Using it to prevent, treat and beat cancer
By Ric Coggins
Most of us have or have had aloe vera plants at one time or another. They make great house plants and in warm enough areas, great garden foliage that can survive long periods of little water. Aloe plants are a member of the lily/onion family, and is thought that they likely originated in Africa, before spreading throughout the world.
Aloe vera dates back
The first known written reports on the nourishing juice of the aloe vera plant reach as far back as 6,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Knowledge of aloe vera’s pharmaceutical properties were recorded in Sumerian clay tablets in 1750 B.C. Mentions of aloe are included in the Bible and in the legends of ancient kings and queens. We even know that Alexander the Great was persuaded by Aristotle to conquer the island of Socotra (now a part of Yemen) where aloe was cultivated, in order to have aloe vera to treat his soldiers.
In Roman times, physician and naturalist Dioscorides recommended the use of aloe for numerous physical disorders such as the treatment of wounds, gastrointestinal discomforts, gingivitis, arthralgia, skin irritation, sunburn, acne, hair loss and others.
What we know today
Today we are probably most familiar with aloe vera’s ability to remarkably speed up our healing from sunburns, whether in rubbing the gel of a freshly cut leaf on the burned skin area or in using a commercially prepared product which has aloe added to it for increased effectiveness. Along those same lines, aloe vera’s benefit when added to cosmetic and haircare products is well known and universally understood. But did you know that it has been used successfully in helping patients with cancer fight and overcome that disease?
Like many of you, I have had aloe vera in my gardens for decades, and everyone in my family has been treated with it at one time or another for skin burns and sunburns. In the ’80s, I suffered third-degree burns on one of my hands when an oxyacetylene welding torch exploded.
Of course, due to the severity of my injuries, I sought treatment from an allopathic burn trauma facility. However, in addition to the conventional treatments they applied, I also placed freshly filleted aloe leaves from my garden on my badly burned hand. Amazingly, today no one would know this story unless I told them, as I healed without scarring to my hand. I’ll bet you cannot tell which hand I burned if you looked.
Healing with cancer
I learned about aloe vera’s healing powers with cancer from Chris Wark, whom I have written about before. Wark used aloe vera juice in 2004 to help cure his colon cancer. He remains cancer-free today, some 16 years later. Today he is the father of two girls—two girls whom he would likely never have had due to sterility likely induced by conventional treatments of chemo and radiation, which he avoided by using diet and supplements including aloe vera gel.
So does aloe vera cure cancer? No, as such, it does not. But it does provide remarkable support to something that does cure cancer… the human immune system. As I have written in the past, while we all are likely to develop cancer cells, those rogue cells in our body that refuse to follow their genetic instructions, the truth is that we are not supposed to get cancer, which is the disease that ensues when those rogue cells take over.
Our immune systems
The human immune system, when functioning properly, has no difficulty hunting down cancer cells and “killing” them before they wreak havoc. And as we have discussed in the past, the gut is responsible for as much as 90% of that immune system. In fact, the gut is also the first line of defense in your immune system. So it stands to reason that if we have a healthy gut, we have a healthy immune system.
It is at this juncture that aloe vera rises to the top in being one of our cancer-fighters, as it is one of the most powerful items we can ingest to support our gut, and in turn, support our immune system.
While there are literally thousands of compounds in aloe vera that account for its amazing effects on our health, the super-nutrient called Acemannan is believed to be one of its top healing agents. One of the problems in a number of illnesses is that the immune system can have difficulty recognizing the “intruders” that cause those diseases.
Without getting too deep into the science (which is readily available online to those interested), Acemannan essentially aids the immune system in helping identify cancers and viruses, so that once it has found them, it can “send in the troops” to take them out.
There are 20 amino acids which our body requires in order to rejuvenate, but which the human body cannot produce by itself. Aloe vera gel contains at least seven of the eight most essential amino acids required as well as a number of the other “nice to have” amino acids.
Enzymes enable, accelerate or prevent chemical processes. The enzymes contained in the aloe vera gel help with digestion and in absorbing the sugars, proteins and lipids of our daily food intake. Studies show that some of the enzymes present in aloe vera gel can even destroy free radicals, also known as environmental poisons. Among others, the following enzymes are to be found aloe vera gel: phosphatase, amylase, bradykinae, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase and peroxidase.
Minerals and micronutrients
Minerals and micronutrients are an essential part of our body’s needs and are crucial for maintaining health. Without minerals and micronutrients, the functionality of vitamins and enzymes is impaired. An imbalanced relation of the individual micronutrients plays a major role with regards to cancer—not to mention heart attacks. The following minerals and micronutrients are constituents of aloe vera:
- Iron is important for the immune system and for improving general well-being.
- Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, it is also important for the blood coagulation and the routing of impulses in muscles and nerves.
- Magnesium is important for the functionality of numerous enzymes; it eases the over-stimulations of muscles and nerves and protects the heart from arterial disease. Magnesium is especially important for individuals who live with a high level of stress “anti-stress mineral.” We all need help here!
- Manganese helps the body with the detoxifying processes and is needed for bones, cartilages, fibres and connective tissue.
- Selenium assists the cells in the destruction of free radicals which are produced by stress, environmental exposures, cigarette smoke, etc. Moreover, it is very important for the immune defense. When there is insufficient selenium, the tissue ages more quickly.
