Aloe is a cactus-like plant that grows in hot, dry climates. In the United States, aloe is grown in Florida, Texas, and Arizona. Aloe produces two substances, gel and latex, which are used for medicines. Aloe gel is the clear, jelly-like substance found in the inner part of the aloe plant leaf. Aloe latex comes from just under the plant’s skin and is yellow in color. Some aloe products are made from the whole crushed leaf, so they contain both gel and latex. The aloe that is mentioned in the Bible is an unrelated fragrant wood used as incense. Aloe medications can be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. People take aloe gel by mouth for weight loss, diabetes, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel diseases, osteoarthritis, stomach ulcers, asthma, radiation-related skin sores, fever, itching and inflammation, and as a general tonic. A chemical in aloe called acemannan is taken by mouth for HIV/AIDS. Aloe extract is used for high cholesterol. Aloe latex is taken by mouth mainly as a laxative for constipation. It is also used for seizures, asthma, colds, bleeding, lack of a menstrual period, swelling of the colon (colitis), depression, diabetes, eye conditions that cause blindness (glaucoma), multiple sclerosis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, joint inflammation, osteoarthritis, and vision problems. Fresh aloe leaves are taken by mouth for cancer. People apply aloe gel to the skin for acne, an inflammatory skin condition called lichen planus, inflammation in the mouth, burning mouth, radiation-induced skin damage, dental plaque, diaper rash, frostbite, gum disease, bedsores, scabies, dandruff, wound healing, hemorrhoids and pain after surgery to remove internal hemorrhoids, osteoarthritis, inflammation, and as an antiseptic. Aloe extract and aloe gel are also applied to the skin for genital herpes, scaly and itchy skin, burns, sunburns, and dry skin. Aloe extract is applied to the skin as an insect repellant. Aloe leaf juice is applied to the skin for anal fissures. A chemical in aloe called acemannan is applied to the skin for dry sockets in the mouth and canker sores.
How does it work?
The useful parts of aloe are the gel and latex. The gel is obtained from the cells in the center of the leaf; and the latex is obtained from the cells just beneath the leaf skin. Aloe gel might cause changes in the skin that might help diseases like psoriasis. Aloe seems to be able to speed wound healing by improving blood circulation through the area and preventing cell death around a wound. It also appears that aloe gel has properties that are harmful to certain types of bacteria and fungi. Aloe latex contains chemicals that work as a laxative.
Possibly Effective for
Acne. Research suggests that applying an aloe gel in the morning and evening, in addition to a prescription anti-acne medicine, improves acne by about 35% in both children and adults.
Burns. Applying aloe gel to the skin seems to improve burn healing. Also applying cream that contains aloe to the skin twice daily appears to improve itching and reduce skin picking compared to applying corticosteroid medication in people with chemical burns. It is unclear if aloe reduces healing time compared to applying antibiotics. Some research shows that applying aloe cream reduces healing time and wound size compared to applying antibiotics in people with first or second degree burns. But other early research suggests that applying fresh aloe or aloe extract daily is not more effective than antibiotic treatments for reducing wounds or improving healing in people with first or second degree burns.
Constipation. Taking aloe latex by mouth can reduce constipation and also cause diarrhea.
Genital herpes. Evidence shows that applying an aloe extract 0.5% cream three times daily increases healing rates in men with genital herpes.
Itchy rash on the skin or mouth (Lichen planus). Research shows that using a mouthwash containing aloe gel three times daily for 12 weeks or applying a gel containing aloe gel twice daily for 8 weeks can reduce pain associated with itchy rashes in the mouth. Other research shows that using a mouthwash containing aloe four times daily for one month or applying an aloe gel three times daily for 2 months reduces pain and increases healing similarly to the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide in people with itchy rashes in the mouth.
A mouth condition called oral submucous fibrosis. Early research suggests that applying aloe gel (Sheetal lab Surat) on each side of the inner lining of the cheeks three times daily for 3 months improves burning, the ability to open the mouth, and cheek flexibility in people with a mouth condition called oral submucous fibrosis. Other research suggests that applying aloe gel twice daily for up to 6 months along with other treatments can reduce burning and improve movement of the mouth.
