Aloe Vera Gel Overview
Aloe vera is a plant that produces two substances used in health products—clear gel and yellow latex.
People use aloe vera clear gel topically, primarily in creams and ointments, to treat skin conditions like burns, psoriasis, and even acne. Some people also take gels by mouth to treat certain conditions. Aloe latex is a laxative that can be taken orally to treat constipation.
While aloe vera gel is generally safe when used as recommended, taking aloe vera latex by mouth can pose safety concerns. In fact, taking 1 gram of aloe vera latex daily for several days can cause kidney damage and may even be fatal.
What Aloe Vera Gel Studies Show
Studies using aloe vera for specific conditions show:
- Burns and wounds. Using aloe vera gel appears to shorten wound healing time for first- and second-degree burns. Aloe vera gel may also promote wound healing.
- acne. Studies show that applying aloe vera gel morning and night in addition to the topical prescription acne medication retinoids (Retin-A, Atralin, etc.) may be more effective in reducing acne than using a topical prescription alone.
- Psoriasis. Aloe vera cream may reduce redness, scaling, itching, and inflammation caused by mild to moderate psoriasis. You may need to use the cream several times a day for a month or more to see improvements in your skin.
- Herpes simplex virus. Using a cream containing aloe vera extract may help the lesions heal faster.
- Oral lichen planus. Research shows that using aloe vera gel twice a day for eight weeks may help reduce symptoms of this inflammation that affects the inside of your mouth.
- Constipation. It is not known whether taking aloe vera latex by mouth is effective in treating constipation. Although aloe vera latex acts as a laxative, it can also cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Aloe vera gel is generally safe and effective in treating burns and skin conditions such as psoriasis.
However, avoid taking aloe vera latex orally. Unprocessed aloe latex contains chemicals that may cause cancer, while processed aloe latex may contain compounds that may cause cancer. Taking 1 gram of aloe vera latex daily for several days can cause kidney damage and may even be fatal.
Safety and side effects
Aloe vera gel is generally considered safe when applied appropriately to the skin. It is probably safe when taken by mouth in appropriate doses for a short period of time.
Aloe latex or whole leaf extract may not be safe when taken by mouth, and may not be safe in high doses. Taking 1 gram of aloe vera latex daily for several days can cause acute kidney failure, which can be fatal. Aloe latex may also cause cancer. Other side effects include abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Aloe latex and whole leaf extract are not recommended for oral administration to children under 12 years of age.
Possible interactions include:
- Anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications, herbs and supplements. These types of medications, herbs, and supplements can reduce blood clotting. Taking aloe vera by mouth may also slow blood clotting. Taking aloe vera by mouth with any of these types of medications may cause increased bleeding.
- Digoxin (Digoxin, Lanoxin). Taking aloe vera latex orally can lower potassium levels. Low potassium may increase the side effects of digoxin. Do not take aloe vera latex and digoxin at the same time.
- Diabetes Medications. Taking oral aloe vera gel with diabetes medications may increase the risk of abnormally low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
- Oral drugs. Taking aloe vera latex by mouth can reduce the body's absorption of other medications. This may reduce their efficiency.
- Sevoflurane (Ultane). The anesthesia used during surgery may slow blood clotting. Taking aloe vera by mouth may have similar effects. When used together, excessive bleeding may occur during surgery.
- Stimulant laxatives. Taking aloe vera latex and stimulant laxatives by mouth may overly irritate the intestines. This can lead to dehydration.
- Warfarin (Warfarin, Coumadin, Jantoven). Taking aloe vera latex by mouth can cause diarrhea. This increases the effects of warfarin (a blood-thinning drug) and the risk of bleeding.
- Water pills (diuretics). Taking oral aloe vera latex (a laxative) combined with diuretics may lower potassium levels too much. Potassium supplementation may be needed.