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The succulent aloe plant has been valued since prehistoric times for the treatment of burns, wound infections, and other skin problems. Medicinal aloe is pictured in an ancient cave painting in South Africa, and Alexander the Great is said to have captured an island off Somalia for the sole purpose of possessing the luxurious crop of aloe found there.
Most uses of aloe refer to the gel inside its cactus-like leaves. However, the skin of the leaves themselves can be condensed to form a sticky substance known as drug aloe or aloes. It is a powerful laxative, but it is seldom used because its effects are unpleasant. The uses described below are intended to refer only to aloe gel, not to drug aloe. However, to make matters trickier, some aloe gel products contain small amounts of drug...
We suspect millions of people would swear by their own experience that applying aloe to the skin can drastically reduce the time it takes for burns (including sunburn ) to heal. However, scientific evidence fails to support this belief. Studies suggest that aloe is not effective for treating sunburn and may actually impair the healing of second-degree burns. 1 Aloe also appears to be ineffective for treating the burn-like skin damage caused by radiation therapy for cancer . In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 194 women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer, use of aloe gel failed to protect the skin from radiation-induced damage. 2 Lack of benefit was also seen in an open trial of 225 women. 3 One study evaluated aloe soap in 73 men and women undergoing...
Other than occasional allergic reactions, no serious problems have been reported with aloe gel, whether used internally or externally. However, comprehensive safety studies are lacking. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Keep in mind that if aloe is used as a treatment for diabetes, and it proves effective, blood sugar levels could fall toolow, necessitating a reduction in medication dosage. Close monitoring of blood sugar levels is, therefore, advised.
In addition, there is one report of an herb-drug interaction between aloe and the anesthesia drug sevoflurane, in which it appeared that aloe may have increased sevoflurane's "blood thinning" effect. 4 Another...