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Aloe Vera: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

By Dr Anuja Bodhare +2 more

Introduction:

The botanical name of aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis miller, and it belongs to the family Liliaceae. The term aloe vera is derived from the Arabic word ‘alloeh’, which means ‘shining bitter substance’, and vera (Latin) means ‘true’. For centuries, aloe vera has been used for its medicinal, health, beauty, and skincare effects. It has been used for several reasons in dermatology. It mainly grows in the dry regions of Asia, America, Africa, and Europe.

In India, it is found in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.1 Aloe vera is also called wand of heaven, potted physician, wonder plant, plant of life, and heaven’s blessing.2 The other famous names of aloe vera are Indian Alces, Aloe, Ghirita, Kumari, Gawarpaltra, Lu hui, Curacao aloe, and Barbados aloe.3

aloe vera-leaves-gel-benefits

Nutritional Value of Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera contains vitamins A, B12, C and E, choline, folic acid, minerals (sodium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium, chromium, and iron), sugars, amino acids, and sterols.2

Properties of Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera has several properties, such as

  • It may show laxative activity
  • It may act as a potential pain killer
  • It may show anti-fungal property
  • It may show anti-bacterial property
  • It may show anti-viral property
  • It may show antioxidant activity
  • It may show antiseptic property
  • It may show anti-inflammatory property4

Also Read: Castor Oil – Uses, Benefits, Precautions & More!

Potential Uses of Aloe Vera:

Potential Uses of Aloe Vera:

Because of various properties, aloe vera has shown potential uses against several health conditions. Some potential uses of aloe vera are given below.

Potential uses of aloe vera for skin:

  • Potential uses of aloe vera for wounds:

Aloe vera is known for its healing and soothing effects on burns and other wounds. Aloe vera may increase the wound closure rate and tensile strength when applied to a wound.4 However, if you have any wounds, seek medical help and get the wound treated.

  • Potential uses of aloe vera for antiageing effects:

Aloe vera’s components may reverse degenerative skin changes. This may help reverse the ageing effects of the skin.3 Aloe vera may be used as a moisturiser and give moisture to the skin. It might help make the skin more elastic and less wrinkled. It may also soften the skin and tighten the pores. More research is needed to support the use of aloe vera in skin ageing. Talk to your skin doctor or dermatologist if you have any skin-related concerns.

Read More: 8 Best Anti-Aging Foods to Look Younger

  • Other potential uses of aloe vera for skin:

Aloe vera may protect the skin from dust and other natural elements that can cause harm to the skin.4

PharmEasy Recommends: EverHerb Aloe Vera Juice

Potential uses of aloe vera for diabetes:

Aloe vera is used in many parts of the world as a traditional remedy for diabetes mellitus. Studies in animals and humans have suggested that aloe vera may improve chronic hyperglycaemia (an excess of glucose in the blood) and disturbed lipid profile, which are the features of diabetes mellitus and are major risk factors for heart-related diseases. It was also found to reduce the blood sugar levels in diabetes patients during a clinical study. It might help prevent gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women).4 However, diabetes is a severe health condition that requires you to strictly adhere to the doctor’s advice and treatment. Avoid using any herbal remedies without consulting your doctor first.

Potential uses of aloe vera for antimicrobial activity:

The aloe vera extract was found to be effective against pathogenic bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus faecalis, and Streptococcus pyogenes during a lab trial. It was found to be effective in killing viruses.

Aloe vera gel fractions reduced the proliferation of cells of cytomegalovirus. It may also be effective against herpes simplex virus, pseudorabies virus, and influenza virus.

It could reduce the growth of fungi Malassezia furfur and Candida albicans in a lab trial. It could also reduce the growth of some microbes that cause foodborne diseases in humans or animals, as per several studies.4 More research is required to support the use of aloe vera against microbial infections. Until then, you must talk to your healthcare provider if you encounter any infection or disease.

Potential uses of aloe vera for ulcers:

Aloe vera juice may be valuable for managing ulcers, heartburn, and other digestion-related diseases. The extract of aloe vera could help reduce acid secretion. Some studies have identified that aloe vera may also be used for children.4 However, do not use aloe vera as an alternative to modern medical treatment. Using herbal remedies to combat ulcers may worsen the situation.

Potential uses of aloe vera for inflammation:

Some of the features of inflammation include pain, swelling, redness, and heat, which delay the healing process. The aloe vera gel may help relieve discomfort and pain and speed up the healing process. It might help reduce inflammation pain and act as a natural pain killer.4 However, if the inflammation does not improve, seek medical advice.

Potential uses of aloe vera for tumours:

Aloe vera gel may show anti-tumour and anti-ulcer properties and increase the multiplying of normal human dermal (skin) cells. The aloe vera extract was evaluated for cancer prevention activity in an animal model. It could prevent the tumour-promoting effects of Phorbol myristic acetate, suggesting that aloe gel might be beneficial in preventing cancer.4 With human trials, we may be able to support the use of ale vera in cancer. Until then, you must consult your healthcare provider before using any herbal remedies for health benefits.

Potential uses of aloe vera for detox:

The juice of aloe vera may be an excellent natural aid for detox. Due to our unhealthy food intake, pollution, and stressful lives, our body systems require regular cleansing. Aloe vera juice may provide minerals, vitamins, and trace elements to help and support our body in dealing with our daily stresses.4 However, you need to talk to your healthcare provider before using herbal remedies for health benefits.

Though there are studies showing the benefits of aloe vera in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of aloe vera on human health. 

