Aloe (Aloe vera)
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aloe-vera/NS_patient-aloe
Transparent gel from the pulp of the meaty leaves of Aloe vera has been used topically for thousands of years to treat wounds, skin infections, burns, and numerous other dermatologic conditions. Dried latex from the inner lining of the leaf has traditionally been used as an oral laxative.
There is strong scientific evidence in support of the laxative properties of aloe latex, based on the well-established cathartic properties of anthraquinone glycosides (found in aloe latex). However, aloe's therapeutic value compared with other approaches to constipation remains unclear.
There is promising preliminary support from laboratory, animal, and human studies that topical aloe gel has immunomodulatory properties that may improve wound healing and skin inflammation.
Acemannan, Aloe africana , Aloe arborescens Miller, Aloe barbadensis , Aloe barbadesis , Aloe capensis , Aloe ferox , aloe latex, aloe mucilage, Aloe perfoliata , Aloe perryi Baker, Aloe spicata , Aloe vulgari , aloe-coated gloves, babosa (Spanish), Barbados aloe, bitter aloe, burn plant, Cape aloe, Carrisyn®, hirukattali, Curaçao aloe, elephant's gall, first-aid plant, ghai kunwar (Indian), ghikumar (Indian), hsiang-dan (Chinese), jelly leek, kumari, lahoi, laloi, lily of the desert, Lu-Hui, medicine plant, Mediterranean aloe, miracle plant, mocha aloes, musabbar, natal aloes, nohwa, plant of immortality, plant of life, rokai, sabilla (Spanish), Savila, Socotrine aloe, subr, true aloe, Venezuela aloe, za'bila (Swahili), Zanzibar aloe.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
ConstipationDried latex from the inner lining of aloe leaves has been used traditionally as a laxative taken by mouth. Further research is needed to establish dosing and to compare the effectiveness and safety of aloe with other commonly used laxatives.
Genital herpesLimited evidence suggests that extract from Aloe vera in a water-soluble cream may be an effective treatment of genital herpes in males. Additional research is needed in this area before a strong recommendation can be made.
Psoriasis vulgarisEarly evidence suggests that an extract from aloe in a hydrophilic cream may be an effective treatment of psoriasis vulgaris. Additional research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Seborrheic dermatitis (seborrhea, dandruff)Early research on aloe lotion suggests effectiveness for treating seborrheic dermatitis when applied to the skin. Further research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Cancer preventionThere is early evidence that oral aloe may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. Further research is needed in this area to clarify if it is aloe itself or other factors that may cause this benefit.
Canker soresThere is weak evidence that treatment of recurrent canker sores of the mouth with aloe gel may reduce pain and increase the amount of time between the appearance of new ulcers. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Dental plaqueLimited evidence suggests that a dentifrice containing Aloe vera may be as effective as a fluoridated dentifrice for plaque and gingivitis control. Further research is necessary before conclusions can be drawn.
DiabetesStudy results are mixed in patients with type 2 diabetes. It has been reported that children with type 1 diabetes use aloe to supplement their insulin treatments, although this has not been studied clinically. More research is needed to explore the effectiveness and safety of aloe in diabetics.
Dry skinTraditionally, aloe has been used as a moisturizer. Early low-quality studies suggest aloe may effectively reduce skin dryness. Higher-quality studies are needed in this area.
HIV infectionWithout further human trials, the evidence cannot be considered convincing either in favor or against this use of aloe.
Lichen planusLichen planus causes an itchy rash of small purplish bumps, often on the arms, legs, back, or inside the mouth. It can also affect the genital area, including the vagina. Limited research suggests that aloe may be a helpful, safe treatment for lichen planus that affects the mouth or vulva. Additional research is needed.
Skin burnsEarly evidence suggests that aloe may aid healing of mild-to-moderate skin burns. Further research is needed in this area.
Skin ulcersEarly studies suggest aloe may help heal skin ulcers. High-quality studies comparing aloe alone in comparison with a placebo are needed.
Ulcerative colitisThere is limited but promising research of the use of oral Aloe vera in ulcerative colitis (UC), compared to placebo. It is not clear how Aloe vera compares to other treatments used for UC.
MucositisThere is early evidence that oral Aloe vera does not prevent or improve mucositis (mouth sores) associated with radiation therapy.
Pressure ulcersEarly well-designed studies in humans found no benefit of topical acemannan hydrogel (a component of aloe gel) in the treatment of pressure ulcers.
Radiation dermatitisReports in the 1930s of topical aloe's beneficial effects on skin after radiation exposure lead to widespread use in skin products. Currently, aloe gel is sometimes recommended for skin irritation caused by prolonged exposure to radiation, although scientific evidence suggests a lack of benefit in this area.
Wound healingStudy results of aloe on wound healing are mixed, with some studies reporting positive results and others showing no benefit or potential worsening of the condition. Further research is needed, since wound healing is a popular use of topical aloe.
