Natural Health Products
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Aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the "plant of immortality " aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.
Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis
How is this product usually used?
Aloe leaves contain a clear gel. This gel can be taken orally and is also often used as a topical (surface-applied) ointment.
The green part of the leaf that surrounds the gel can be used to produce a juice or a dried substance (called latex) that is taken by mouth.
Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What is this product used for?
Aloe is used topically (directly on the skin) to heal minor wounds and to relieve minor burns (including sunburns).
Orally (by mouth) it is used as a laxative and a source of antioxidants and to help soothe irritation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunscreens.
Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What else should I be aware of?
There is some evidence that applying aloe gel may help to improve healing of burns and that taking aloe latex orally can relieve constipation due to the anthraquinones in the aloe.
Components of aloe vera called anthraquinones are suspected to be carcinogenic when consumed orally. However, more information, including how individuals use different types of aloe vera products, is needed to determine its risk.
Topical aloe vera and oral aloe gel are generally well-tolerated. Occasionally their use has been associated with burning, rash, and itching.
When taken orally, aloe latex has been reported to cause abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea. If taken in high doses or long-term, serious side effects can include muscle weakness, weight loss, depletion in blood potassium levels, heart disturbance, hematuria (blood in urine), weight loss, and pseudomelonosis coli (pigment spots in the intestinal lining).
There have been a few case reports of acute liver damage from aloe latex. However, the evidence is not definitive and the safety of aloe has not been systematically studied. Nephritis (kidney disease) and kidney failure have also been associated with ingesting high doses of aloe latex. Theoretically, aloe latex may aggravate kidney disorders.
Aloe (used both topically and orally) may cause an allergic reaction. If this happens, stop taking it.
Aloe latex can interact with drugs such as digoxin, diuretics, stimulant laxatives, and blood thinners (e.g., warfarin).
If you have diabetes and use glucose-lowering medication, be cautious about also taking aloe by mouth because preliminary studies suggest aloe may lower blood glucose levels. If you have a kidney disorder, are taking medications or health products that may worsen electrolyte imbalance (e.g., thiazide diuretics, corticosteroids), are taking cardiac medications (e.g., medications used for arrhythmia), or have fecal impaction or symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever, talk to your health care professional before using aloe latex.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, cramps, spasms, or diarrhea, reduce your dose of aloe latex or stop using it.
Do not take aloe latex if you have certain diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis), undiagnosed rectal bleeding, abdominal pain with an unknown cause, severe dehydration, hemorrhoids or diarrhea.
Do not take aloe orally if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Children should also not take aloe orally.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, talk to your health care provider.
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Aloe professional monograph.
- Health Canada. Aloe Oral monograph. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=31&lang=eng.
- Health Canada. Aloe Topical monograph. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=32&lang=eng.
- Health Canada. Aloe latex monograph. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=aloe.gel&lang=eng.
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