An important thing to keep in mind is that when you use aloe vera for your wounds, burns or cuts, do not cover it with a bandage. Aloe vera works as a wound healer best in the open air, therefore, covering the site would delay the healing process.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Read More: How to Detox Your Body?

How to Use Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera can be used in the following ways:

  • Gel
  • Lotion
  • Cream
  • Juice4

Your Ayurvedic physician will prescribe you the form as per your requirement.

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking aloe vera or herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Did you know you can develop an intolerance to aloe vera juice? So, avoid taking aloe vera in your food and drinks too often and talk to your doctor for the best outcomes.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Side Effects of Aloe Vera:

Side effects associated with aloe vera use are as follow.

  • The side effects of oral use include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, hepatitis, red urine, irregular heartbeat, and worsening constipation. Its laxative effects may cause electrolyte imbalances. It has been reported that prolonged use of aloe vera may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.1,3
  • The side effects of topical use include burning, redness, stinging sensation, and rarely generalised dermatitis (skin inflammation) in sensitive people. To test for any possible allergic reaction, it is advised to apply aloe vera to a small area.1

Before using aloe vera or other herbal remedies, you need to talk to your healthcare provider about its possible side effects and limitations. It will help you avoid unwanted side effects.

Also Read: 8 Best Home Remedies For Immediate Relief From Constipation

Precautions to Take With Aloe Vera:

Do not consume aloe vera if you have heart diseases, diabetes, kidney problems, are nursing, are pregnant, or are allergic to garlic, onions, or tulips.3

Also, if you are suffering from any disease condition, pregnant or breastfeeding then you must consult your doctor before using aloe vera for its benefits and precautions. Do not use herbal remedies for disease conditions without a doctor’s consultation. 

Interactions of Aloe Vera With Other Drugs:

Because of the various effects of aloe vera on health, it may interact with certain medicines.

  • Applying aloe vera to the skin may boost the absorption of steroid creams like hydrocortisone.
  • It decreases the effectiveness and may increase the adverse effects of digitoxin and digoxin because of its potassium lowering effect.
  • Aloe vera, if used along with furosemide, may increase the risk of potassium depletion.
  • It may reduce the blood sugar levels and thus may interact with oral hypoglycaemic drugs and insulin.1

If you are receiving treatment for any disease condition, talk to your healthcare provider about the possible interactions of the medicine with other drugs and herbs. It will help you make well-informed choices and avoid unwanted herb-drug interactions.

Also Read: Sesame Seeds: Uses Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is aloe vera edible?

Yes, aloe vera is edible and may be consumed as juice.4 However, you must consult your doctor before consuming aloe vera. There are some conditions in which you cannot consume aloe vera. Do not take/consume aloe vera if you have heart diseases, diabetes, kidney problems, are nursing, pregnant, or allergic to garlic, onion, or tulips.3

Does aloe vera help in wound healing?

Yes, aloe vera may help in healing wounds.4 However, do not use aloe vera or other herbal remedies for wounds without consulting your healthcare provider first.

How to use aloe vera?

Aloe vera can be used as gel, cream, ointment, or juice.4 However, you must consult your doctor before consuming aloe vera.

Can aloe vera be used on skin?

Yes, aloe vera may be used on the skin. It may act as an excellent natural moisturiser for the skin.4 However, if you notice any allergic reactions, immediately contact your healthcare provider.

Is aloe vera good for hair?

Yes, aloe vera may be good for the hair and scalp.3

Can aloe vera be used for dandruff?

Yes, aloe vera might be effective in reducing dandruff.3 However, you must consult your doctor before consuming aloe vera.

Can aloe vera be used for managing hair loss?

Yes, aloe vera can be used for managing hair loss. The enzymes in aloe vera help in avoiding hair loss as they protect the scalp against any diseases.3

What is the precaution to be taken with aloe vera?

Do not take/consume aloe vera if you have heart diseases, diabetes, or kidney problems. Also, if you are nursing, pregnant, or allergic to garlic, onion, or tulips, you should not consume aloe vera.3 Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before using aloe vera for its benefits.

Are there any side effects of aloe vera?

A few side effects of aloe vera have been observed. The side effects of oral use include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, hepatitis, red urine, irregular heartbeat, and worsening constipation. Its laxative effects may cause electrolyte imbalances. It has been reported that prolonged use of aloe vera may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.1,3 The side effects of topical use include burning, redness, stinging sensation, and rarely generalised dermatitis in sensitive people. It is advised to apply aloe vera in a small area first to test for any possible allergic reaction.1 Also, talk to your healthcare provider before using aloe vera against any disease condition.

Also Read: Gokshura: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, Precautions & More!

References:

1. Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple D. Aloe vera: A short review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(4):163–6. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/

2. Zadeh JB, Kor NM. Component and Application Aloe Vera Plant in medicine. Int J Adv Biol Biomed Res [Internet]. 2014;2(5):1876–82. Available from: http://www.ijabbr.com

3. Kumar KPS, Bhowmik D, Chiranjib, Biswajit. Aloe vera: a potential herb and its medicinal importance. Jounal Chem Pharm Res [Internet]. 2010;2(1):21–9. Available from: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:Aloe+vera:+A+Potential+Herb+and+its+Medicinal+Importance#1

4. Tsegaye M, Sewalem M, Gashe M. Review on Therapeutic Uses of Aloe Vera. Glob J Pharmacol. 2017;11(2):14–20. Available at: https://www.spafactorythailand.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Review-on-Therapeutic-Uses-of-Aloe-Vera.pdf

Also Read: Amaltas – Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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