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Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Index of Herbal Medicines, Supplements and Therapies
The decision to use products containing or claiming to contain aloe should be carefully considered.
Natural Standard
Natural Standard content

Aloe (Aloe vera)

Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain aloe. Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with their pharmacists or health care providers before starting.

Scientists have studied aloe for the following health problems:

Scientific research suggests that some of the chemicals in aloe latex (the dried inner lining of the leaf) may work as laxatives. However, there are few studies of aloe latex taken by mouth as a laxative. Further study is needed to answer whether aloe is a good treatment for constipation and how it compares to other laxatives.
Inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis
Early study in this area seems promising. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made. Side effects and interactions have been reported. Please do not self-treat with aloe before discussing with your doctor and pharmacist.
Early research suggests that aloe gel applied to the skin may help to heal minor burns. However, these studies are small and of low quality. Further research is necessary before an answer is known.
Pressure ulcers
Pressure ulcers occur when people are not able to move around well and their skin breaks down because of pressure placed on one spot for a long time. These ulcers can become very deep or infected. There is early evidence that aloe does not help the healing of pressure ulcers. Therefore, aloe should not be used for this purpose.
Wound healing
Early evidence suggests that when aloe gel is placed on surgical wounds, they take longer to heal. Another case report of the use of aloe vera gel resulted in full wound healing after other treatments had failed. Study results conflict, and therefore further research is needed befor a conclusion can be drawn.
Early evidence suggests that aloe may be helpful for treating psoriasis, dandruff and genital herpes in men. However, there is not enough research to make a clear recommendation. Aloe has also been studied for radiation skin damage, allergic rash, type 2 diabetes, HIV infection and cancer prevention, but clear answers are not known at this time.

Aloe has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially very serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a health care provider before taking aloe for any unproven use.

Alzheimer's disease
Bacterial skin infections
Birth control
Bladder stones
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Congestive heart failure
Corneal abrasions
Corneal ulcers
Coronary artery disease prevention
Damaged blood vessels
Functional bowel disorders
Gastric acid reduction (hyperacidity)
Gastric ulcer
Gastrointestinal cytoprotective agent
Hair loss
Heart disease (for prevention)
High cholesterol
Human papilloma virus
Lichen planus
Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
Mast cell stabilizer
Merkel cell carcinoma
Parkinson's disease
Peptic ulcer
Periodontal surgical rinse
Post-dermabrasion healing
Radiation protection
Skin infections
Stomach ulcers
Tic douloureux
Worm infections of the intestine or skin
Vaginal contraceptive


People with allergies to aloe or plants in the Liliaceae family (garlic, onions, tulips) should avoid using aloe. Skin rashes have been reported with long-term use of aloe gel. Aloe injections have caused severe reactions and should be avoided.

Side Effects

At recommended doses, aloe taken by mouth may cause cramping and diarrhea. Because of its laxative effects, aloe should be avoided by people with diarrhea or intestinal conditions, such as bowel obstruction. Hepatitis, increased risk of bleeding, blood in the stool and altered thyroid function have been associated with aloe use by mouth.

Laboratory and animal studies show that aloe taken by mouth may lower blood sugar or potassium levels. Therefore, people with diabetes, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, heart disease or electrolyte abnormalities should use oral aloe only under medical supervision. Using any laxative, including aloe, for more than seven days in a row may make constipation worse or cause dependency.

Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding

Taking aloe by mouth should be avoided during pregnancy, because of the possibility of causing uterine contractions. Traditionally, it is believed that oral use of aloe leaves during breast-feeding should be avoided, although there is not enough scientific information in this area.

Interactions with drugs, supplements and other herbs have not been thoroughly studied. The interactions listed below have been reported in scientific publications. If you are taking prescription drugs, speak with your health care provider or pharmacist before using herbs or dietary supplements.

Interactions With Drugs

A survey showed 30 percent of surgical patients reported using aloe as an herbal medicine within 2 years before surgery. Awareness of the increasing use of herbals is important to prevent, recognize, and treat potential health problems that may arise due to interactions. Surgeons need to be aware of the use of herbal medication in their patients to prevent possible harmful effects and perioperative complications.

Taking aloe by mouth should be avoided by people taking oral drugs for diabetes or using insulin. Aloe should be used cautiously by people taking thiazide diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide; oral corticosteroids; or digoxin (Lanoxin). Taking aloe latex by mouth at the same time as laxatives may increase diarrhea, dehydration or electrolyte imbalances in the blood. When taken by mouth, aloe gel may interfere with the absorption of other drugs.

Drugs used for cancer or the heart may interact with aloe. Hormones, birth control pills and antivirals may also interact.

Interactions With Herbs And Dietary Supplements

When taken by mouth, aloe may increase the laxative properties of agents such as senna and may cause diarrhea. Aloe may also add to the effects of herbs that lower blood sugar levels, such as bitter melon (Momordica charantia). Aloe latex may increase the potassium-lowering effects of other herbs such as licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Herbs and supplements used for cancer or the heart may interact with aloe. Phytoestrogens like soy and antivirals may also interact.

The doses listed below are based on scientific research, publications or traditional use. Because most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly studied or monitored, safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients even within the same brand. Combination products often contain small amounts of each ingredient and may not be effective. The appropriate dosing should be discussed with a health care provider before starting therapy; always read the recommendations on a product's label. The dosing for unproven uses should be approached cautiously, because scientific information is limited in these areas.