Psoriasis. Applying a cream containing 0.5% aloe extract for 4 weeks seems to reduce the skin plaques. Also applying cream containing aloe gel seems to decrease the severity of psoriasis better than the corticosteroid triamcinolone. But using an aloe gel does not seem to improve other symptoms associated with psoriasis, including skin redness.
Weight loss. Research suggests that taking a specific aloe product (Aloe QDM complex, Univera Inc., Seoul, South Korea) containing 147 mg of aloe gel twice daily for 8 weeks reduces body weight and fat mass in overweight or obese people with diabetes or prediabetes.
Possibly Ineffective for
Burning mouth syndrome. Applying aloe gel to sore areas on the tongue three times daily before wearing a tongue protector for 12 weeks does not appear to improve pain or reduce symptoms in people with burning mouth syndrome.
HIV/AIDS. Early research suggests that taking 400 mg of a chemical that comes from aloe four times daily does not improve immune function in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Also, eating 30-40 mL of aloe gruel does not improve immune function in people with HIV compared to antiretroviral therapy.
Skin damage caused by radiation treatment for cancer. Most research shows that applying aloe gel to the skin during and after radiation treatment does not reduce skin damage caused by the radiation, although it might delay the appearance of skin damage. Some early research suggests that applying a specific cream product (Radioskin 2, Herbalab di Perazza Massimiliano Company) to the skin two to three times daily at least 3 hours before and after radiation treatment from 15 days before the start of treatment until one month after, along with another specific cream product (Radioskin 1, Herbalab di Perazza Massimiliano Company), might improve skin hydration and reduce skin damage caused by radiation therapy in people with breast cancer. But it’s not clear if the effects of these creams are related to aloe or other ingredients in the creams.
Insufficient Evidence for
Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) . Research shows that applying a specific product (SaliCept patch) containing acemannan, a chemical from aloe, to the tooth socket of people with dry sockets after standard treatment, reduces pain and improves symptoms more than standard treatment alone.
Anal fissures. Early research suggests that applying an aloe cream (Zarban Phyto-Pharmaceutical Co, Iran) three times daily for at least 3 weeks, along with sitz bath three times daily, using a laxative, and eating a full fiber diet, improves pain, wound healing, and bleeding in people with anal fissures.
Cancer. Early research suggests that, when given with standard chemotherapy, three daily doses of a mixture containing fresh aloe leaves and honey dissolved in alcohol increases the number of patients with lung cancer who are able to heal completely, partially, or maintain control of their disease when compared to just chemotherapy alone. However, taking aloe does not seem to be linked with a lower risk of getting lung cancer.
Canker sores. Early research suggests that using a wound dressing containing acemannan, a chemical that comes from aloe, shortens the amount of time needed for canker sores to heal. Also, applying a gel containing acemannan might reduce ulcer size in some patients. But using the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide seems to work better. Other research suggests that applying a gel containing aloe does not seem to increase the length of time between canker sores.
Dental plaque. Some early research suggests that using a toothpaste containing aloe daily for 24 weeks reduces plaque. Other research evaluating a specific aloe-containing toothpaste (Forever Bright, Forever Living Products) found it to be comparable to a toothpaste that contains fluoride at reducing plaque.
Diabetes. There is conflicting information about whether aloe can reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes. Some studies indicate that taking aloe gel by mouth can reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. But another study did not show the same benefit. Also, other research suggests that taking a specific aloe gel product (Aloe QDM complex, Univera Inc., Seoul, South Korea) twice daily for 8 weeks does not affect blood sugar in patients with diabetes or prediabetes.
Diaper rash. Early research suggests that applying a cream containing aloe gel and olive oil three times daily for 10 days reduces the severity of diaper rash in children younger than 3-years-old.
