Aloe Vera – Uses and Side Effects

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

Aloe was one of the most frequently prescribed medicines throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries and it remains one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States today.

Common Names: aloe vera, aloe, burn plant, lily of the desert, elephant’s gall

Latin Name: Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis

Descriptionaloe vera

Aloe vera is a perennial, succulent plant (meaning its leaves hold large quantities of water). The plant can grow up to 4 feet tall. The plant’s tough, fleshy, spearlike leaves can grow up to 36 inches long. The clear, thick gel found in the inner part of the leaf is most commonly used for minor cuts and burns.




Medicinal Uses

Constipation

Aloe juice or aloe latex, a yellow, bitter liquid derived from the skin of the aloe leaf, is a powerful laxative. However, it can cause painful cramping and is not recommended. Other gentler, herbal laxatives from the same plant family as aloe (such as cascara and senna) are generally recommended first.

 Cuts and Burns

Aloe gel is obtained from the central part of the aloe leaf. It is a common household remedy for minor cuts and burns as well as sunburns. Aloe contains active compounds that may decrease pain and inflammation and stimulate skin growth and repair. For this reason, aloe vera gel has gained tremendous popularity for relief of burns, with individual success in helping minor burns.

 Herpes, Acne and other Skin Conditions

Preliminary evidence indicates that aloe gel may improve symptoms of genital herpes and certain skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis. There is some evidence extract from Aloe vera in a hydrophilic cream may be an effective treatment of genital herpes in men.

Available Forms

Aloe gel can be obtained by simply breaking off leaves of the plant (which can be grown as a houseplant), but it is also available commercially in ointments, creams, and lotions. Aloe gel is often included in cosmetic and over-the-counter skin care products as well.

Dosage

General Topical Use

Pure Aloe vera gel is often used liberally on the skin. There are no reports that using aloe on the skin causes absorption of chemicals into the body that may cause significant side effects. Skin products are available that contain aloe alone or aloe combined with other active ingredients.

Side Effects

  • Use of topical aloe vera is generally not associated with significant side effects.
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea have been reported with oral use of aloe vera.
  • Diarrhoea, 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.

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