Aloe Vera Benefits, Uses and Information

The aloe plant and its derivative products have played a role in medicine and health care dating as far back as the 4th century B.C. when ancient Greek doctors obtained aloe from the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean. In the 10th century A.D., aloe was recommended to the British king Alfred the Great by the Patriarch of Jerusalem for its amazing remedial values. Muslims who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca are entitled to hang an Aloe plant over their doors as a talisman against evil.
Aloe is a lily-like, green, and sometimes spiny shrub with very little, if any, stem. It produces approximately 25 fleshy, gray-green leaves in a beautiful rosette display. In Europe, Aloe is used almost exclusively as a digestive aid and laxative. Elsewhere, including the United States, the gel from the inner aloe leaf is a popular ingredient in many skin preparations and cosmetics.
The laxative component of the plant works by preventing the absorption of water from the bowel, thus increasing the volume of its contents and hastening their passage. This component of Aloe also kills some bacteria and is believed to act against a variety of viruses including herpes, chickenpox, and flu.
Aloe Vera has been used to heal both internally and externally. It greatly speeds the healing of many skin injuries, including ulcerations, burns, hives and poison ivy and also acts as a laxative. Aloe latex is a powerful laxative, but because it can cause painful cramping, it is not used frequently for this purpose. Other milder herbal laxatives such as cascara sagrada and senna are usually recommended first.
Aloe use has also been suggested in connection with diabetes, ulcers, and other conditions. However, presently no conclusive clinical studies have supported this assertion.
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Dosage and Administration
For constipation, a single 50-200 mg capsule of aloe latex can be taken each day for a maximum of ten days.
For minor burns, the stabilized aloe gel is applied topically to the affected area of skin three to five times per day. Treatment of more serious burns should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional. For internal use of aloe gel, two tablespoons (30 ml) three times per day is used by some people for inflammatory bowel conditions, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (see precautions below). For type 2 diabetes, clinical trials have used one tablespoon (15 ml) of aloe juice, twice daily. Using aloe in connection with diabetes should only be done under the supervision and recommendation of a qualified healthcare professional.
Possible Interactions
It is recommended not to combine Aloe with other medications that are used to flush water and potassium from the body, including diuretics such as Lasix and Diuril, steroid drugs such as prednisone, and herbal licorice root.
Since potassium plays an vital role in regulating the heart, depleting it through continued use of laxatives may affect the action of certain heart medications. The effects of drugs such as digitalis and digoxin (Lanoxin) may be increased via long-term supplementation of aloe.
Supporting Literature
Duke J. Ginseng: A Concise Handbook. Algonac, MI: Reference Publications, 1989, 36.
Syed TA, Ahmad SA, Holt AH, et al. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: a placebo-controlled double-blind study. Trop Med Int Health 1996;1:506-9.
Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, 358-8.