Dry skin. Early research suggests that applying a cream containing aloe extract to the skin for 2 weeks increases the amount of water in the outermost later of the skin, but not on the inner layers. Other research suggests that wearing gloves coated in aloe improves symptoms of dry skin in women. However, it is not clear if the benefits were from the aloe or the gloves.
Frostbite. When applied to the skin, aloe gel seems to help skin survive frostbite injury.
Gum disease. Some research shows that using a specific aloe-containing toothpaste (Forever Bright, Forever Living Products) is comparable to a toothpaste that contains fluoride at reducing gingivitis. Other research suggests that using a toothpaste containing aloe daily for 24 weeks reduces gingivitis, but not as well as a toothpaste the contains the drug triclosan.
Hepatitis. Early evidence suggests that taking aloe three times daily for 12 weeks reduces symptoms of hepatitis in people with liver fibrosis mainly caused by hepatitis B or C. High cholesterol and other blood fats (hyperlipidemia). Early research suggests that taking 10 mL or 20 mL of aloe extract by mouth daily for 12 weeks can reduce total cholesterol by about 15%, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by about 18%, and triglycerides by about 25% to 30% in people with hyperlipidemia. Insect repellent. Applying a product (Zanzarin, Engelhard Arzneimittel GmbH & Co. KG, Niederdorfelden, Germany) containing coconut oil, jojoba oil, and aloe to the feet twice daily for one week intervals seems to reduce the number of sand fleas in people with flea infestations.
Inflammation in the mouth (oral mucositis). Some evidence suggests that using an aloe solution three times daily during radiation therapy lowers the risk of developing painful inflammations in the mouth.
Bedsores. Some early research suggests that applying aloe gel does not improve the healing rate of bedsores compared to using gauze moistened with salt water. However, other research suggests that using a spray containing aloe does reduce the severity of sores compared to a salt water spray.
Scabies. Early research suggests that aloe gel might reduce itching and wounds similar to benzyl benzoate lotion in people with scabies. Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis). Early research suggests that applying aloe twice daily for 4-6 weeks improves dandruff.
Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Early research suggests that some people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis who take aloe gel by mouth for 4 weeks have significantly reduced symptoms.
Wound healing. There is conflicting information about whether aloe works to improve wound healing. Some research shows that applying an aloe gel product (Carrington Dermal Wound Gel) to surgical wounds might actually delay wound healing. Other research shows that applying a hydrogel containing the chemical in aloe called acemannan (Carrasyn, Carrington hydrogel) doesn’t affect wound healing. But other research suggests that applying an aloe cream (Zarband, Phytopharmaceutical Co., Iran) to hemorrhoid-related wounds improves wound healing and provides some pain relief. Also, applying aloe gel under a dry gauze to a caesarean wound seems to improve initial healing compared to applying dry gauze alone.
Lack of a menstrual period.
More evidence is needed to rate aloe for these uses.
Aloe gel is LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately as a medicine or as a cosmetic. Aloe is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately, short-term. Aloe gel has been used safely in a dose of 15 mL daily for up to 42 days. Also, a solution containing 50% aloe gel has been safely used twice daily for 4 weeks. A specific gel complex (Aloe QDM complex Univera Inc., Seoul, South Korea) has been used safely at a dose of about 600 mg daily for up to 8 weeks.
Taking aloe latex by mouth is POSSIBLY UNSAFE at any dose, but LIKELYUNSAFE when taken in high doses. Aloe latex can cause some side effects such as stomach pain and cramps. Long-term use of large amounts of aloe latex might cause diarrhea, kidney problems, blood in the urine, low potassium, muscle weakness, weight loss, and heart disturbances. Taking aloe latex 1 gram daily for several days can be fatal. There have been a few reports of liver problems in some people who have taken an aloe leaf extract; however, this is uncommon. It is thought to only occur in people who are extra sensitive (hypersensitive) to aloe.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Aloe – either gel or latex – is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. There is a report that aloe was associated with miscarriage. It could also be a risk for birth defects. Do not take aloe by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Children: Aloe gel is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately. Aloe latex and aloe whole leaf extracts are POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in children. Children younger than 12 years-old might have stomach pain, cramps, and diarrhea.
