barbadensis/Aloe ferox (Botanical)
Liliaceae (Plant Family)
Aloe vera has a long history of use as a medicinal plant, with written record
going back to 1750 BC. The plant has a wide variety of uses because different
parts of the plant have different medicinal properties. The mucilaginous gel
that is most widely associated with aloe vera comes from the inner part of the
leaf. It is separated from the pericyclic tubules, specialized cells that are
under the epidermis of the leaf. Those cells have a bitter yellow latex or juice
that is dried to form a pharmaceutical product called aloe latex. Aloe gel is
used for wound healing, both internally and externally. It greatly speeds the
healing of many skin injuries, including ulcerations, burns, frostbite, and
abrasions. Aloe latex is a powerful cathartic and is used for constipation.
Because it can cause painful cramping, it is not used as often as gentler herbal
laxatives. Lower doses of aloe latex can be effective in preventing kidney stone
formation or reducing their size. Lower doses can also be effective as a stool
softener, which is particularly helpful in the case of hemorrhoids.
Aloe gel is now found in many commercial skin-care products, shampoos, and
conditioners. But some studies have shown that it does not retain its healing
ability when stored. There is now a stabilized form of the gel that may be able
to be stored and still retain the healing action, but fresh aloe gel from the
leaves is still the best option.
Aloe gel may also be taken internally, often in a liquid form called aloe
juice. In this form, aloe can help heal peptic ulcers by inhibiting stomach
acids that irritate ulcers. Aloe juice also improves digestion by destroying
many bacteria that cause infection.
A perennial plant; yellow flowers; tough, fleshy leaves grow up to 20 inches
long, 5 inches across, up to 30 per plant; grows to 4 feet. Grown in most
tropical and subtropical locations, including Caribbean, southern United States,
Latin America, and the Middle East.
Anthraquinones, aloins, anthranoids, aglycones, polysaccharides (including
glycoproteins and mucopolysaccharides), and prostaglandins
Aloe gel is best fresh from an aloe plant. Slit a leaf lengthwise and remove
gel. Aloe gel is also available commercially in stabilized form. Aloe latex is
available as a powder or in 500 mg capsules for use as a laxative. Aloe juice is
available in liquid form.
- Aloe was historically used to treat burns.
- Traditional herbal actions: antibacterial, antifungal, anesthetic,
antipyretic, antipruritic, moisturizer, vasodilator, anti-inflammatory,
anthelmintic, cathartic, stomachic, demulcent, emmenagogue, laxative combined
with carminative, vulnerary
- Clinical applications: burns (due to radiation, sunburn, and other
causes), headaches, dry skin, rashes (due to dermatitis, poison ivy, or insect
bites), kidney stones, hemorrhoids, hives, constipation, wound healing, peptic
ulcers, immune system enhancement, diabetes, asthma
Aloe vera contains vitamins C and E and zinc, which are all important for
wound healing. Glycoproteins in aloe gel inhibit and break down bradykinin, a
mediator of pain and inflammation. Aloe gel also inhibits thromboxane, which
also causes inflammation. Aloe gel stimulates fibroblast and connective tissue
formation, a healing action that most other anti-inflammatories don't have. The
polysaccharides in aloe seem to stimulate skin growth and repair as well. Aloe
also increases blood flow to burned tissue, which helps it heal.
Aloe gel has been particularly effective in healing diabetic leg ulcers
because along with its other wound healing capabilities, it also lowers blood
Aloe gel's antibacterial and antifungal ability compares favorably with that
of silver sulfadiazine, an antiseptic used regularly in treatment of extensive
burns. Aloe vera extract has been shown to kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
Klebsiella pneumoniae, Serratia marcescens, Citrobacter species, Enterobacter
cloacae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus agalactiae, Staphylococcus
aureus, Escherichia coli, Streptococcus faecalis, and Candida
Aloe's active cathartic component is aloin. In small doses, it gives tone to
intestinal muscle. In larger doses, it becomes a strong purgative, increasing
colonic secretions and peristaltic contractions in the large intestine. It is
harsher on the system than other anthraquinone laxatives, such as cascara and
senna. The anthraquinones in aloe latex prevent kidney stone formation by
binding calcium in the urinary tract and reducing the growth rate of urinary
Aloe juice heals peptic ulcers by inhibiting pepsin when the stomach is
empty, releasing it only to digest food. It inhibits the release of hydrochloric
acid by preventing the binding of histamine to parietal cells. It also heals and
prevents other irritants from reaching the ulcer. Aloe juice aids the digestive
process by increasing gastric pH, reducing yeast infections, and improving water
Acemannan, an antiviral compound of aloe juice, is a powerful immune system
stimulant. It enhances macrophage activity, the function of T cells, and
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
- The dosage for dry aloe extract is very small (50 to 200 mg).
