A prominent aloe researcher and a distinguished aloe industry professional were both honored with Hall of Fame awards from the International Aloe Science Council (IASC) during IASC's 24th Annual Scientific Seminar, held September 10-11, 2005, in South Padre Island, Texas. Akira Yagi, PhD, research director at the Placenta-Aloe Research Institute of the Japan Bioproducts Industry Co., Ltd, and Gene Hale, managing director of IASC, both received the award.1 The modern aloe industry is based on the gel of the aloe vera plant (Aloe vera [L.] Burm. f., Liliaceae, syn. Aloe barbadensis Mill.) and should not be confused with "drug aloe," the latex from the insides (parenchym) of the leaf of A. ferox, used traditionally as a stimulant laxative ingredient.
Dr. Yagi, who is also an emeritus professor at Fukuyama University in Japan, said the Hall of Fame award is particularly meaningful to him because he is one of the few academic researchers working outside an aloe company to have received the recognition (A. Yagi, e-mail, November 3, 2005). Dr. Yagi received IASC's Yun Ho Lee award in 1997 for his research on the immune-boosting properties of verectin (a glycoprotein fraction of aloe vera), a name coined by Dr. Yagi. Verectin acts like a lectin, stimulating the production of human dermal cells, anti-oxygen activity, and cyclo-oxgenase activity (COX-1). He is currently studying high molecular weight polysaccharide fractions of aloe vera gel, which have demonstrated strong activity in treating burns and wounds.
"Dr. Yagi has devoted much of his life's work to significant aloe research and has been influential in helping represent the International Aloe Science Council throughout the world with his unprecedented dedication and education on the medicinal value of aloe," said Mick Anderson, vice president of business development at Aloecorp (the world's largest supplier of aloe vera ingredients) and IASC Chairman of the Board.1 "He has greatly assisted the IASC and the aloe industry in propelling this exceptional ingredient to the forefront of science."
Hale's distinguished career in the aloe industry spans over 36 years and includes positions at Aloecorp, AVA Cosmetics, Aloecorp's subsidiary company Naturchem, and IASC (G. Hale, oral communication, November 2005). "I was absolutely taken aback," Hale said of receiving the Hall of Fame award. "I was very honored to be given that recognition and pleasantly surprised."
According to the American Botanical Council's Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, the award is well-deserved: "Gene is synonymous with the development of the modern aloe vera industry, having served for over two decades as the main source for science and market information on this commercially important herb" (M. Blumenthal, e-mail, October 14, 2005).
Both award recipients commented on the growing importance of aloe research and of the aloe industry. "The aloe industry is perhaps one of the most unique industries around," said Hale. "Aloe vera has been known for a long time but only over the past 15 to 20 years has it come into its own." According to Hale, it was during these past several years that information on the effectiveness of aloe began to be linked to clinical studies, rather than to anecdotal stories and folkloric evidence. "On our Web site, iasc.org, there are some 4,000 pages of referenced studies of what aloe can do," Hale said. Aloe now ranks among the top ingredients in natural product formulations, he continued.
Dr. Yagi, meanwhile, pointed to aloe's growing significance within Japan. General acknowledgment of aloe vera's health benefits has encouraged many American aloe vera companies to open branches in Japan, and some Japanese citizens have even begun to incorporate aloe vera daily into their diets via health beverages, which are regulated in Japan in a special category called FOSHU, "foods with other special health uses."
1. IASC Hall of Fame awards issued at 24th annual scientific seminar [press release]. Boulder, CO: Westfall Communications, Inc; October 13, 2005.