J Dermatol. 1991; 30:679–83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4362.1991.tb02607.x.
  5. Heck E, Head M, Nowak D, Helm P, Baxter C. Aloe vera (gel) cream as a topical treatment for outpatient burns. Burns. 1981; 7:291–4. doi: 10.1016/0305-4179(81)90112-1.
  6. Bunyapraphatsara N, Jirakulchaiwong S, Thirawarapan S, Manonukul J. The efficacy of Aloe vera cream in the treatment of first, second and third degree burns in mice. Phytomedicine. 1996; 2:247–51. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(96)80050-X.
  7. Somboonwong J, Thanamittramanee S, Jariyapongskul A, Patumraj S. Therapeutic effects of Aloe vera on cutaneous microcirculation and wound healing in second degree burn model in rats. J Med Assoc Thai. 2000; 83:417–25.
  8. Boudreau MD, Beland FA. An evaluation of the biological and toxicological properties of Aloe barbadensis (miller), Aloe vera. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev. 2006; 24:103–54. doi: 10.1080/10590500600614303.
  9. West DP, Zhu YF. Evaluation of aloe vera gel gloves in the treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure. Am J Infect Control. 2003; 31:40–2. doi: 10.1067/mic.2003.12.
  10. Kim K., Chung M.H., Park S., Cha J., Baek J.H., Lee S.Y., Choi S.Y. ER stress attenuation by Aloe-derived polysaccharides in the protection of pancreatic β-cells from free fatty acid-induced lipotoxicity. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 2018; 500:797–803. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.04.162.
  11. Alshatwi A.A., Subash-Babu P. Aloe-Emodin Protects RIN-5F (Pancreatic β-cell) Cell from Glucotoxicity via Regulation of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokine and Downregulation of Bax and Caspase 3. Biomol. Ther. 2016; 24:49–56. doi: 10.4062/biomolther.2015.056.
  12. Anand, V.S. Muthusamy, S. Sujatha, et al. Aloe emodin glycosides stimulates glucose transport and glycogen storage through PI3K dependent mechanism in L6 myotubes and inhibits adipocyte differentiation in 3T3L1 adipocytes. FEBS Lett, 584 (2010), pp. 3170-3178