Aloe vera is frequently used in traditional Indian medicine to treat many different ailments including constipation, colic, skin diseases, worm infestation, and infections (1).
The plant can survive for an extended period with little rainfall, which is why it is popular in hot and arid countries.
Aloe vera appears to originate from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but has spread to many other countries such as North Africa, and Spain. You can also find it in Australia, South and Central America, and in the southern part of the US.
Many people believe that aloe vera has health benefits and can improve your skin. This belief has been actively marketed by many skincare products, and these days it is common to see shampoos, shower gels, and skin creams that have aloe vera as the main ingredient, or “essence of aloe vera” written somewhere on the packaging.
It is also sometimes used to treat diabetes (4).
1Aloe vera may help treat burns. One of the most commonly believed facts about aloe vera is that it treats burns, particularly sunburns. Getting sunburned can be incredibly unpleasant, and the idea of applying a lotion that contains a natural ingredient is very popular with sufferers.
A 1981 study found that aloe vera gel reduced healing time from 16 to 13 days when it was compared to a Silvadene ointment, but the study failed to find a significant difference between the two (5).
A meta-analysis of four studies in 2007 found that aloe vera reduced burn treatment time by nine days compared to conventional treatment (6).
The US army first investigated the use of aloe vera to treat radiation burns in 1957; they found a small benefit to the use of aloe vera to speed up healing time (7).
The issue for aloe vera when it comes to treating dermatological conditions such as sunburn is a lack of thorough research. Studies that have found positive results have been deemed too small in size and suffering from study design related issues (8, 9).
As a result, we can’t say for sure whether aloe vera is truly effective as a treatment for burns, though it could very well be.
2Aloe vera may help treat hyperthyroidism. There does appear to be some evidence that aloe vera may reduce serum T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). Hyperthyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones (10).
The thyroid is responsible for maintaining homeostasis by regulating your heart rate and body temperature (11).
An overactive thyroid can lead to a lot of issues particularly fatigue, palpitations, heat sensitivity, etc. A 2002 study on male mice found that aloe vera leaf extract helped to regulate thyroid hormone concentrations (12).
There are no human studies yet, but aloe vera could very well have a possible role in future treatment for hyperthyroidism.
3Aloe vera is effective in treating mouth ulcers. Mouth ulcers or Aphthous Stomatitis is characterized as unpleasant sores in the mouth. They can be caused by a lot of things, but their direct cause is not known yet. While rarely anything more than an irritation, mouth ulcers can lead to difficulties eating and swallowing.
Studies have shown that Acemannan, a polysaccharide that is extracted from aloe vera, is an effective treatment of mouth ulcers. A 2013 study in the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine found that giving mouth ulcer sufferers a patch containing 0.5% Acemannan led to better results than the control (13).
It was not as effective as the common steroidal medication that is used for ulcers, but many patients prefer not to use steroid medication if possible.
Another study in the Dental Research Journal (2012) found that using a 2% Acemannan oral gel three times per day led to an improved rate of healing and a reduction in pain (14).
4Aloe vera may work as a laxative to treat constipation. In traditional Indian medicine, aloe vera is often used as a treatment for constipation. This has been documented in several studies (15).
A 1974 study by Chapman & Pitelli in the Journal of Current Therapeutic Research found that aloe vera was significantly more effective than a placebo at treating constipation (16).
A 1991 study found that combining aloe vera with several other ingredients (celandine and psyllium) led to more frequent bowel movements, a reduction in laxative dependence, and softer stools (17).
Aloe vera seems to be an effective alternative to traditional laxatives, though as with the mouth ulcer treatments, not quite as effective as traditional medication.
5Aloe vera gel can improve the absorption of vitamins. Increasing the absorption of a vitamin can massively improve its effectiveness, and reduce the amount of that vitamin that you need to take each day. Considering the fact that most people (particularly in developing countries) can be deficient in certain nutrients, an increase in absorption can only be a good thing.
There appears to be increasing evidence that aloe vera, when taken in gel form, is very effective at boosting the absorption of certain vitamins. A human clinical trial on an aloe vera supplement by Fenestra Research Labs found that taking an aloe vera gel at the same time as vitamin C led to a 20x increased absorption rate (18).
A 2005 study published in Phytomedicine looked at the effectiveness of aloe vera on the absorption of vitamins C and E (19).
It found that aloe vera slowed down the absorption of both vitamins and the amount of time that it spent in the plasma. They mentioned that “Aloe is the only known supplement to increase absorption of both these vitamins and should be considered as a complement to them.”
A similar study in the Journal of Dietary Supplements (2010) also found that aloe vera was able to increase the bioavailability of Vitamin C (20).
The study also found that aloe vera could increase the bioavailability of vitamin B 12.
There aren’t many studies that have been done on the improved absorption of vitamins when paired with an aloe vera gel, and at least two of the three studies mentioned here have possible funding issues, but there definitely appears to be some good evidence that aloe vera can increase absorption by slowing down the time it takes to absorb them.
6Aloe vera may help with Diabetes. Aloe vera is often taken by people who have Diabetes Type I and Type II, this is not because of doctor’s advice, but from hearsay. However, the evidence that aloe vera has any effect on Type I or Type II diabetes is almost nonexistent. A 2001 study in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research found that aloe vera leaves had an effect on blood glucose levels in diabetic rats (21).
