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HERBS: Aloe Vera


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Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Scientific name

Aloe barbadensis, Aloe capensis

Other names

Aloe gel, aloe leaf

Purported uses

  • As a topical anesthetic: Laboratory evidence supports this use, but it has not been tested in clinical trials.
  • To treat burns: Scientific evidence supports the topical use of aloe for minor burns.
  • To prevent and treat redness, rash, and pruritus caused by radiation therapy: Clinical trials have produced conflicting results in support of and against this use. Topical use of aloe is generally safe.
  • As a skin moisturizer: No scientific evidence supports this use. Topical use of aloe is generally safe.
  • To treat inflammation associated with conditions such as cold sores, eczema, and pruritis: Clinical evidence supports this use.
  • To treat cancer: No scientific evidence supports this use. Cancer therapy using injections of acemannan, a substance found in aloe, resulted in the deaths of several patients.

Warnings

Aloe vera gel should not be confused with aloe juice or aloe latex, both of which contain anthraquinone, a cathartic laxative. Aloe vera taken for internal use should be discouraged due to possible adverse effects and inconclusive clinical data. Aloe vera injections for cancer patients have resulted in several deaths.

Adverse reactions

  • Reported (oral): GI upset, nausea and vomiting, occasional rash (dermatitis)
  • Toxicity: Seizures, potassium loss, and electrolyte abnormalities.

Drug interactions

  • Oral:
    • Glyburide: Aloe may increase hypoglycemic effects.
    • Diuretics: Aloe may have additive hypokalemic effect due to diarrhea if used for a prolonged period.
    • Digoxin: Aloe may have additive hypokalemic effect due to diarrhea if used for a prolonged period.
  • Topical
    • Hydrocortisone: Aloe may increase anti-inflammatory effects.

References

1. Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals, 1st ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1998.

2. Anon. License revoked for aloe vera use. Nat Med Law 1998;1:1-2.

3. Tyler, V. Herbs of Choice, the Therapeutical Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, New York: Pharmaceutical Press; 1994.

4. Bisset NG. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 1994.

5. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Med; 2001.

6. Olsen DL, et al. The effect of aloe vera gel/mild soap versus mild soap alone in preventing skin reactions in patients undergoing radiation therapy. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2001 Apr;28(3):543-7.

7. Heggie S, et al. A Phase III study on the efficacy of topical aloe vera gel on irradiated breast tissue. Cancer Nurs. 2002 Dec;25(6):442-51.

8. Williams M, et al. Phase III double-blind evaluation of an aloe vera gel as a prophylactic agent for radiation-induced skin toxicity. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1996 Sep 1;36(2):345-9.

9. Federal Register: May 9, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 90). Available online: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/98fr/050902a.php  (Last accessed 6/2/03)

10. Kuo P, et al. The antiproliferative activity of aloe-emodin is through p53-dependent and p21-dependent apoptotic pathway in human hepatoma cell lines. Life Sci. 2002 Sep 6;71(16):1879-92

11. Furukawa F, et al. Chemopreventive effects of Aloe arborescens on N-nitrosobis(2-oxopropyl)amine-induced pancreatic carcinogenesis in hamsters. Cancer Lett. 2002 Apr 25;178(2):117-22.

12. Lee JK, et al. Acemannan purified from Aloe vera induces phenotypic and functional maturation of immature dendritic cells. Int Immunopharmacol. 2001 Jul;1(7):1275-84.

13. Pugh N, et al. Characterization of Aloeride, a new high-molecular-weight polysaccharide from Aloe vera with potent immunostimulatory activity. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Feb;49(2):1030-4.

14. Pecere T, et al. Aloe-emodin is a new type of anticancer agent with selective activity against neuroectodermal tumors. Cancer Res. 2000 Jun 1;60(11):2800-4.

15. Lee KH, et al. Anti-leukaemic and anti-mutagenic effects of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate isolated from Aloe vera Linne. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2000 May;52(5):593-8.

16. Zhang L, Tizard IR. Activation of a mouse macrophage cell line by acemannan: the major carbohydrate fraction from Aloe vera gel. Immunopharmacology. 1996 Nov;35(2):119-28.

17. Robbers JE, et al. Pharmacognosy and pharmacobiotechnology. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1996.

18. Foster S, et al. Tyler's Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. New York: Haworth Herbal Press; 1999.

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Overview of Herbs | Alfalfa | Aloe Vera | Burdock | Capsaicin | Cascara | Chamomile | Chaparral | Comfrey | Echinacea | Garlic | Ginger | Ginseng (Asian) | Ginseng (American) | Gotu Kola | Hawthorn | Licorice | Ephedra | Milk Thistle | Sassafras | Blue-Green Algae