Researchers from India’s Sibar Institute of Dental Sciences and the College of Dental Sciences & Hospital have confirmed that aloe vera significantly treats an inflammatory condition in the mouth called oral submucous fibrosis.
The researchers gave twenty patients with oral submucous fibrosis either five milligrams of aloe vera gel three times a day for three months or three antioxidant capsules per day for the same period. The aloe gel was given topically inside of the mouth.
After three months, the group receiving aloe vera treatments had significant improvement in every parameter tested. These included decreased burning sensation, increased cheek flexibility and an increased ability to open the mouth.
The researchers reported:
“Overall assessment of the parameters depicted that Aloe vera group showed a better treatment response compared to the antioxidants group. It reduces the burning sensation and improves mouth opening thereby enhanced the patients’ compliance. It proves to be a relatively safe, can be applied topically, easily available, economical, noninvasive, and efficacious in the treatment for oral submucous fibrosis.”
Oral submucous fibrosis is a swelling and burning of the tissues of the mouth. A serious case of the condition can be intense enough to disrupt the ability to eat and even talk. The condition has been primarily linked with betel chewing, which is very popular in parts of Asia, particularly India.
Other possible causes that have been linked to oral submucous fibrosis include smoking, tobacco chewing, and eating chilis. However, most of these come with weak evidence, and betel chewing has emerged as one of the primary causes.
Addictive betel quid chewing
Betel quid chew, taken primarily from the areca nut, is also known as paan. It is often mixed with tobacco and spices and sometimes lime (the lime helps it be absorbed faster). It has also been proven to be habit forming and many who chew betel frequently report becoming ‘hooked.’ Betel quid has also been linked with oral cancer.
But like nearly every addictive substance, overuse can cause serious problems. In the case of betel quid, it releases an alkaloid called arecoline. This has been shown to increase the production of a protein called cystain C. Cystatin C has been linked with a rise in fibrosis-related conditions, including oral submucous fibrosis. The mechanism relates to the expression of a gene called metallproteinase-1.
As for the potential that over-consuming chilis may contribute to oral submucous fibrosis, research has shown that the condition is fairly rare in South America and Mexico, despite the prolific chili eating that takes place in those countries. Many oral submucous fibrosis experts have concluded, based on laboratory, animal and human research, that oral submucous fibrosis outside of betel quid chewing is related to a derangement of the immune system.
For example, research from the UK’s Eastman Dental Institute found that oral submucous fibrosis patients tended to have different levels of immune system cytokines, including IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-alpha.
Aloe for inflamed mucosal membranes
The damage to the oral cavity from betel chewing is damage to the mucosal membranes. Mucosal membranes cover our body as skin and cover all of our cavities, including the digestive tract, respiratory tract and elsewhere.
In addition to healing oral conditions, numerous studies have shown that aloe vera is effective in the treatment of burns and inflammatory skin conditions. Many researchers believe that this is due to its aloin content, but pure aloe gel also has a number of phytonutrients including anthraquinones, enzymes, saponins, sterols, and some interesting mucopolysaccharides such as polymannose. In addition, aloe contains various antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid and B12. Aloe also contains salicylic acid, which is a natural pain-reliever. Aloe’s lignin content helps it to penetrate the epithelial surface, and hormones such as gibberellin and auxin helps reduce inflammation.
Other research has confirmed aloe helps treat skin inflammatory conditions.
Aloe’s constituents have significant depth. For example, aloe contains at least twelve types of anthraquinones, including barbaloin, antranol and aloin. Pure aloe gel contains eight enzymes and at least nine minerals, including calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Aloe’s ability to relieve sunburns and other skin burns is well established. In 2009, researchers from Iran’s Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences studied thirty patients with second-degree burns on at least two parts of the body. The patients were treated with either topical silver sulfadiazine or topical aloe. The aloe-treated patients healed in 16 days or less on average compared to 19 days among the silver sulfadiazine-treated patients.
This ability of aloe to increase topical healing time confirms its use not only for oral submucous fibrosis, but for a variety of skin irritation and inflammation conditions.
Learn about 24 medicinal benefits of aloe vera.
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Khorasani G, Hosseinimehr SJ, Azadbakht M, Zamani A, Mahdavi MR. Aloe versus silver sulfadiazine creams for second-degree burns: a randomized controlled study. Surg Today. 2009;39(7):587-91.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.