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Nutritional Supplement

Aloe

Parts Used & Where Grown

The aloe plant originally came from Africa. The leaves, which are long, green, fleshy, and have spikes along the edges, are used medicinally. The fresh leaf gel and latex are used for many purposes. Aloe latex is the sticky residue left over after the liquid from cut aloe leaves has evaporated.

How It Works

The constituents of aloe latex responsible for its laxative effects are known as anthraquinone glycosides. These molecules are split by the normal bacteria in the large intestines to form other molecules (aglycones), which exert the laxative action. Since aloe is such a powerful laxative, other plant laxatives such as senna or cascara are often recommended first.

Topically, it is not yet clear which constituents are responsible for the wound healing properties of aloe.1 Test tube studies suggest polysaccharides, such as acemannan, help promote skin healing by anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and immune-stimulating actions. Aloe’s effects on the skin may also be enhanced by its high concentration of amino acids, as well as vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and essential fatty acids.

Aloe has been used to treat minor burns.2 Stabilized aloe gel is applied to the affected area of skin three to five times per day. Older case studies reported that aloe gel applied topically could help heal radiation burns,3 and a small clinical trial found it more effective than a topical petroleum jelly in treating burns.2 However, a large, modern, placebo-controlled trial did not find aloe effective for treating minor burns.5

Two small controlled human trials have found that aloe, either alone or in combination with the oral hypoglycemic drug, glibenclamide, effectively lowers blood sugar in people with type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.6,7

An aloe extract in a cream has been shown effective in a double-blind trial in people with psoriasis.8

References

1. Penneys NS. Inhibition of arachidonic acid oxidation in vitro by vehicle components. Acta Derm Venerol Stockh 1981;62:59-61.

2. Visuthikosol V, Chowchuen B, Sukwanarat Y, et al. Effect of aloe vera gel to healing of burn wound: A clinical and histologic study. J Med Assoc Thai 1995;78:403-9.

3. Loveman AB. Leaf of Aloe vera in treatment of Roentgen ray ulcers. Arch Derm Syph 1937;36:838-43.

4. Williams MS, Burk M, Loprinzi CL, et al. Phase III double-blind evaluation of an Aloe vera gel as a prophylactic agent for radiation-induced skin toxicity. Int J Rad Oncol Biol Phys 1996;36:345-9.

5. Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangs V, Bunyapraphatsara N, Chokechaijaroenporn O. Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera L. juice. I. Clinical trial in new cases of diabetes mellitus. Phytomedicine 1996;3:241-3.

6. Bunyapraphatsara N, Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangsi V, Chokechaijaroenporn O. Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera L juice. II. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine 1996;3:245-8.

7. Syed TA, Ahmed SA, Holt AH, et al. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: A placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Tropical Med Inter Health 1996;1:505-9.

8. Syed TA, Ahmed SA, Holt AH, et al. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: A placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Tropical Med Inter Health 1996;1:505-9.

9. Davis RH, Stewart GH, Bregman PJ. Aloe vera and the inflamed synovial pouch model. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 1992;82(3):140-8.

10. Davis RH, Leitner MG, Russo JM, Byrne ME. Wound healing. Oral and topical activity of Aloe vera. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 1989:79:559-62.

11. Shelton RW. Aloe vera, its chemical and therapeutic properties. Int J Dermatol 1991;30:679-83.

12. Schmidt JM, Greenspoon JS. Aloe vera dermal wound gel is associated with a delay in wound healing. Obstet Gynecol 1991;78:115-7.

13. Visuthikosol V, Chowchuen B, Sukwanarat Y, et al. Effect of aloe vera gel to healing of burn wound: A clinical and histologic study. J Med Assoc Thai 1995;78:403-9.

14. Loveman AB. Leaf of Aloe vera in treatment of Roentgen ray ulcers. Arch Derm Syph 1937;36:838-43.

15. Williams MS, Burk M, Loprinzi CL, et al. Phase III double-blind evaluation of an Aloe vera gel as a prophylactic agent for radiation-induced skin toxicity. Int J Rad Oncol Biol Phys 1996;36:345-9.

16. Vardy DA, Cohen AD, Tchetov T, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of an Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) emulsion in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. J Dermatol Treat 1999;10:7-11.

17. Zawahry ME, Hegazy MR, Helal M. Use of aloe in treating leg ulcers and dermatoses. Int J Dermatol 1973;12:68-73.

18. Thomas DR, Goode PS, LaMaster K, Tennyson T. Acemannan hydrogel dressing versus saline dressing for pressure ulcers. A randomized, controlled trial. Adv Wound Care 1998;11:273-6.

19. Crowell J, Penneys N. The effects of aloe vera on cutaneous erythema and blood flow following ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure. Clin Res 1987;35:676A [abstract].

20. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Hippokrates Verlag GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany, 1988:105-111

21. Langmead L, Feakins RM, Goldthorpe S, et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2004;19:739-47.

22. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1989, 114-5.

23. Golan R. Optimal Wellness. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995, 373-4.

24. Chevrel B. A comparative crossover study on the treatment of heartburn and epigastric pain: Liquid Gaviscon and a magnesium-aluminum antacid gel. J Int Med Res 1980;8:300-3.

25. Davis RH, Stewart GH, Bregman PJ. Aloe vera and the inflamed synovial pouch model. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 1992;82(3):140-8.

26. Davis RH, Leitner MG, Russo JM, Byrne ME. Wound healing. Oral and topical activity of Aloe vera. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 1989:79:559-62.

27. Shelton RW. Aloe vera, its chemical and therapeutic properties. Int J Dermatol 1991;30:679-83.

28. Schmidt JM, Greenspoon JS. Aloe vera dermal wound gel is associated with a delay in wound healing. Obstet Gynecol 1991;78:115-7.

29. Visuthikosol V, Chowchuen B, Sukwanarat Y, et al. Effect of aloe vera gel to healing of burn wound: A clinical and histologic study. J Med Assoc Thai 1995;78:403-9.

30. Loveman AB. Leaf of Aloe vera in treatment of Roentgen ray ulcers. Arch Derm Syph 1937;36:838-43.

31. Williams MS, Burk M, Loprinzi CL, et al. Phase III double-blind evaluation of an Aloe vera gel as a prophylactic agent for radiation-induced skin toxicity. Int J Rad Oncol Biol Phys 1996;36:345-9.

32. Rajasekaran S, Sivagnanam K, Subramanian S. Hypoglycemic effect of Aloe vera gel on streptozotocin-induced diabetes in experimental rats. J Med Food 2004;7:61-6.

33. Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangs V, Bunyapraphatsara N, Chokechaijaroenporn O. Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera L. juice. I. Clinical trial in new cases of diabetes mellitus. Phytomedicine 1996;3:241-3.

34. Bunyapraphatsara N, Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangsi V, Chokechaijaroenporn O. Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera L juice. II. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine 1996;3:245-8.

35. Vogler BK, Ernst E. Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness. Br J Gen Pract 1999;49:823-8 [review].

36. Plemons JM, Reps TD, Binnie WH, et al. Evaluation of acemannan in the treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis. Wounds 1994;6:40-5.

37. Vardy DA, Cohen AD, Tchetov T, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of an Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) emulsion in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. J Dermatol Treat 1999;10:7-11.

38. Schmidt JM, Greenspoon JS. Aloe vera dermal wound gel is associated with a delay in wound healing. Obstet Gynecol 1991;78:115-7.

39. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 80-1.

40. Guo X, Mei N. Aloe vera: A review of toxicity and adverse clinical effects. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev 2016;34:77–96. doi:10.1080/10590501.2016.1166826.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.