Aloe Vera: End Skin Problems with THIS
Could the answer to a slew of skin-related woes be found in a humble houseplant?
If you keep an aloe plant in your home, the answer could be “yes”.
Aloe vera has long been revered for its natural healing properties – and recent research suggests that there may be real science behind the legend.
But just because a therapy is natural, doesn’t always mean it’s safe.
See, aloe vera may be an effective – and harmless – treatment when used topically. But take it by mouth, and it may not be so safe.
In fact, it could be downright dangerous.
Skin Soother—or Tummy Troublemaker?
Despite its cactus-like looks, aloe vera is actually a member of the lily family. The gel inside its spiny leaves has a long history of use as a skin soother: From ancient Greece and Rome, to traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, aloe has been valued for its healing properties for millennia. It’s even been called the “miracle plant”.
Yet it wasn’t until the 1940s that aloe vera was put to the scientific test. A doctor working with burn victims found that aloe vera gel was effective at healing their damaged skin, and published his findings in a medical journal.
This gel appears to inhibit bradykinin, a compound that induces pain. Aloe is also believed to interfere with the production of thromboxane, which impedes the rate of wound healing in burned and damaged tissues. It may even ease inflammation and stimulate fibroblasts, cells that keep skin soft and elastic.
That may explain why aloe vera is an effective treatment for a number of skin conditions, including dermatitis, psoriasis, and sunburns, as well as minor wounds.
Taken orally, aloe vera latex – a bitter substance found within the leaves – can be used to relieve constipation by stimulating the intestines. Although more research is needed, oral aloe supplements might even help lower blood sugar and blood fats.
But here’s the rub: Oral aloe vera may not be worth the risk.
More Than Skin Deep…
Aloe appears to be a useful home remedy for minor wounds, burns, and dry skin. Research continues, but several studies already suggest that it may be effective for other skin conditions as well.
For example, one study followed 60 men and women with mild to moderate psoriasis. They applied a cream containing either 0.05 percent aloe vera or a placebo to the affected skin three times a day, five days a week. After four weeks, 25 out of 30 people who used aloe saw their psoriasis symptoms disappear, compared to just 2 out of 30 people who used the placebo cream.1
Another study looked at the effect of topical aloe vera on sunburn in 40 people. Those who applied aloe to skin after exposure to ultraviolet light experienced less redness and swelling that those who applied either a hydrocortisone cream or placebo gel.2
And aloe vera shows promise for people with itchy, flaky skin due to seborrheic dermatitis. Of 44 people with the condition, those who applied a topical aloe vera preparation to affected areas had less scaliness and itching than did those who used a placebo.3
A Pain in the Gut…
Some research suggests that aloe vera may benefit digestive health when taken orally.
In one study, 44 people with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, took either 100mL of oral aloe vera or a placebo daily. After 4 weeks, those who had taken aloe experienced a better clinical response and lowered disease activity than those who took the placebo.4
Another study examined the effectiveness of an oral supplement containing both aloe vera and psyllium on constipation in 35 men and women. Those who took the supplement for 4 weeks had softer, more frequent bowel movements than those who took a placebo pill.5
Although both studies found aloe vera to be safe when taken orally, other research has linked it to a number of side effects and even death when taken in high doses. Taking large amounts is easier than you might think, since the body quickly gets used to oral aloe vera, requiring higher and higher doses to see laxative results.
In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled laxative products containing aloe vera latex from shelves in 2002, citing potential safety concerns about side effects.
It’s Starting to Gel…
Aloe vera appears safe when used topically, although people who are allergic to garlic, onions, and tulips (also members of the lily family) may develop a reaction to it.
The general dose for topical aloe involves applying it to affected areas 3 to 4 times a day. Don’t apply aloe to severe wounds or burns.
On the other hand, oral aloe vera comes with a host of precautions. In the short term, it can cause gastrointestinal side effects like stomach pain and cramping. Longer use (more than 2 weeks) can trigger diarrhea, kidney problems, muscle weakness, and heart disturbances.
Worse, taking more than 1 gram of aloe vera orally for more than a few days may cause acute kidney failure, which can be fatal.
But those aren’t the only risks.
Oral aloe vera may not be safe for people who have diabetes, kidney problems, or hepatitis. Plus, you shouldn’t take aloe by mouth if you also take medications used to treat diabetes, clotting problems, diuretics, or other stimulant laxatives, as it may interact with them.
When you consider all these concerns, it’s clear that the risks of oral aloe vera far outweigh any benefits. But if you want to relieve skin concerns, a tube of aloe vera gel or cream – or even the plant itself – may be a useful addition to your medicine cabinet.
And remember, keep an open mind to new ideas, but ALWAYS do your own homework…and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.
1 Syed TA, Ahmad SA, Holt AH, et al. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: a placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Trop Med Int Health. 1996 Aug;1(4):505-9.
2 Reuter J, Jocher A, Stump J, et al. Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2008;21(2):106-10.
3 Vardy AD, Cohen AD, Tchetov T. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) emulsion in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. J Derm Treatment. 1999;10:7–11.
4 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 Apr 1;19(7):739-47.
5 Odes HS, Madar Z. A double-blind trial of a celandin, aloevera and psyllium laxative preparation in adult patients with constipation. Digestion. 1991;49(2):65-71.
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