- For general use: dosage of gel or juice 2 tbsp tid (the standardized
aloe product measured to hydroxyanthracene derivatives is not widely available
in the USA)
- For prevention of kidney stones: 2 to 3 tbsp daily
- For laxative purposes: 500 to 1,000 mg daily (care should be taken
that laxative doses of aloe are accompanied by carminative herbs to prevent
- For burns or wound healing, topically: aloe vera gel applied liberally
(fresh gel from aloe plant is best)
- For hemorrhoids, as a stool softener: dry aloe extract, 0.05 to 0.2 g
- For constipation: 20 to 30 mg hydroxyanthracene derivatives per day,
calculated as anydrous aloin
Aloe gel is safe for external use, unless it causes a rare allergic reaction.
Discontinue use if it irritates the skin. It is not useful for treatment of
deep, vertical wounds (e.g. cesarean incision). Aloe latex may cause severe
intestinal cramps or diarrhea.
Pregnant or nursing mothers should not ingest aloe latex. It may cause
uterine contractions and trigger miscarriage. Contraindicated for
gastrointestinal illness, intestinal obstruction, appendicitis, and abdominal
pain of unknown origin. May aggravate ulcers, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis,
diverticulitis, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. If taken over a long
time, can cause dependence or disturbance of electrolyte balance. May cause
urine to turn a harmless red color. Should not be used for children under
In a single blind clinical trial of patients with diabetes mellitus, aloe
vera juice (1 tbsp 80% juice bid) combined with glyburide (10 mg glibenclamide)
significantly improved blood sugar levels and decreased triglyceride levels
(Bunyapraphatsara et al. 1996). Glyburide alone was ineffective. The effects of
the combined treatment were not greater than results obtained from treatment
with aloe vera juice alone. Blood glucose levels should be monitored carefully
in diabetic patients using aloe vera either alone or in combination with other
antidiabetic medications in order to avoid potential hypoglycemic
The topical and systemic applications of aloe vera combined with
hydrocortisone 21-acetate significantly reduced edema in mice and rats with
acute inflammation (Davis et al. 1991). Topically, aloe vera (5%) and
hydrocortisone (0.5% aqueous solution) decreased ear inflammation in mice by
85.6%. Systemically, aloe (25 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg) combined with hydrocortisone
(0.1 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg) decreased inflammation in rats by 65.7% compared to
results obtained from either treatment alone; these solutions were injected on a
10 mg/kg basis to measure the inhibitory effects on paw
|Regulatory and Compendial
German Commission E approves aloe latex for chronic constipation, with
Blitz JJ, et al. Aloe vera gel in peptic ulcer therapy: preliminary report.
J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1963;62:731-735.
Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic
Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine
Bunyapraphatsara N, Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangsi V, et al. Antidiabetic
activity of Aloe vera L. juice. II. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus
patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomed. 1996;3:245-248.
Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 1991.
Danhof I. Potential benefits from orally-injested internal aloe vera gel.
International Aloe Science Council Tenth Annual Aloe Scientific Seminar; 1991;
Davis RH, Parker WL, Murdoch DP.Aloe vera as a biologically
active vehicle for hydrocortisone acetate. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc.
Duke J. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1997.
Fahim MS, Wang M. Zinc acetate and lyophilized Aloe barbadensis as
vaginal contraceptive. Contraception. 1996;53:231-236.
Fulton JE Jr. The stimulation of postdermabrasion wound healing with
stabilized aloe vera gel-polyethylene oxide dressing. J Dermatol Surg
Grindlay D, Reynolds T. The aloe vera phenomenon: a review of the properties
and modern uses of the leaf parenchyma gel. J Ethnopharmacol.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al., eds. PDR for Herbal
Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Co; 1998.
Heggers J, et al. Beneficial effects of aloe in wound healing. Phytother
Murray M, Pizzorno J. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin,
Calif: Prima Publishing; 1991.
Murray M. The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to
the Wonders of Medicinal Plants. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1995.
Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for
Health-care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
Plemmons JM, et al. Evaluation of acemannan in the treatment of aphthous
stomatitis. Wounds. 1994;6.
Saoo K, et al. Antiviral activity of aloe extracts against cytomegalovirus.
Phytother Res. 1996;10:348-350.
Schmidt JM, Greenspoon JS. Aloe vera dermal wound gel is associated with a
delay in wound healing. Obstet Gynecol. 1991;78(1).
Shida T, et al. Effect of aloe extract on peripheral phagocytosis in adult
bronchial asthma. Planta Med 51. 1985.
Syed TA, et al. Management of psoriasis with aloe vera extract in a
hydrophilic cream: a placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Trop Med Int
Tyler V. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and
Related Remedies. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1993.
Vazquez B, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of extracts from aloe vera gel.
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
CommunicationsThis publication contains
information relating to general principles
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