This may mean that aloe vera “could be useful in the treatment of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.”
7Aloe vera may help treat a number of skin issues. Some studies indicate that aloe vera may be effective in treating certain skin conditions. A 2009 review of aloe vera by Feily & Namazi found the following:
“The results suggest that oral administration of aloe vera in mice is effective on wound healing, can decrease the number and size of papillomas and reduce the incidence of tumors and leishmania parasitemia by >90% in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Topical application of aloe vera is not an effective prevention for radiation-induced injuries and has no sunburn or suntan protection. It can be effective for genital herpes, psoriasis, human papillomavirus, seborrheic dermatitis, aphthous stomatitis, xerosis, lichen planus, frostbite, burn, wound healing and inflammation.” (22)
On the other hand, a journal article published in the British Journal of Dermatology (2013) found no evidence that aloe vera was effective in treating psoriasis (a common dermatological condition) (23).
This is another example of small studies with poor study design finding results in mice. These studies are then used to sell aloe vera to humans based on their effectiveness, but as examine.com points out, the actual evidence for aloe vera to say for certain whether it works or not (24).
1Aloe vera can induce hepatitis. It appears that aloe vera may affect different people in different ways, with those that are hypersensitive to aloe vera having issues with it interfering with the liver’s function. In 2007 a case study with aloe vera induced hepatitis was reported in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy (25).
A 2010 study in the Journal of Korean Medicine found another three examples of women who had taken aloe vera substances (a 57 year old, 62 year old, and a 55 year old) and had been admitted to hospital for “aloe-induced toxic hepatitis” (26).
Once they had stopped taking the aloe vera, their symptoms also cleared up.
A study in the British Medical Journal: Case Reports (2012) discussed a report of a 45 year old woman who “presented with jaundice and marked elevation of serum transaminases” (acute hepatitis) after taking an aloe vera product called “Euforia Juice” for a month (27).
The symptoms stopped after she ceased taking Euforia juice, returned 6 months later, but had wholly vanished after 18 months.
Finally, a 2005 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology also found an example of aloe vera leading to acute hepatitis, this time in a 57 year old woman (28).
Considering how many people take aloe vera, and how few case studies there are of sufferers, it seems fair to assume that aloe vera hypersensitivity is uncommon.
According to examine.com, “the only human study on aloe vera used 300mg twice daily” (29).
They point out that this dosage was adequate, but that there is no evidence to say what the ideal dosage is. Again, the complete lack of human studies on the benefits of aloe vera is a major stumbling block.
Due to the absence of any real side effects, unless you are hypersensitive of course, you can be confident that taking dosages of <300mg will be completely safe.
Can I use aloe vera to flush my system? Adding aloe vera to water or smoothies during a cleanse is a great way to support good daily bowel movements and keep waste and toxins moving out of your system
Can I leave aloe vera gel on my face overnight? Yes, you can. Mix aloe vera gel with almond oil, and massage that oil at night for smooth skin.
Can I drink aloe vera juice on an empty stomach? Yes, there are no adverse effects. For balancing digestion and elimination: Take 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel in the morning on an empty stomach
Can aloe vera remove pimples? The antibacterial properties of aloe vera gel are very effective in treating acne and reducing the redness caused by it. It prevents bacteria from infecting acne wounds and accelerates the process of healing. Its antifungal properties are useful in treating inflammation like boils and cysts on the skin.
Can aloe vera get rid of dark spots? Yes, aloe vera has shown dramatic results in helping improve dark spots and pigmentation.
Is Aloe Vera good for skin whitening? Aloe vera is useful for dealing with some skin problems and also for skin lightening. This plant contains some essential minerals and vitamins that may help to reduce the pigmentation and lower the production of melanin in the skin
Can aloe vera heal stomach ulcers? Yes, the same way aloe vera gel soothes and stimulates healing in burns, ulcers are soothed, protected and stimulated towards healing.
Can Aloe Vera help get rid of dark circles under eyes? Yes, aloe vera gel helps to improve blood circulation and reduces the puffiness under your eyes.
Can aloe vera remove acne scars? While this is not a complete solution to getting rid of acne, aloe vera is a great treatment to help heal acne scars.
Can aloe vera help hair growth? Aloe vera contains proteolytic enzymes which repair dead skin cells on the scalp. It promotes hair growth, prevents itching on the scalp, reduces dandruff and conditions your hair.
Is aloe vera good for skin tightening? There is evidence to show that aloe vera promotes skin tightening. The recommended method to yield skin tightening benefits is to apply a layer of the aloe vera gel to your skin and then wash it off with lukewarm water once it dries.
Aloe vera is a popular plant, that is often used in holistic medicine. It is one of the few natural ingredients out there that has gained widespread popularity, and benefits from excellent marketing.
Sadly, the complete lack of human studies is a significant issue, and there are many detractors out there who point out that all of the favorable studies on aloe vera have either been performed on animals or have been poorly designed.
There does seem to be some evidence that aloe vera is effective in treating mouth ulcers, and it may also be useful in treating radiation or thermal burns.
However, the problem is that current medicine often comes out on top when comparing the two. Steroid medication may not be as appealing to a consumer as aloe vera, but it absolutely works better at treating mouth ulcers.