Food Chemistry didn’t fail to disappoint. Anna Bozzi has released something (2007, 103, 22-30) that was really interesting. When you buy something with “Aloe” in it, what are you actually buying? Well… turns out you’re probably buying shit. I myself am an Aveeno man, forgoing the Aloe treatment. In the shower, I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey-almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb mint facial masque which I leave on for ten minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine.1
The article is filled with neat fun facts about Aloe. The goodness of Aloe comes in a compound called Acemannan. Acemannan is considered the main functional component of aloe vera and is composed of a long chain of acetylated mannose. I mean, this quote tells you all you need to know about Aloe:
The physiological activity of aloe vera polysaccharides has been widely reported. Glucomannan and acemannan were proved to accelerate wound healing, activate macrophages, stimulate the immune system, and have antibacterial and antiviral effects. Mannose-6-phosphate, a sugar constituent of aloe vera gel, was demonstrated to have wound healing properties. A number of glycoproteins present in aloe vera gel have been reported to have antitumor and antiulcer effects and to increase proliferation of normal human dermal cells. However, statistically significant clinical studies on the efficacy of aloe vera gel on human health are very limited and often inconclusive.
Wow. With all those magic properties, no wonder hippies put the shit in their Kashi Oatturds. The problem is, however, that of the 9 major manufacturers of powdered aloe that Bozzi et. al. only three contained acemannan in enough quantities to actually seem like they should qualify for aloe. As a general critisism of the paper, however, they did not include any
quantification of acemannan content. I was pretty disappointed in that. They also note that manufacturers cut their product with maltodextrin, sometimes without even labeling their product as being cut with maltodextrin. And by cut I mean 45%-95% w/w. Another problem, as it is pointed out, can be a result of shitty handling of the processed aloe. Bacteria breaks down the acemannan if the product isn’t treated properly rendering it a slurry of organic acids and sugars.
The moral of the story is that your Botanical Blend shampoo may be nothing more than poorly cut sugars with a fancy label. If this is what happens to aloe, one can only imagine what is happening to your tea tree oil shampoo or your organic peacock milk extract or your vitamine B12 infused conditioner. Not like rubbing vitamins on your hair is going to do you any good anyway.