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Aloe (aloe vera), is a cactus-like plant that grows in hot, dry climates. The useful parts of aloe are the gel and latex.

Aloe gel might help some skin conditions like psoriasis. It also seems to speed up wound healing by improving blood circulation, and might combat certain types of bacteria and fungi. Aloe latex contains chemicals that work as a laxative. Some aloe products are made from the whole crushed leaf, so they contain both gel and latex.

People commonly apply aloe gel to the skin for conditions such as sunburn, acne, dandruff, and many others, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses. Some people take aloe products by mouth for conditions such as obesity, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and many others, but there is also no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
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  • Acne.  Topical aloe gel may reduce acne lesions when used with topical tretinoin in children and adults with acne.
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  • Burns.  Topical aloe gel or cream may reduce healing time in patients with superficial or partial thickness burns.
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  • Constipation.  Oral aloe latex may improve symptoms in patients with constipation; however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of aloe latex as a laxative due to safety concerns.
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  • Diabetes.  Oral aloe may reduce blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in patients with diabetes. It may be most effective in patients with fasting blood glucose levels of 200 mg/dL or greater.
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  • Genital herpes.  Topical aloe extract cream may improve healing of genital herpes lesions.
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  • Lichen planus.  Rinsing the mouth with aloe-containing mouthwash or applying aloe gel to the mouth or vulva may reduce pain and improve lesion healing in patients with lichen planus.
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  • Obesity.  Oral aloe gel may modestly reduce body weight and fat mass in adults who are overweight or obese.
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  • Oral submucous fibrosis.  Topical aloe may reduce burning sensations in patients with oral submucous fibrosis, but it may not improve mouth opening, tongue protrusion, or cheek flexibility in these patients.
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  • Psoriasis.  Topical aloe extract cream may reduce erythema and scaling and improve the resolution of psoriatic plaques in patients with psoriasis. Limited research suggests that topical aloe gel does not have the same effects.
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  • Traumatic oral ulcers.  Topical aloe gel may prevent oral ulcers after application of orthodontic appliances in adolescents and adults.
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  • Radiation dermatitis.  Topical aloe gel may not reduce dermatitis in patients undergoing radiation therapy; however, it might prolong the time it takes for dermatitis to appear in patients receiving large cumulative doses of radiation.
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When taken by mouth: Aloe gel is possibly safe when used short-term. Aloe gel has been used safely in a dose of 15 mL daily for up to 42 days. Also, a specific gel (Aloe QDM complex Univera Inc) has been used safely at a dose of about 600 mg daily for up to 8 weeks. Aloe extract is also possibly safe when taken short-term.

Taking aloe latex or aloe whole-leaf extract by mouth is possibly unsafe at any dose. Aloe latex is likely unsafe when taken by mouth in high doses. Aloe latex can cause side effects such as stomach pain. Long-term use of large amounts of aloe latex might cause serious side effects, including kidney and heart problems. Taking aloe latex 1 gram daily can be fatal.

When applied to the skin: Aloe gel is likely safe.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Aloe gel and latex are possibly unsafe when taken by mouth. There is a report that aloe was associated with miscarriage. It might also increase the risk for birth defects. Do not take aloe by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Children: Aloe gel is possibly safe when applied to the skin appropriately. Aloe latex and aloe whole leaf extracts are possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in children. Children younger than 12 years old might have stomach pain, cramps, and diarrhea.

Intestinal conditions such as Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, or obstruction: Do not take aloe latex if you have any of these conditions. Aloe latex is a GI irritant. Products made from whole aloe leaves will contain some aloe latex.

Kidney problems: High doses of aloe latex have been linked to kidney failure and other serious conditions.

Surgery: Aloe might affect blood sugar levels and could interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking aloe at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Digoxin (Lanoxin)

Interaction Rating=Major Do not take this combination.

When taken by mouth aloe latex is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the risk of side effects of digoxin (Lanoxin).

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Aloe gel might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking aloe gel along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

When taken by mouth aloe latex is a laxative. Laxatives can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs. Taking aloe latex along with medications you take by mouth might decrease the effectiveness of your medication.

Sevoflurane (Ultane)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Aloe might decrease clotting of the blood. Sevoflurane is used as anesthesia during surgery. Sevoflurane also decreases clotting of the blood. Taking aloe before surgery might cause increased bleeding during the surgical procedure. Do not take aloe by mouth if you are having surgery within 2 weeks.

Stimulant laxatives

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

When taken orally aloe latex is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. Taking aloe latex along with other stimulant laxatives could speed up the bowels too much and cause dehydration and low minerals in the body.

Some stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), cascara, castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others.

Warfarin (Coumadin)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

When taken orally, aloe latex is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels and can cause diarrhea in some people. Diarrhea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin, do not to take excessive amounts of aloe latex.

Water pills (Diuretic drugs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

When taken by mouth aloe latex is a laxative. Some laxatives can decrease potassium in the body. "Water pills" can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking aloe latex along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.

Some "water pills" that can decrease potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDIURIL, Microzide), and others.

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar: Aloe might lower blood sugar. Taking it with other supplements with similar effects might lower blood sugar too much. Examples of supplements with this effect include bitter melon, cassia cinnamon, chromium, and prickly pear cactus.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting: Aloe might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. Taking it with other supplements with similar effects might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. Examples of supplements with this effect include garlic, ginger, ginkgo, nattokinase, and Panax ginseng.
Herbs that contain cardiac glycosides: Aloe is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can cause diarrhea and decrease potassium levels. Using it along with supplements that contain cardiac glycosides can increase the risk of heart damage. Examples of supplements that contain cardiac glycosides include black hellebore, foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, oleander, and pleurisy root.
Horsetail: Aloe is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can cause diarrhea and decrease potassium levels. Using aloe along with horsetail increases the risk of lowering potassium levels too much.
Licorice: Aloe is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can cause diarrhea and decrease potassium levels. Using aloe along with licorice rhizome increases the risk of lowering potassium levels too much.
Stimulant laxative herbs: Aloe is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can cause diarrhea and decrease potassium levels. Taking aloe with other supplements with similar effects might cause more diarrhea and very low potassium levels. Examples of supplements with this effect include buckthorn, gossypol, rhubarb, and senna.

There are no known interactions with foods.

Various aloe products have been used by mouth in adults. These include aloe extracts, aloe gels, aloe juices, and raw aloe leaves. Both adults and children have applied various aloe products to the skin, including gels, creams, mouthwashes, and topical solutions. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what type of product and dose might be best for a specific condition.

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