Aloe vera is a well-known herb with a long history of use in traditional medicine for ailments such as skin problems, digestive issues, inflammation, and diabetes.
Modern research shows that aloe vera possesses many health benefits.
This article provides an overview of the health benefits of aloe vera, safety, dosing strategies, and more.
Table of Contents
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller) is a cactus-like succulent plant from Africa. It is found in dry, subtropical and tropical climates, including the Mediterranean, parts of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Southwest United States.
The main feature of aloe vera is its rich water content (up to 99.5%), which is why it can thrive in dry, arid places.
Aloe also contains a number of different bioactive compounds, such as:
- Vitamins (e.g. A, C, E, beta-carotene)
- Minerals (e.g. calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium)
- Polysaccharides (e.g. mannan, glucomannan)
- Phenolic compounds (e.g. chromones, anthraquinones, anthrones)
- Organic acids
Many different parts of aloe vera can be used for health benefits, such as the leaf pulp, rind, and inner gel.
Health Benefits of Aloe Vera:
Aloe vera benefits health through a variety of different ways. Clinical research shows that aloe vera has the following benefits detailed below.
1. May Improve Wound Healing
The most well-known benefit of aloe vera is wound healing. Numerous clinical studies provide scientific evidence for this claim.
One clinical trial compared the effects of aloe vera gel to sulfadiazine (an antibiotic drug) in treating minor burns. The researchers found that aloe vera successfully treated 95 percent of the patients compared to 83 percent for the sulfadiazine group.
Another clinical trial also compared the effects of aloe vera to sulfadiazine in treating second-degree burns. They found that aloe vera sped up the healing of wounds in 90 percent of the patients compared to a mere 30 percent success rate with sulfadiazine.
In a clinical study on patients who underwent skin graft harvesting, aloe vera substantially increased the healing process when compared to the placebo treatment.
One clinical trial on patients who underwent a hemorrhoidectomy (surgery to remove hemorrhoids) showed that a cream containing aloe vera reduced the healing time and post-operative pain compared to the control cream.
In a clinical study on patients with either first or second-degree burns, aloe vera gel notably reduced wound itching and pain. Moreover, these effects were greater than those from sulfadiazine.
One clinical trial on women who underwent cesarean operation showed that a wound dressing with aloe vera led to greater improvements and faster wound healing.
Summary:Clinical research has found that aloe vera may help to improve wound recovery and healing.
2. May Benefit Skin Conditions
Plentiful evidence also shows that aloe vera benefits other skin conditions, such as acne and dermatitis.
In one clinical study on patients with psoriasis (a skin condition characterized by red, itchy, dry skin), those who received an aloe vera cream showed a significant reduction in psoriasis symptoms compared to people who received triamcinolone (a corticosteroid cream).
In a clinical trial on adults with dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition), topical aloe vera treatment showed greater reductions in itchiness, scaliness, and total dermatitis prevalence compared to the placebo treatment.
One clinical study looked into the healing effects of tretinoin (a topical medication cream) alongside aloe vera gel in patients with acne. The researchers found that tretinoin plus aloe vera was effective for reducing inflammation, lesions, and other symptoms of acne.
A clinical trial on patients with dermatitis revealed that treatment with a combination of aloe vera and olive oil cream had superior effects compared to betamethasone (a corticosteroid cream) in regard to acne severity, quality of life, and inflammatory markers.
In a clinical study on patients with radiation-induced dermatitis, the side treated with aloe vera lotion showed greater reductions in dermatitis intensity compared to the untreated side.
Summary:Clinical trials show that aloe vera may promote skin health and reduce skin issues.
3. Potential Anti-Diabetic Properties
Research shows that aloe vera may benefit diabetes patients and help to improve blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is a disease that involves uncontrolled blood sugar levels and impaired insulin function, often leading to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Whereas type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition, type 2 is often developed over time as a result of diet and lifestyle habits.
In one clinical trial involving people with diabetes, treatment with aloe vera juice led to a notable drop in blood sugar and triglyceride levels.
In a clinical trial on type 2 diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia (i.e. high cholesterol levels), researchers administered an aloe vera dietary supplement to patients who previously did not respond successfully to metformin and glyburide (anti-diabetic drugs). They found that consuming aloe vera alongside the aforementioned drugs led to marked decreases in blood sugar, LDL, HbA1C (a measure of blood sugar), and total cholesterol compared to the placebo.
In a clinical study on pre-diabetic patients (those at risk for developing diabetes), aloe vera supplementation significantly reduced triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol compared to the control group. Moreover, the treatment led to greater HDL compared to the placebo.
Another clinical trial showed that aloe vera added to glibenclamide (an anti-diabetic medication) reduced blood sugar and triglycerides, whereas glibenclamide alone showed no such effect.
However, not all studies have shown positive results. One clinical study involving patients with type-2 diabetes found no significant difference between aloe vera and placebo treatment on markers of blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. The patients may have already seen significant effects from the medication they were taking, which may have limited the potential of aloe vera.
Summary:Human trials have found that aloe vera has the potential to benefit individuals with diabetes.
4. May Treat Ulcers
Several clinical studies suggest that aloe vera may treat ulcers.
Ulcers are sores that develop on either the inside or outside of the body and are slow to heal (or keep returning). They can happen in many parts of the body, including the digestive tract.
In one clinical trial involving hospitalized patients, researchers looked into the effects of aloe vera on preventing pressure ulcers. They found that the patients treated with aloe vera had much lower rates of pressure ulcers compared to the placebo group. This suggests that aloe vera may have a preventive effect.
A clinical study on intensive care unit patients analyzed the effects of olive oil, aloe vera, and their combination in preventing pressure ulcers. The researchers discovered that all treatments effectively reduced the prevalence of pressure ulcers compared to the control treatment.