- Zinc protects from free radicals and strengthens the immune system. It also accelerates the wound-healing process and stops inflammation.
Other important minerals and micronutrients in aloe vera are chromium, potassium, copper and sodium.
While the vitamin content of aloe vera is relatively low compared to a lot of fruits and vegetables, the vitamin content in aloe is crucial for the synergy effect of all of its other ingredients. Those familiar with the science of homeopathy understand the concept of less being more and the synergies of combined compounds.
With that said, note that the following vitamins are also contained in the aloe vera plant:
- Vitamin B1 is important for our balance of energy. Even small deficiencies can lead to emotional and physical weaknesses.
- Vitamin B2 is necessary for the detoxification processes, as it steers oxidation processes. It is also important for the building of red blood cells.
- Vitamin B6 is a co-enzyme, essential for the amino acid metabolism. It is also needed for the synthesis of hemoglobin.
- Vitamin B12 is important for the synthesis of nucleic acid. Deficiency leads to the decrease in the cell division of the bone marrow (pernicious anemia). As this vitamin is usually only present in animal products, vegetarians can benefit from supplementing their plant-based diet with aloe vera gel.
- Vitamin C, as an antioxidant, strengthens the immune system overall. It is necessary for the growth of bones, teeth, blood and hormones; it protects the body cells from premature aging; and it halts the effects of toxins.
- Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals and therefore protects the cells from premature aging. It accelerates the healing process, helps with rheumatic issues and strengthens the heart and cardiovascular system.
Additional Plant Compounds
Along the lines of homeopathy, secondary plant compounds are only to be found in small amounts in aloe plants, but they do tend to determine tastes, smells and colors. Also, they are very pharmacologically effective.
Aloe vera gel contains:
- Lignins are dietary fibers that stimulate digestion and can penetrate the skin deeply, where they work as carriers for other important substances by binding them and transporting them into even deeper skin layers.
- Essential oils that can work both in an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial way.
- Anthraglycosides are mainly found in the skin of the leaf and they have a laxative effect. In high concentrations these substances are toxic, but in the case of the aloe vera gel where the content is very low, the effect is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.
- Sterols work in an anti-inflammatory capacity and decrease the blood cholesterol level.
- Saponins are glycosides that account for up to 3% content of the aloe vera gel, and have a cleansing and antiseptic effect. These substances are very important for the germ-killing qualities of aloe vera gel with bacteria, virus, fungi and yeasts.
- Salicylic acid, the agent of aspirin, works as a painkiller, decreases fever, and stops inflammation.
What is the Best Aloe Vera Gel to use?
Though he did not pen it, my dad used to say, “The worst day fishing was better than the best day at work!” Along those lines, any aloe vera is likely better than no aloe vera. This spirit is demonstrated by Dr. Michael Haley, owner of Stockton Aloe, a provider of aloe vera products and other wellness supplements and cosmetic applications. In an interview with Chris Wark, Dr. Haley suggested the aloe is such a superfood that, “even when you have bad aloe, it’s still pretty good.”
Dr. Haley conveys that while a number of aloe vera varieties exist, pretty much all purveyors of aloe vera are choosing the species Barbadensis Miller from which to base their products. Within that species though, there further exist several more varieties. The variety that Dr. Haley’s company grows and distributes is called Barbadensis Miller Stockton, named after aloe pioneer Rodney Stockton, who studied the world’s aloe plants, determining that this variety was the most effective. Drinking this variety every day, Stockton lived a healthy active life well into his 90s.
Additives to aloe products
Most aloe products available today are heavily filtered and pasteurized. They may also have preservatives added to make longer store shelf-life possible. Aloe from Haley Nutrition is nothing more than 100% raw, unfiltered, hand-filleted aloe leaves with nothing added… not even water. The pure gel is poured into bottles and then quickly frozen. If you don’t live in Florida, where he processes his Caribbean-grown stock, he ships it direct, frozen and packed in Styrofoam and sometimes dry ice, depending on the time of year and where the ultimate destination is.
This method allows for all of the natural benefits to be provided, including all of the enzymes which are killed during the pasteurization process. Dr. Haley says that the potency of the healthful constituents of aloe increases with the age of the plant. His product is made from leaves that are at least 3 to 5 years old. Younger leaves may not have as much nutritional benefit yet, and leaves that have been on the store shelf for a long time may have lost much of it.
I used the Stockton Aloe 1 products during the time I was treating my active cancer. If you too are fighting active cancer, know that a therapeutic dose can be as much as 24 oz. of gel per day. Many consider a regimen of 8 oz. per day to be a good rule of thumb for daily or preventative maintenance. This applies only to pure leaf gel though—processed brands that may include some of the leaf skin should not be consumed in these quantities. If you are going to use off-the-shelf aloe, follow the directions on the label.
Now that it has been a couple years of my being cancer-free, my daily dose is 4 oz. mixed with an equal amount of spring water, and some pomegranate concentrate for good measure and flavor.
Whether you wish to prevent cancer or are fighting an active case, aloe vera should be considered as a part of your overall health and wellness regimen.
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Ric Coggins is a University of Arizona Master Gardener who grew up on a one-acre garden tended by his father, who was a regular contributor to Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening and Farming magazines. Ric continues his father’s “green” traditions on a one-acre organic garden urban homestead in Mesa he calls The Fool on the Hill Farm.