Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. It grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses. Aloe is also used for decorative purposes and grows successfully indoors as a potted plant.
It is found in many consumer products including juice, skin lotion, or ointments for minor burns and sunburns. There is little scientific evidence of the effectiveness or safety of Aloe vera extracts for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes. Studies finding positive evidence are frequently contradicted by other studies.
What Aloe Vera Is Used For
- Most people use aloe gel as a remedy for skin conditions, including burns, sunburn, frostbite, psoriasis and cold sores, but there is a host of other aloe vera benefits. Aloe gel is used for treating osteoarthritis, bowel diseases, fever, itching and inflammation.
- The plant has been shown in studies to help heal minor wounds eight days faster than standard dressing, not to mention it’s an antibacterial and contains vitamins and minerals that can ease eczema and psoriasis flare-ups.
- The FDA has actually authorized aloe vera as a natural food flavoring.
How Aloe Vera Is Used
Aloe vera contains nutrient compounds that help to heal and soothe the skin whenused externally. It may also have similar benefits on the lining of the digestive tract, when ingested as a drink. Additionally, aloe vera can increase healthy bacteria in the intestines that aid digestion.
What The Science Says
- Anthraquinone glycosides, a component of aloe, have well established laxative effects. However, case reports have associated hepatitis with aloe taken by mouth. Further research is needed on the efficacy and safety of aloe as a laxative.
- There is insufficient scientific proof to support aloe vera for any of its other uses.
Side Effects And Cautions
- Use of topical aloe vera is not related to significant side effects.
- Aloe may also cause abdominal cramping, allergic skin reaction, constipation,dehydration, dependency if used as a laxative, delayed wound healing, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, excess bleeding, hardening of the skin, Henoch-Schönlein purpura (purple spots on the skin), hepatitis, hives, increased risk of colorectal.
- Diarrhea, caused by the laxative effect of oral aloe vera, can reduce the absorption of numerous drugs.
- Individuals with diabetes who use glucose-lowering medication need to be careful also if taking aloe by mouth since preliminary studies suggest aloe might decrease blood sugar levels.
- Consuming aloe products including the latex for over one year may increase the risk of colon cancer.