- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: aloe
Brand and Other Names: aloe vera, Aloe arborescens natalenis, Aloe barbadensis, Aloe ferox, Aloe vulgari
Drug Class: Herbals
What is aloe, and what is it used for?
Aloe is a succulent plant grown in hot dry regions. Aloe leaf has been used in many parts of the world for millennia for its health, beauty, medicinal and skincare properties. Aloe may be taken orally as a dietary supplement, applied topically for moisturization and treating minor burns, wounds, cold sores and itching, and is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products. Aloe is also used as a laxative and to treat radiation dermatitis.
There are more than 400 species of aloe, but the species most widely used by people is Aloe barbadensis miller. Aloe leaf is fleshy and has three layers, the green outer rind, a yellow latex layer underneath and a clear gel in the center. Whole leaf extracts are produced from crushing the whole leaves, while the gel and latex portion may be separately extracted and used.
Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active components including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. Aloe is believed to have diverse properties including fungicidal, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, laxative, immunomodulating, and anticancer effects.
People take aloe gel orally for many conditions including diabetes, hepatitis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, pain, fever, itching, inflammation, and for general health. Aloe latex is taken orally for constipation. Aloe gel is applied on the skin to relieve pain, itching, and inflammation from multiple skin conditions and to promote wound healing. Aloe is also used as flavoring in foods.
Although aloe has been widely used for innumerable purposes, there aren’t enough scientific studies to prove its safety and efficacy in many of the uses. Studies suggest that the use of aloe might be effective in the following conditions:
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Psoriasis vulgaris
- Acne vulgaris
- Lichen planus
- Skin burns
- Wound healing
- Pressure ulcers
- Radiation dermatitis
- Inflammation of mucous membranes (mucositis)
- Canker sores
- Genital herpes
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- Ulcerative colitis
- Diabetes type 2
- Cancer prevention
- Do not use aloe if you are allergic to plants in the Liliaceae family, such as onions, garlic and tulips
- Do not apply aloe to deep cuts and burn injuries
- Do not take oral aloe if you have intestinal conditions, heart disease, hemorrhoids, kidney problems, diabetes, or electrolyte imbalances
- Do not take aloe for prolonged periods
What are the side effects of aloe?
Common side effects of aloe include:
- Allergic reactions
- Abdominal cramps
- Irritation of gastrointestinal tract
- Worsening of constipation or dependency
- Red urine
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Increased risk of colorectal cancer with prolonged use of whole leaf extract
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.
Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of aloe?
There isn't enough reliable information to know what might be an appropriate dose of aloe.
Leaf gel cap
- 50-200 mg/day orally
- 30 ml orally three times daily
- 15-60 drops orally as needed; 1:10, 50% alcohol
- Apply 3-5 once/day as needed
In case of overdose, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center immediately.
IMAGESBrowse our medical image collection of allergic skin disorders such as psoriasis and dermatitis and more caused by allergies See Images
What drugs interact with aloe?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Aloe skin applications may increase the absorption of steroid creams such as hydrocortisone.
- Aloe may reduce the effectiveness and may increase the adverse effects of digoxin and digitoxin, due to its potassium lowering effect.
- Aloe vera used with furosemide may increase the risk of potassium depletion.
- Aloe decreases blood sugar levels and thus may interact with oral diabetes drugs and insulin.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information.
Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- There is insufficient information on safety of aloe use during pregnancy and breastfeeding; avoid use.
What else should I know about aloe?
- Topical use of aloe gel is generally safe.
- Natural products are not always necessarily safe; exercise caution when using them.
- Aloe is marketed as a dietary supplement and does not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the FDA.
- In 2002, the FDA ordered over-the-counter laxatives containing aloe vera to either be reformulated or removed from store shelves, because of lack of data on safety.
Aloe may be taken orally as a dietary supplement, applied topically for moisturization and treating minor burns, wounds, cold sores and itching, and is used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products. Aloe is also used as a laxative and to treat radiation dermatitis. Common side effects of aloe include redness, burning, stinging, dermatitis, allergic reactions, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, irritation of gastrointestinal tract, worsening of constipation or dependency, red urine, hepatitis, electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and increased risk of colorectal cancer.
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