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The aloe plant -- native to Africa -- belongs to the lily family and is a common household plant in many countries. Among the family, the most widely known one is aloe vera. Its leaves are thick and dark green in color, and it appears fleshy and cactus-like. The leaves contain a clear, thin gel that oozes from the fleshy inside of the leaves.

Aloe vera gel is directly applied to soothe skin-related problems, like skin burns, sunburns, cuts, scrapes, wounds, etc.

Due to its soothing effect, it is also a part of many skin and beauty products. People also use its juice to drink.

The extract coming from the outer lining of the leaves -- a bitter yellowish liquid called aloe latex -- is dried into brownish granules and used to cure constipation.

There are claims that aloe vera also helps maintain the immunity levels and causes the destruction of cancer cells. However, there is no fruitful scientific evidence in this regard.

Undermentioned are several research studies conducted to explore the role of aloe vera in forbidding and/or treating cancer.

What Does Research Say?

To Begin With ...

Aloe vera has been a subject of intense research investigation since a long time. It is believed (through a recent research study done in 2012) to be one of the most valuable plants due to its antioxidant, antibiotic, antiviral, antineoplastic, or antiproliferative (owing to its anthraquinone content), immunostimulatory (on account of acemannan), and other properties.

Using Aloe to Address the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Aloe vera has always been traditionally employed in its topical gel form to cure skin burns and cuts. Since the 1930s, it has been utilized in treating skin reactions that occur due to radiation therapy. However, recent studies conducted in this regard have concluded otherwise. Studies were conducted to look into the effects that aloe vera gel has on radiation-induced skin reactions when directly applied on skin. The researchers conclusively proved that they found no such evidence to prove that aloe vera played a role in lessening the skin reactions due to radiotherapy.

A trial done in 2004 to examine whether aloe extract helped in preventing/curing mouth ulcers due to radiation for head and neck cancer inferred that the extract failed to help in any way. This calls for further studies to explore the role of aloe vera and whether it really helps in cancer relief.

Aloe vera can help reduce the dryness around the skin and soften the skin as it heals. Preliminary research does support the fact that it may help in healing wounds. However, it is best that you always seek advice from your doctor before replacing aloe vera for standard cancer treatment.

Using Aloe for Healing Cancer

There are some, who advocate that aloe boosts the immune system by directly attacking the foreign cells, thus treating cancer. This is thanks to its immunostimulatory property due to its acemannan content -- a mannose polysaccharide. Acemannan is thought to enhance the activity of macrophages and release immune system enhancers, thus contributing to cure cancer. Studies have shown that acemannan can stimulate immune cells in mice to generate cytokines (cancer-killing proteins).

Another study done in a test tube revealed that aloeride -- a starch component of aloe juice -- acted as an immunostimulator, thus producing cancer-combating chemicals.

A compound made from aloe vera -- di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) -- has been found to curb the growth of leukemic cells. However, this being a preliminary study, nothing much can be said about it as of now.

Two studies in mice were conducted in 2010 to look into the role that aloe had in treating skin cancer. One study concluded that aloe products applied on the skin, or taken orally helped to shrink cancer cells. However, the second study had negative inferences to make; certain aloe products increased the skin cancer cells.

Test tube studies have revealed that aloe emodin -- an extract from the plant -- can halt the growth of head and neck cancer and liver cancer cells, thus reflecting the potential to treat cancer.

A 2007 study (done at the Wilkes University) stated that aloe vera could inhibit the growth of cancer cells formed due to carcinogens, thus demonstrating antitumor properties.

In a 2009 trial, aloe vera was tested alongside chemotherapy for patients with metastatic cancers (lung, bowel and stomach). Results disclosed that cancer cells shrunk in size for a certain period in 67% patients, who underwent chemotherapy along with aloe while 50% showed similar results while undergoing chemotherapy alone.

Note: For all the above-stated studies, researchers recommend that further research be done to support or confute their findings.

Although it isn't still being proposed that aloe vera is a remedy for cancer, research does support the use of aloe vera, particularly certain components in the plant that have striking anticancer effects.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice. Please check with your doctor before starting any type of complementary or alternative treatment.