Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Aloe barbadensis extract; Aloe Emodin; Bear bile; Succus Aloes inspissatus

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The stabilized juice from aloe leaves is called aloe. Aloe species. This juice has an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect and is mainly used in cosmetics.
The pharmaceutically used extracts are named according to their origin:

  • Curacao Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) consists of the thickened juice of the leaves of Aloe barbadensis Miller which can be administered in appropriate applications and dosages.
  • Cape Aloe (Aloe capensis), consists of the thickened juice of the leaves, especially of Aloe ferox.

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Both drugs differ gradually in the composition of their active ingredients. They contain anthranoids (name for naturally occurring anthracene derivatives) such as aloin, the main active ingredient with a strong laxative effect (aloin is located outside the water storage tissue of the leaves under the leaf bark).

Furthermore, the chromone derivatives aloesin, aleosone, aloenin (a bitter substance) as well as in rather low concentration (<1%) the 1.8 dihydroxyanthroquinone derivative aloe-emodine (see below emodins ) are found. According to Ph.Eur. 2, Aloe capensis (Cape Aloe) contains at least 18% aloin, Aloe barbadensis (Curacao Aloe) at least 28% aloin.

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The pharmaceutical drug Aloe is obtained as an extract from Aloe vera, the official parent plant, by evaporation to drying.

The following starting substrates are obtained by 2 gradually different ways of processing the extract:

  • Aloe hepatica: Obtained by slow, gentle evaporation in the sun or in a vacuum as a matt brown, liver-coloured solid product (so-called "Aloe hepatica type").
  • Aloe lucida: Formed by rapid evaporation as a deep brown, glassy solid product (so-called "Aloelucida type").

Aloe has a very bitter taste, is not very soluble in cold water and very soluble in hot water.

The following are referred to as medicinal products:

  • Curaçao Aloe (Barbados Aloe) is made from Aloe barbadensis Miller (Aloe vera Linné) and contains the strongly laxative 1,8-dihydroxyanthracene derivative Aloin as its essential ingredient.
  • Cape Aloe (Aloe capensis) is mainly extracted from Aloe ferox Miller Art.

Spectrum of action
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Systemic effects: 1,8-dihydroxyanthracene derivatives have a strong laxative effect. The beta-glycosidic bound glycosides are probably prodrugs which are catalysed to aloe amondine anthrone by bacterial enzymes only in the colon. Aloe-emondine anthrone is the actual active substance with the laxative properties.

External effects: With external application (ointments and gels) the anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects are used.

Field of application/use
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Aloe is an integral part of phytotherapy and modern cosmetics. When applied externally (ointments and gels), the juice of the aloe is said to have a positive effect on itching from insect bites.

Further indications are sunburn (Aloe gel), acne vulgaris and psoriasis vulgaris. Due to its antiseptic properties, aloe vera is also suitable for wound treatment.

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As laxative 0.2-0.25g cape aloe. As bitter agent 0,05-0,1g cape aloe. Application forms are Pilulae laxantes, Extractum Aloes siccum normatum (Ph.Eur.2): Tinctura Aloes.

Undesirable effects
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Side effects with systemic application: Possible disturbances in the water and electrolyte balance with prolonged use; loss of potassium. Risk of neprotoxicity (proteinuria, haematuria). The therapeutic importance of "Aloe" has clearly decreased in systemic therapy, as better tolerated substances exist for the indications.

Trade names
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Phoenix Kalophön Ointment