Examining the Healing Mystery of Aloe
COLLEGE STATION - If grandma gets a bedsore, the best thing
to put on it might be a plant that's been used for 5,000
The mysterious Aloe vera has been a source for healing since
Old Testament times, and a Texas A&M University researcher
is trying to uncover just what the substances are in the
plant that work wonders and how they do it so that more
might be learned about treating wounds.
Dr. Ian Tizard, a professor of immunology in the College of
Veterinary Medicine, is studying a special polysaccharide,
the substance that forms along cell walls of the Aloe vera,
to see how it performs its healing tricks.
The Aloe vera is native to North Africa but now can be found
almost worldwide, Tizard says. A succulent, it thrives in
warm and dry climates very much like cactus does.
But unlike its prickly cactus cousin, Aloe vera is in a
class by itself when it comes to certain healing properties.
There are more than 100 species of aloe, but Tizard says
Aloe vera is the one that has drawn the most scientific
"When Aloe vera is placed on many types of wounds, such as
bedsores, it can often heal the wound quickly, and the
likely reason why is the special polysaccharide in it,"
"Many plants contain this polysaccharide, but the kind found
in Aloe vera works differently, we've learned. It seems to
bind growth factors in wounds whereas normally they would be
destroyed. Aloe vera polysaccharide seems to speed along the
healing process much quicker.
"How it does this, that's what we're trying to find out."
Aloe vera (aloe is an Arabic word for a bitter substance,
vera is Latin for truth) has long, pointed leaves consisting
of green rind and clear pulp. The pulp is the part of the
plant that has the healing agents in it.
"It comes out of the plant like a clear liquid, but when it
touches human skin, it becomes a gel," Tizard says. "It acts
as a wound sealant in this gel state, and no other plants do
Especially benefiting from such treatments could be the
elderly, who are susceptible to bedsores, diabetic ulcers
and vascular (circulation) ulcers.
"Geriatric patients often have wounds that won't heal
properly or take longer to heal," Tizard says. "That's one
of the things we're looking at - how can wounds heal
quicker, and what role does the Aloe vera plant play in this
quicker healing process?"
There's not much of the Aloe vera plant that isn't useful,
The rind of the plant has been used as a laxative while the
pulp has been put on burns and wounds for thousands of
years. Besides being used in lotions and medicines, in
recent years cosmetic companies have used Aloe vera in a
variety of products, especially moisturizers.
Tizard's research is funded by Delsite Biotechnologies of
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued
by Texas A&M University.