For Minor Skin Burns

Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)

Aloe gel: The gel has been used liberally on the skin three to four times per day. Severe burns should be treated by a health care provider immediately.

Children (Younger Than 18)

Aloe gel: The gel has been used on children's skin. Severe burns should be treated by a health care provider immediately.

For Constipation

Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)

Capsules: A dose of 40 to 170 milligrams of aloe latex (dried inner lining of the leaf) per day, for no longer than seven days, has been taken by mouth. Combination products containing aloe latex and other laxative herbs or supplements are available. A dose of 150 milligrams of the dried juice per day of aloe has been found effective as a laxative.

Children (Younger Than 18)

Aloe taken by mouth has not been studied in children and theoretically may have harmful effects, such as lowering blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is not recommended.

For Genital Herpes

Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)

Cream has been applied to lesions for five consecutive days per week, for up to two weeks.

For Psoriasis Vulgaris

Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)

Cream has been applied to skin three times daily for five consecutive days per week, for up to four weeks.

For Diabetes (Type 2)

Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)

A dose of 5 to 15 milliliters of aloe juice twice daily has been used. Efficacy and safety are inconclusive.

For HIV Infection

Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)

A dose of 1,000 to 1,600 milligrams has been taken by mouth in four equal doses, although it has not been proven safe or effective.

Aloe vera is widely used in food supplements, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. . It seems to be generally well tolerated when applied to the skin. Aloe has been suggested for many conditions. Chemicals in aloe latex have been shown to have laxative effects as well as a potential therapeutic effect in irritable bowel syndrome.

The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.

  1. Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
  2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research

Selected Scientific Studies: Aloe

Natural Standard has reviewed all of the currently available medical literature to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.

Some of the more recent studies are listed below:

  1. Bosley C, Smith J, Baratti P, et al. A phase III trial comparing an anionic phospholipid-based (APP) cream and aloe vera-based gel in the prevention and treatment of radiation dermatitis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2003;Oct 1, 57(2 Suppl):438. No abstract available.
  2. Dal'Belo SE, Gaspar LR, Maia Campos PM. Moisturizing effect of cosmetic formulations containing Aloe vera extract in different concentrations assessed by skin bioengineering techniques. Skin Res Technol 2006;Nov, 12(4):241-246.
  3. Ernst E, Pittler MH, Stevinson C. Complementary/alternative medicine in dermatology: evidence-assessed efficacy of two diseases and two treatments. Am J Clin Dermatol 2002;3(5):341-348. Review.
  4. Gallagher J, Gray M. Is aloe vera effective for healing chronic wounds? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs 2003;30(2):68-71.
  5. Heggie S, Bryant GP, Tripcony L, et al. A Phase III study on the efficacy of topical aloe vera gel on irradiated breast tissue. Cancer Nurs 2002;Dec, 25(6):442-451.
  6. Kato Y, Hou K, Saga Y, et al. [Ammonium acid urate stone due to laxative abuse: a case report.] Hinyokika Kiyo 2004;50(11):799-803.
  7. Kim EJ, Kim HJ, Kim SG, et al. Aloe-induced Henoch-Schonlein purpura. Nephrology (Carlton) 2007;Feb, 12(1):109. No abstract available.
  8. 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;19(7):739-747.
  9. Lee A, Chui PT, Aun CS, et al. Possible interaction between sevoflurane and aloe vera. Ann Pharmacother 2004;38(10):1651-1654.
  10. Mitchell H. Evaluation of aloe vera gel gloves in the treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure. Am J Infect Control 2003;31(8):516.
  11. Moody JO, Adebiyi OA, Adeniyi BA. Do aloe vera and Ageratum conyzoides enhance the anti-microbial activity of traditional medicinal soft soaps (Osedudu)? J Ethnopharmacol 2004;92(1):57-60.
  12. Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Chief Editors: Ulbricht C, Basch E, Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference. Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews, USA. Elsevier/Mosby, 2005.
  13. Olsen DL, Raub W Jr., Bradley C, et al. The effect of aloe vera gel/mild soap versus mild soap alone in preventing skin reactions in patients undergoing radiation therapy. Oncol Nurs Forum 2001;28(3):543-547.
  14. Su CK, Mehta V, Ravikumar L, et al. Phase II double-blind randomized study comparing oral aloe vera versus placebo to prevent radiation-related mucositis in patients with head-and-neck neoplasms. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2004;60(1):171-177.
  15. Thomas DR, Goode PS, LaMaster K, et al. Acemannan hydrogel dressing versus saline dressing for pressure ulcers: a randomized, controlled trial. Adv Wound Care 1998;11(6):273-276.
  16. 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(1):7-11.
  17. Vermeulen H, Ubbink D, Goossens A, et al. Dressings and topical agents for surgical wounds healing by secondary intention. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004;(2):CD003554.
  18. Vogler BK, Ernst E. Aloe vera: a systematic review of its clinical effectiveness. Br J Gen Pract 1999;49(447):823-828.
  19. Willems M, van Buuren HR, de Krijger R. Anthranoid self-medication causing rapid development of melanosis coli. Neth J Med 2003;61(1):22-24.
  20. Williams MS, Burk M, Loprinzi CL, et al. Phase III double-blind evaluation of an Aloe vera gel as a prophylactic agent for radiation-induced skin toxicity. Int J Radiation Oncol Biol Phys 1996;36(2):345-349.
  21. Yeh GY, Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ, Phillips RS. Systematic review of herbs and dietary supplements for glycemic control in diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003;26(4):1277-1294.

Last updated May 08, 2008

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