The Use of Aloe Constituents in Self-Administered Cancer Treatment
Gillies, Kelsie E.A.
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Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) include many different biologic substances that may be ingested or applied topically in an effort to mitigate disease. One source of such substances is the Aloe, a plant that has been used since antiquity to treat a multitude of conditions, and which is now being touted as a potential natural aid in the fight against cancer. There are many different classes of nutrient and modulatory chemicals isolated from Aloe, and some have now been investigated for their anticancer activities. This review will focus on the anticancer properties of four main Aloe components – aloe-emodin, aloin, acemannan and b-sitosterol – in relation to their activities against cells in human cancers and potential abilities to interfere with conventional chemotherapeutics. We build upon this background to consider the validity for Aloe in cancer care. It is evident, after considering both in vitro and in vivo findings, that there needs to be further independent studies examining the safety and efficacy of ingestion of Aloe products for human use, proper standardization of product content, and systematic identification and characterization of the wide variety of Aloe constituents. Aloe is a genus of perennial succulent plants that thrive in hot, dry climates (Choi et al., 2002; Molassiotis et al., 2005). As with many plants, its cosmetic and health-related potentials have been explored since antiquity, and it finds current use in a multitude of cosmetic, dermatologic and other healthcare products (Reynolds and Dweck, 1999; Ulbricht et al., 2007). However, more recently it has fallen into that group of biologics that have found favour in the popular view as a natural remedy for chronic diseases such as cancer. In this review we explore the emerging issue of ‘natural medicines’, the anticancer activities reported for Aloe itself, and provide a perspective on whether Aloe has a place in rational support of the cancer patient.