Aloe Vera

General Information

Aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the "plant of immortality," aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.

Common Names(s)

aloe vera, aloe, burn plant, lily of the desert, elephant's gall

Scientific Names(s)

Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis

How is Aloe Vera usually used?

Aloe leaves contain a clear gel that is often used as a topical ointment.

The green part of the leaf that surrounds the gel can be used to produce a juice or a dried substance (called latex) that is taken by mouth.

What is Aloe Vera used for?

Traditionally, aloe was used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative.

Today, in addition to traditional uses, people take aloe orally to treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. People use aloe topically for osteoarthritis, burns, sunburns, and psoriasis.

Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Aloe latex contains strong laxative compounds. Products made with various components of aloe (aloin, aloe-emodin, and barbaloin) were at one time regulated by the FDA as oral over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. In 2002, the FDA required that all OTC aloe laxative products be removed from the US market or reformulated because the companies that manufactured them did not provide the necessary safety data.

Early studies show that topical aloe gel may help heal burns and abrasions. One study, however, showed that aloe gel inhibits healing of deep surgical wounds. Aloe gel has not been shown to prevent burns from radiation therapy.

There is not enough scientific evidence to support aloe vera for any of its other uses.

Use of topical aloe vera is not associated with significant side effects.

A 2-year National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on oral consumption of whole leaf extract of aloe vera found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumors of the large intestine. According to the NTP, from what is known right now there is nothing that would lead them to believe that these findings are not relevant to humans. However, more information, including how individuals use different types of aloe vera products, is needed to determine the potential risks to humans.

Abdominal cramps and diarrhea have been reported with oral use of aloe vera.

Diarrhea, caused by the laxative effect of oral aloe vera, can decrease the absorption of many drugs.

People with diabetes who use glucose-lowering medication should be cautious if also taking aloe by mouth because preliminary studies suggest aloe may lower blood glucose levels.

There have been a few case reports of acute hepatitis from aloe vera taken orally. However, the evidence is not definitive and the safety of aloe has not been systematically studied.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Aloe Vera. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/aloevera/

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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