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Aloe Vera May Also Be An All-Natural Insecticide

10 months ago

6154  0
Posted on Aug 17, 2023, 4 p.m.

Image Caption: Aloe rinds, like those pictured here, contain bioactive compounds that could be used to deter insects from feasting on agricultural fields. CREDIT: ACS, Nazmul Huda

Aloe vera/Aloe barbadensis has been used for thousands of years to help treat skin ailments, heal wounds, and promote digestive health. The gel may be in high demand but the peels are typically discarded in agricultural waste. 

After identifying several bioactive compounds from aloe peel extracts that deter insects from feasting on crops, scientists are now suggesting that aloe peels/rinds can also be useful as they can help to ward off bugs making them a sustainable all-natural insecticide. These researchers are presenting their findings at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) which is being held August 13-17, 2023. 

“It’s likely that millions of tons of aloe peels are disposed of globally every year,” says Debasish Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator. “We wanted to find a way to add value and make them useful.”

Bandyopadhyay first noticed that insects were avoiding the aloe leaves despite attacking leaves from other surrounding plants while visiting an aloe vera production center. The company had wanted to send Bandyopadhyay home with some of their products and was confused when he asked for permission to take the discarded aloe rinds/peels instead. 

Savvy home gardeners have already begun to use aloe as an ingredient in their natural pesticide mixtures with onions and garlic, but they typically use gel, not peels. On a larger scale, aloe peels are treated as agricultural waste which is generally used to create biomass that helps to improve the soil quality at aloe farms. 

Aloe peels/rinds in hand Bandyopadhyay and colleagues from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley set out to investigate the potential insecticidal properties that they may contain. To keep the bioactivity unaltered the rinds were dried out in the dark at room temperature by blowing air over them. Various extracts were then produced with hexane, dichloromethane (DCM), methanol, and water. 

The hexane extract was noted to contain octacosane compounds that have known mosquitocidal properties. The DCM extract displayed much higher insecticidal activity against agricultural pests than the hexane extract. High-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry was used to profile the DCM extract for further analysis which, not surprisingly, identified over 20 compounds containing antibacterial, antifungal, or other potential health benefits. 

Of interest 6 of the identified compounds, octacosanol, subenniatin B, dinoterb, arjungenin, nonadecanone and quillai acid, are known to have insecticidal properties which could be contributing to the effects of the aloe peels/rinds. Most importantly these compounds are not toxic, which means that there are no significant safety concerns with creating an aloe peel/rind-based insecticide for mass use. (Investigations of the methanol and aqueous extracts are still ongoing, but both are showing strong insecticidal activity)

Moving forward the researchers hope to test how well the identified aloe-based insecticide compounds work in real-world fields against a variety of agricultural pests. The researchers also want to test the compounds for anti-tick and anti-mosquito properties which could lead to the development of a non-toxic insect repellent for consumer use. 

“By creating an insecticide that avoids hazardous and poisonous synthetic chemicals, we can help the agricultural field,” says Bandyopadhyay. “But if the peels show good anti-mosquito or anti-tick activity, we can also help the general public.”

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Image Caption: Aloe rinds, like those pictured here, contain bioactive compounds that could be used to deter insects from feasting on agricultural fields. CREDIT: ACS, Nazmul Huda

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