A Strong scientific evidence for this use
B Good scientific evidence for this use
C Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work)
F Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work)
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Alzheimer's disease, anthelmintic, antifungal, antioxidant, antitumor, antiviral, arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis), asthma, bacterial skin infections, cancer, Candidal skin infections, chemoprotectant, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, corneal abrasions/ulcers, coronary artery disease prevention, diabetic ulcers, duodenal ulcer, frostbite, functional bowel disorders, gastric ulcer, gingivitis, hair loss, hemorrhoids, helminthic infections, hepatitis, human papilloma virus, hyperlipidemia, itchiness, leukemia, parasites, Parkinson's disease, peptic ulcer, periodontal surgical rinse, radioprotection, skin conditions, skin inflammation, stomach acid reduction, stomach ulcers, systemic lupus erythematosus, tic douloureux, untreatable advanced solid neoplasms, urolithiasis (bladder stones), uterine stimulant, vaginal contraceptive.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
In general, pure Aloe vera gel is often used liberally on the skin 3-4 times daily for the treatment of sunburn and other minor burns. Creams and lotions are also available. Skin products are available that contain aloe alone or aloe combined with other active ingredients.
For constipation, 0.04-0.17 grams of dried juice (corresponding to 10-30 milligrams of the aloe constituents hydroxyanthraquinones) taken by mouth has been recommended. Dried aloe juice (150 milligrams) has been taken by mouth daily for 28 days in combination with celandine and psyllium.
For diabetes (type 2), 5-15 milliliters of aloe juice has been taken by mouth twice daily.
For dental plaque and gingivitis, a dentifrice containing Aloe vera has been used three times daily for 30 days.
For genital herpes, a hydrophilic cream of 0.5% (by weight) of a 50% ethanol extract, combined with liquid paraffin and castor oil, has been used on affected areas three times daily for five days in a row per week, for up to two weeks.
For HIV infection, 1,000-1,600 milligrams of the aloe constituent acemannan has been taken by mouth in four equal doses daily for 48 weeks.
For lichen planus, an Aloe vera gel has been applied twice daily to affected area(s) for eight weeks.
For psoriasis vulgaris, a water-soluble cream of 0.5% (by weight) of a 50% ethanol extract of aloe, combined with mineral and castor oils, has been used three times daily for five days in a row per week, for up to four weeks.
For skin burns, a 97.5% Aloe vera gel has been applied to affected area(s) for two days in a row.
Children (younger than 18 years)
Topical (skin) use of aloe gel in children is common and appears to be well tolerated. However, a dermatologist and pharmacist should be consulted before starting therapy. Aloe taken by mouth has not been studied in children and theoretically may have harmful effects, such as lowering blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is not recommended.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to Aloe vera , its constituents, or plants of the Liliaceae family (such as garlic, onions, and tulips). Prolonged use of aloe gel on the skin may cause hives, dermatitis, and red eyelids.
Side Effects and Warnings
Aloe taken by mouth may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, glucose intolerance, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Use caution when aloe latex is taken by mouth short-term as a laxative.
Use caution when aloe latex is taken by mouth in patients with kidney disease, heart disease, or electrolyte abnormalities, due to theoretical risk of low blood potassium levels.
Use cautiously in patients with impaired liver function due to reports of hepatitis from taking aloe by mouth.
Because aloe contains estrogen-like chemicals, the effects of other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties may be altered.
Avoid taking aloe latex by mouth for prolonged periods as a laxative, due to theoretical risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Avoid giving aloe latex by mouth to patients with ileus, acute surgical abdomen, bowel obstruction, fecal impaction, or appendicitis.
Avoid using aloe on the skin for wound healing due to a lack of effect.
Avoid Aloe vera injections, which have been associated with cases of death under unclear circumstances.
Aloe may cause ammonium acid urate stones; delayed wound healing; dry skin; excessive bleeding (one case); gastrointestinal distress (abdominal cramping and diarrhea); Henoch-Schonlein purpura; hepatitis; increased risk of colon cancer, low potassium, worsened constipation and/or dependency on laxatives (with long-term use); irregular heartbeat; itchiness; muscle weakness; photodermatitis; skin changes (redness, stinging, hardness, soreness, and fissures); or thyroid dysfunction.
Although use of aloe on the skin is unlikely to be harmful during pregnancy or breastfeeding, taking aloe by mouth is not recommended due to theoretical stimulation of uterine contractions. The dried juice of aloe leaves should not be consumed by breastfeeding mothers.
Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to Aloe vera, its constituents, or plants of the Liliaceae family (such as garlic, onions, and tulips). Prolonged use of aloe gel on the skin may cause hives, dermatitis, and red eyelids.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Although use of aloe on the skin is unlikely to be harmful during pregnancy or breastfeeding, taking aloe by mouth is not recommended due to theoretical stimulation of uterine contractions. It is not known whether active ingredients of aloe may be present in breast milk. The dried juice of aloe leaves should not be consumed by breastfeeding mothers.
This patient information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
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