Extracts of Aloe Vera / Aloe barbadensis, particularly the gel, are well accepted on a worldwide basis as a premier ingredient in over-the-counter dermal therapeutics and high-end cosmetics.
This is because aloe’s efficient acceleration of the rate of recovery of skin cells from environmental injury is well documented (see accompanying reviews in this volume by Heggers et al. and Strickland et al.). A. barbadensis and A. arborescens Miller extracts are also ingested orally for a variety of reasons.
This consumption results in an aggregate world demand in excess of 100,000,000 liters per annum of crude homogenate juice and filleted gel, as estimated by the International Aloe Science Council (IASC). In order to visualize this quantity, one should imagine 5,000 tanker trucks, each of a capacity of 20,000 liters, constituting a queue sufficient to stretch across a major city.
Yet despite this volume of production much of the world’s supply of aloe juice is still processed without a fundamental understanding of what aloe is, without comprehending the beneficial and deleterious effect of processing and using quality control methods that range from improper to outright fraudulent.
Compared to the dairy industry or the citrus juice industries, we lack agreed-upon chemical standards, uniform methods of processing, appropriate microbiology and enforceable regulation. Because of this we are, and could very well remain, a fringe industry experiencing ever decreasing public confidence because the majority of our products fail to perform due to improper processing or outright fraud.
Given the above background, what is the purpose and intended audience of this review? Our first audience is limited to no more than 100 to 200 people. These are our clients, aloe processors including managers in Sales and Marketing, Technical Services, Farm and Processing Line Production and Quality Control. These are people who have direct ‘hands on’ contact with aloe.
We will attempt to influence them, both with our data and by scientific reasoning, to adhere to proper processing and rigorous quality control. Our second audience is much larger, research scientists and purchasers of ‘aloe’, whether these ‘customers’ are purchasing agents of large corporations or end consumer product users.
This audience has little or no ‘hands on’ experience with field grown A. barbadensis fillets and must generally rely on materials supplied by others. We want to give this audience an appreciation of what authentic aloe gel is like, of what its properties are and what biological activities can be expected from a given preparation.