In a clinical trial on patients with mouth ulcers, aloe vera led to greater reductions in ulcer size and pain compared to amlexanox (an anti-inflammatory drug) and placebo.
In another clinical study, patients with oral aphthous ulcers (canker sores) were given aloe vera gel or a placebo. The researchers found that aloe vera markedly reduced the healing time, pain score, wound size, and wound recurrence compared to the control group.
In a clinical trial on patients with chronic anal fissures (or anal ulcers), aloe vera cream significantly lowered pain and hemorrhaging and improved wound healing compared to the placebo group.
Lastly, a clinical study compared the effects of aloe vera gel versus chlorhexidine (a topical antiseptic) in preventing traumatic ulcers in patients with fixed orthodontic appliances. The researchers found that nearly 95 percent of patients treated with aloe vera remained free of ulcers, whereas just 18 percent of patients treated with chlorhexidine did not develop mouth ulcers.
Summary:Clinical studies indicate that aloe vera may help to treat and prevent ulcers.
5. Antimicrobial Properties
There is evidence that aloe vera has antimicrobial effects and may reduce the risk of some bacterial-related conditions, such as mucositis.
One clinical trial on patients with generalized gingivitis (a form of gum disease caused by plaque build-up) showed that treatment with toothpaste containing aloe vera reduced gingivitis, plaque build-up, and microbial counts compared to the control group. These effects were comparable to toothpaste containing triclosan (an antibacterial and anti-fungal drug).
In a clinical study on patients who went through dental cavity excavation, aloe vera extract helped reduce the number of bacteria left behind, thus reducing the risk of infection after the procedure.
Another clinical study found that aloe vera mouthwash significantly reduced gingivitis and plaque build-up compared to the control group. The effects were similar to chlorhexidine. These results suggest antibacterial effects given the role of bacteria and other oral pathogens in plaque development.
In a clinical trial on patients with periodontitis (a serious gum infection caused by bacteria), treatment with aloe vera gel led to greater reductions in plaque, bleeding, and other periodontitis symptoms compared to the placebo gel.
Lastly, a clinical study compared the anti-plaque and antibacterial effects of an aloe vera mouthwash to two chemically-formulated types of mouthwash: cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) and hydrogen peroxide (HP). The researchers discovered that aloe vera was just as effective as CPC and performed better than HP in reducing plaque and bacterial counts.
Summary:Aloe vera has been found to have antimicrobial benefits, according to clinical research.
6. May Treat Digestive Problems
Multiple studies show that aloe vera benefits individuals with gut health problems, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
A clinical study on patients with ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease) showed that aloe vera treatment improved symptoms and decreased disease severity compared to the placebo.
One clinical trial on patients with GERD showed that those who were given aloe vera syrup showed impressive reductions in GERD symptoms, such as heartburn, flatulence, and nausea. These effects were similar to omeprazole and ranitidine, two common GERD drugs.
Another clinical study on men with GERD found that aloe vera administration alongside pantoprazole (a GERD drug) led to greater reductions in GERD symptoms compared to pantoprazole alone.
In a clinical study involving patients with constipation, aloe vera syrup was found to provide laxative effects and relieve constipation, whereas no such effects were found for the placebo.
Another clinical trial showed that giving patients aloe vera juice relieved constipation and related symptoms.
In a clinical trial on patients with constipation and IBS, aloe vera treatment reduced stomach pain, discomfort, and flatulence.
Summary:Clinical studies indicate that aloe vera works to support the digestive system and reduce gut health issues.
Aloe Vera Safety:
Aloe vera is generally well tolerated and safe for most individuals.
Aloe vera is generally safe for topical use. Although, some people may experience skin irritation.
When used orally, aloe vera may cause abdominal pain or cramping.
Additionally, aloe vera is possibly unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as individuals taking the drug dioxin.
Aloe vera’s dosage depends on if it is used topically or orally, in addition to what specific form is used.
Regarding topical aloe vera treatment, studies have used pure aloe vera gel, or aloe vera mixed in with other ingredients, to create a lotion, cream, or ointment. In these cases, there isn’t a specified dosage. Rather, the recommended course of action is to simply use enough aloe vera product to cover the affected areas.
For oral administration, there aren’t many studies that detail specific dosages. But based on the information known, effective aloe vera dosing strategies include:
History & Traditional Use:
Aloe vera was used in traditional medicine for around 2,000 years, primarily for gut problems, skin disorders, healing, and beauty treatments.
Many different cultures, including the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Arabs, used this herb. It also remains an important part of traditional medicine for many cultures, such as in India, China, the West Indies, and Japan.
Some of the specific ailments treated by aloe vera include dermatitis, burns, acne, sunburn, peptic ulcers, headaches, constipation, and lacerations. Typically, traditional cultures used the gel from inside the aloe vera leaves, although they implemented other parts of the plant as well.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller) is a flowering succulent plant of the Asphodelaceae family. It’s found in many tropical and subtropical countries, as well as dry areas.
Aloe vera plants are most easily identified by their greenish, sword-shaped leaves which are dotted with sharp spikes along the edges. These leaves are arranged in a rosette and sometimes have white spots on them. The inside of an aloe leaf is filled with a viscous, colorless gel as well as yellowish-brown latex.
Aloe vera is a highly prevalent herb that continues to remain in traditional medicine use as it has for thousands of years.
There are many bioactive compounds found in aloe vera, and research shows that this herb may offer benefits for wounds, burns, acne, dermatitis, diabetes, ulcers, infections, GERD, constipation, and IBS.
Aloe vera can be taken either topically or orally, depending on the condition, and it is generally safe and well-tolerated.
Overall, aloe vera has many possible benefits, which make it at least worth considering for implementation in health practice or daily life.