Diabetes: Some research suggests that aloe might lower blood sugar. If you take aloe by mouth and you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
Intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or obstruction: Do not take aloe latex if you have any of these conditions. Aloe latex is a bowel irritant. Remember, products made from whole aloe leaves will contain some aloe latex.
Hemorrhoids: Do not take aloe latex if you have hemorrhoids. It could make the condition worse. Remember, products made from whole aloe leaves will contain some aloe latex.
Kidney problems: High doses of aloe latex have been linked to kidney failure and other serious conditions.
Surgery: Aloe might affect blood sugar levels and could interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking aloe at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Major Interaction: Do not take this combination
Digoxin (Lanoxin) interacts with ALOE When taken by mouth aloe latex is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the risk of side effects of digoxin (Lanoxin).
Moderate Interaction: Be cautious with this combination
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with ALOE Aloe gel might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking aloe gel along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed. Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs) interacts with ALOE When taken by mouth aloe latex is a laxative. Laxatives can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs. Taking aloe latex along with medications you take by mouth might decrease the effectiveness of your medication.
Sevoflurane (Ultane) interacts with ALOE Aloe might decrease clotting of the blood. Sevoflurane is used as anesthesia during surgery. Sevoflurane also decreases clotting of the blood. Taking aloe before surgery might cause increased bleeding during the surgical procedure. Do not take aloe by mouth if you are having surgery within 2 weeks.
Stimulant laxatives interacts with ALOE When taken orally aloe latex is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. Taking aloe latex along with other stimulant laxatives could speed up the bowels too much and cause dehydration and low minerals in the body. Some stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), cascara, castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others. Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with ALOE When taken orally, aloe latex is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels and can cause diarrhea in some people. Diarrhea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin, do not to take excessive amounts of aloe latex.
Water pills (Diuretic drugs) interacts with ALOE When taken by mouth aloe latex is a laxative. Some laxatives can decrease potassium in the body. “Water pills” can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking aloe latex along with “water pills” might decrease potassium in the body too much. Some “water pills” that can decrease potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDIURIL, Microzide), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
ADULTS BY MOUTH: For constipation: 100-200 mg of aloe or 50 mg of aloe extract taken in the evening has been used. Also, a 500 mg capsule containing aloe, starting at a dose of one capsule daily and increasing to three capsules daily as required, has been used. For weight loss: A specific aloe gel product (Aloe QDM complex, Univera Inc., Seoul, South Korea) containing 147 mg of aloe twice daily for 8 weeks has been used.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
For acne: A 50% aloe gel has been applied in the morning and evening after washing the face, along with a prescription called tretinoin gel in the evening.
For burns: Aloe and olive oil cream, applied twice daily for 6 weeks, has been used. Also, aloe cream, applied twice daily after changing a wound dressing, or every three days until the burn heals, has been used. For herpes: A cream containing 0.5% aloe extract, applied three times daily for 5 consecutive days once or twice over a 2-week period, has been used.
For itchy rash on the skin or mouth (Lichen planus): Aloe gel, applied two to three times daily for 8 weeks has been used. Two tablespoons of aloe mouthwash, swished for 2 minutes and then spit, four times daily for one month has been used.
For a mouth condition called oral submucous fibrosis: 5 mg of an aloe gel (Sheetal lab Surat) applied on each side of the cheeks three times daily for 3 months has been used.
For psoriasis: Aloe extract 0.5% cream applied three times daily for 4 weeks has been used. A cream containing aloe, applied twice daily for 8 weeks, has been used.
CHILDREN APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
For acne: A 50% aloe gel has been applied in the morning and evening after washing the face, along with a prescription called tretinoin gel in the evening.
For a precancerous mouth condition called oral submucous fibrosis: 5 mg of an aloe gel (Sheetal lab Surat), applied on each side of the cheeks three times daily for 3 months, has been used.