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Is aloe vera beneficial for osteoarthritis?

After the age of 50, joint pain is among the most common health issues. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 10 million people in France suffer from osteoarthritis. In search of natural alternatives for relief, many are turning to aloe vera. Can this plant make a difference in cases of osteoarthritis? Learn more by continuing to read.

Summary
Published June 10, 2024, updated on June 10, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read

Aloe vera for relieving joint pain?

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease characterized by the progressive degradation of cartilage, a membrane lining the inside of the joint cavity. Age, excessive sports practice, or even a fracture can cause osteoarthritis. Repetitive movements also stress the joints and can be sources of pain, or even joint blockage. In the worst case, osteoarthritis results in a loss of mobility. Unfortunately, drug treatments are not capable of preventing the degradation of cartilage and can only relieve pain. In case of failure, surgical treatments such as arthroscopy or osteotomy may be proposed.

In addition to these medical solutions, it is possible to explore natural alternatives, such as the use of aloe vera. Rich in nutrients and active ingredients, this plant from the aloe family is primarily known for its moisturizing and healing properties. However, its benefits do not stop there: the aloe vera gel also has anti-inflammatory effects, which are beneficial for relieving joint pain. Indeed, it has been shown that this botanical extract can downregulate MMP-9, which is a matrix metalloproteinase that promotes the degradation of elastin, a protein that plays a supportive role in various tissues of the body.

The exact mechanism behind this regulation is not yet precisely known. Two hypotheses are primarily considered: aloe vera could inhibit the activation of the nuclear factor NF-κB and its binding to the MMP-9 promoter, or it could suppress the production of certain chemical mediators such as prostaglandins that induce the expression of MMP-9. It should be noted that prostaglandins play a pathological role and contribute to the sensation of pain. Moreover, according to some studies, cytokines such as prostaglandins contribute to the progression of cartilage loss, a characteristic of osteoarthritis.

A study conducted on rats aimed to confirm the effect of aloe vera on joint pain. For this, several clinical parameters essential to the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an arthritic disease similar to osteoarthritis, were evaluated, such as the blood levels of ceruloplasmin and creatinine. The rats studied were divided into five groups. The first included healthy rats. In the second, rats with induced rheumatoid arthritis were found. The rats in the other three groups also had rheumatoid arthritis and were fed daily with 20; 50 or 100 mg of aloe vera gel per kg of body mass. The results obtained after 21 days are compiled in the table below and seem to indicate a protective effect of aloe vera gel when ingested.

Quantified MoleculeHealthy GroupRA GroupGroup RA/20Group RA/50Group RA/100
Ceruloplasmin (mg/dL)35.4067.1331,3349.1744.30
Creatinine (mg/dL)1.582.822.501.981.93
Taux de céruloplasmine et de créatinine après 21 jours chez les différents groupes de rats.
Source : CHAUDHURI T. & al. Analyses of Human and Rat Clinical Parameters in Rheumatoid Arthritis Raise the Possibility of Use of Crude Aloe vera Gel in Disease Amelioration. Immunome Research (2014).

Despite these promising results, it is still too early to assert that aloe vera gel is a solution for osteoarthritis. Indeed, the study referenced was conducted on rats. Even though the biological and physical manifestations of joint pain are fairly similar between rats and humans, they are not identical. Moreover, the study does not indicate whether the effects of the supplementation lasted over time or if the treatment was continued or discontinued. In the future, it would be beneficial for multiple clinical studies with humans to confirm whether the ingestion of aloe vera is a good alternative for osteoarthritis and to investigate the topical application of this botanical extract.

Important : Consumed in excess, aloe vera can lead to the occurrence of diarrhea and may cause kidney failure or hypersensitivity reactions. However, the topical application of aloe vera gel poses no risk.

Sources

  • WEINRAUB S. T. & others. Anti-inflammatory C-glycosyl chromone from aloe barbadensis. Journal of Natural Products (1996).

  • MANDAL A. & et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory activity of Aloe vera through the down-regulation of MMP-9 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2012).

  • CHAUDHURI T. & al. Analysis of Human and Rat Clinical Parameters in Rheumatoid Arthritis Suggests the Potential Use of Raw Aloe Vera Gel in Disease Improvement. Immunome Research (2014).

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