Aloe has a great reputation for helping heal damaged tissues and is probably most well-known for its healing properties for burns. So it's worth a try if you've been out on a beach revealing the hard work you've put into your body and need a little relief from too much sun. It also appears to be effective for helping heal insect bites, cuts, welts, bruises, and even acne.
Other names for Aloe
Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis, Aloe capensis, Carrisyn, Aloe vulgari, Curacao aloe, Cape aloe
Where to find Aloe
Over 200 varieties of aloe grow all over the world in dry climates. The gel of the leaves is used for medicinal purposes and is typically applied to the skin.
Why athletes use Aloe
If you fall off your mountain bike and get some scrapes or sunburn your skin during an afternoon run or a day at the beach, you may want to reach for this well-known plant. Best known for helping soothe burns and minor wounds, aloe may also help speed healing. Research is also finding that when aloe is taken orally, it may help fight viruses, fungi, and bacteria, while boosting immune functioning.
Signs of Aloe deficiency
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Potential uses for Aloe
Research indicates that Aloe may be useful in the treatment of:
More about Aloe
A prominent ingredient in moisturizers, cosmetics, and hair-care products, aloe has a great reputation for helping heal damaged tissues. It's probably most well-known for its healing properties for burns, whether caused by the sun or intense heat. It also appears to be effective for helping relieve insect bites, cuts, welts, bruises, and even acne.
Less commonly known, aloe can also be consumed to help relieve intestinal disorders, including stomach upset, constipation, and ulcers. Some herbal literature also recommends it for helping fight infections, relieving arthritis, colon cleansing, and healing varicose veins.
How it's used
The gel of the aloe plant can be taken directly from the leaves of the plant (or a commercial preparation can be used) and applied to burns or wounds. Most people feel immediate soothing, and inflammation may also be reduced. Because aloe appears to help encourage tissue regeneration, it may also help encourage more rapid healing.
Aloe juice, capsules, and powders may be consumed and are said to have numerous healing properties. The juice, in particular, is claimed to have a wide range of benefits, from improved injury recovery to arthritis relief, even to helping with weight loss.
What the research reveals
Much of the research on aloe comes from an extensive study in Thailand that showed aloe may, in fact, relive pain, blistering, and peeling of burns, including sunburns. Plus, this study showed that aloe helped speed the healing process by a formidable 25%. Another study offered evidence that aloe has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have demonstrated that aloe may be effective against a number of common bacteria and fungi.
One aloe extract, called Carrisyn, has been shown in research to promote wound healing and to stimulate immune-system functioning by increasing white blood cell activity. It's also been shown to fight viral infections.
While the anecdotal reports about aloe's effectiveness abound, the research still remains rather sparse. Still, most people who have tried this herb for the relief of minor cuts and burns report immediate soothing. And it's certainly worth a try if you've been out on a beach revealing the hard work you've put into your body and need a little relief from too much sun. Plus, there's mounting evidence that it may help fight infections and inflammation.
Amount and Timing
Aloe gels can be applied topically throughout the day on an as-needed basis.
Two to six ounces of aloe juice per day can be consumed in two divided dosages. (No more than one quart should be consumed per day.) Or, 100-mg capsules of aloe may be used up to 3 times a day.
The gel can be taken directly from the plant — just cut off part of a leaf and apply the oozing gel to the irritation. If there's extra gel, wrap the leaf and store it in the fridge for later use. Commercial preparations can also be purchased. If going with the store-bought variety, search for those that are at least 97% pure aloe for the highest quality products.
Synergists of Aloe
Psyllium fiber and aloe may work well together for relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Safety of Aloe
While not common, allergies to aloe are not unheard of, so experts recommend applying small amounts to the skin to make sure no stinging or rash occurs with use.
If you are pregnant or nursing, aloe consumption is not recommended. (It may still be applied topically.)
Aloe has actually been shown to slow the healing of deep, vertical wounds (think surgery) and is therefore not recommended in these cases.
When consuming aloe, use over two weeks is not recommended without the care of a physician because it may lead to a potassium deficiency.
Drugs that interact with Aloe
The risk for a potassium deficiency may increase if aloe is taken (by mouth, not topically) with thiazide diuretics, cortico-steroids, and licorice root.
Toxicity of Aloe
None known with topical use. When amounts over a quart are consumed for over two weeks, it may lead to electrolyte and fluid imbalances.
Bans and restrictions
- Bruce, W., "Investigations of the Antibacterial Activity in the Aloe," S Afr Med J 41.38 (1967) : 984.
- Davis, R.H., et al., "Isolation of a Stimulatory System in an Aloe Extract," J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 81.9 (1991) : 473-8.
- Schmidt, J.M., and Greenspoon, J.S., "Aloe vera Dermal Wound Gel Is Associated with a Delay in Wound Healing," Obstet Gynecol 78.1 (1991) : 115-7.
- Syed, T.A., et al., "Management of Psoriasis with Aloe vera Extract in a Hydrophilic Cream: A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study," Trop Med Int Health 1.4 (1996) : 505-9.
- Visuthikosol, V., et al., "Effect of Aloe vera Gel to Healing of Burn Wound a Clinical and Histologic Study," J Med Assoc Thai 78.8 (1995) : 403-9.
- Reynolds, T., and Dweck, A.C., "Aloe vera Leaf Gel: A Review Update," J Ethnopharmacol 68.1-3 (1999) : 3-37.