Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Aloe Vera Bad For You?



Short answer

Aloe vera can cause allergic reactions or interact with certain medications, posing risks like severe allergic reactions, GI issues, kidney and heart problems, and electrolyte imbalances. The latex part of the plant is particularly risky. Patch tests and consultations with healthcare providers are advised before use.



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Long answer

Potential Allergic Reactions to Aloe Vera

While aloe vera is generally considered safe when used appropriately, it is not without potential risks. Allergic reactions, though rare, can occur with the use of aloe vera, either topically or when ingested. It's crucial for consumers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, which can range from mild to severe.

Common Allergic Reactions:

  • Skin Irritations: Topical application of aloe vera can lead to contact dermatitis, presenting as redness, itching, or rash.
  • Photosensitivity: Some individuals may develop sensitivity to sunlight after applying aloe vera to the skin, leading to a sunburn-like effect.
  • Hives: Urticaria, or hives, characterized by raised, itchy welts could suggest a more significant allergic response.
  • Respiratory Symptoms: In sensitized individuals, inhalation of aloe vera dust from dried plant material can trigger asthma-like symptoms including wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Severe Allergic Reactions:

Though significantly less common, anaphylactic reactions to aloe vera have been reported in medical literature. An anaphylactic reaction is a systemic, life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the throat or chest
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness

Cases of severe allergic reactions are indeed rare but underscore the importance of vigilance with any supplement, especially when trying it for the first time.

Identifying a Potential Allergic Reaction:

For those incorporating aloe vera into their routines, it's vital to test for a potential allergic reaction. A patch test can be done by applying a small amount of the substance to the skin and monitoring for adverse reactions over 24 hours. If any negative symptoms occur, it's advised to discontinue use immediately and consult a healthcare professional.

Risk Factors for Allergic Reactions:

Individuals with a history of allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family, such as onions, garlic, and tulips, may be at an increased risk for an allergic reaction to aloe vera. Those with known hypersensitivities or a history of strong reactions to topical agents should proceed with caution.

In conclusion, understanding the potential for allergic reactions is crucial for anyone considering the use of aloe vera. Proper testing, awareness of symptoms, and knowledge of personal allergen history are essential steps in preventing adverse effects.

Note: The content provided in this section is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition or treatment.

Aloe Vera's Laxative Effects and Gastrointestinal Risks

When it comes to natural remedies, aloe vera is often touted for its soothing and healing properties, particularly for skin ailments. However, when ingested, aloe vera presents a different profile of effects and potential risks, particularly concerning its laxative properties. The compound responsible for these properties is called aloin, which is found in the latex layer of the plant, located just under the skin.

Aloin is a potent stimulant laxative, triggering contractions in the colon that can lead to increased bowel movements. While the occasional use of aloe as a laxative may seem harmless, it's important to unpack the potential gastrointestinal risks associated with its frequent or long-term ingestion.

Firstly, let's consider the laxative effect itself. The compound aloin can cause the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalances

The primary concern with the use of aloe vera as a laxative is its potential to cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Diarrhea can lead to a significant loss of fluids and essential minerals like potassium, sodium, and magnesium - imbalances which can have serious health implications, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions.

Chronic use of aloe laxatives can also result in a condition known as cathartic colon, where the colon becomes less responsive to stimuli and can lead to dependence on laxatives for bowel movements. Moreover, prolonged excessive use has been linked to liver damage, renal failure, and muscle weakness due to the loss of electrolytes.

The gastrointestinal risks of aloe vera intake go beyond its laxative effects. Some studies suggest that long-term consumption can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. The National Toxicology Program published a study that found consuming non-decolorized, whole-leaf aloe extract increased the risk of intestinal cancer in male and female rats. However, translating these results to humans requires caution, and further research is necessary.

Due to these risks, the use of aloe latex for laxative purposes has been under scrutiny by regulatory agencies. In fact, in 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that all over-the-counter aloe laxative products be reformulated or removed from the U.S. market due to the lack of data to establish their safety.

While consuming aloe vera in small amounts is generally believed to be safe, it's important that individuals understand the gastrointestinal risks associated with the laxative effects of aloin. Experts advise against the long-term use of aloe as a laxative and encourage caution in its consumption to avoid potential harms.

If individuals choose to use aloe vera for constipation or other digestive issues, it's imperative to consult a healthcare provider to discuss appropriate dosages and potential risks, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions or those taking other medications.

For those considering aloe vera intake in any form, it's essential to differentiate between the gel, considered safer for intake, and the latex, which contains the laxative compound. Rigorous product selection is advised, seeking out formulations that have had aloin removed to minimize the laxative effect and related gastrointestinal risks.

Aloe Latex: The Harmful Component in Unprocessed Aloe

Within the thick leaves of the Aloe vera plant lies a substance that can be cause for concern – aloe latex. This yellowish sap is found just under the plant's skin and is distinct from the inner gel that's commonly used to soothe skin. It's essential to distinguish between these two components, as the intake of aloe latex carries potential health risks.

Aloe latex contains several compounds that could pose health risks, with the most prominent being anthraquinones, a type of laxative. Their strength and potential side effects have led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action. In 2002, the FDA required all over-the-counter laxative products containing aloe latex to be either reformulated or removed from the U.S. market.

Here are the primary concerns associated with aloe latex:

  • Diarrhea: Due to its potent laxative properties, aloe latex can induce diarrhea. While this may seem like a quick fix for constipation, it can also lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Kidney Issues: Extended use of aloe latex can damage the kidneys, potentially leading to severe conditions such as kidney failure.
  • Heart Problems: The compounds found in aloe latex can also influence your electrolyte balance, which is critical for heart health. An imbalance can lead to irregular heartbeat or other cardiovascular issues.
  • Drug Interactions: If you're on medication, taking aloe latex can lead to interactions, particularly with diuretics, steroids, drugs affecting the heart, and medications altered by the liver.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Its strong laxative effect makes aloe latex unsafe for pregnant women, as it might trigger uterine contractions and lead to miscarriage. Nursing mothers should also avoid it, as its components can be passed through breast milk, potentially causing diarrhea in infants.

It's crucial to note that aloe latex is not found in aloe vera juice that's been properly prepared for safe consumption. When purchasing products containing aloe, check for certifications indicating that the harmful components have been removed. Reputable products will often bear a seal from the International Aloe Science Council (IASC), confirming the aloe latex has been filtered out.

In conclusion, while aloe vera gel can be a benign and even beneficial addition to your skincare and health routine, aloe latex is the adversary hidden within. Extensive research supports the need for caution regarding aloe latex intake, illustrating that without proper processing, the risks far outweigh the benefits. Always opt for products that specify they contain "aloe gel" or “inner leaf aloe,” and consult with a healthcare provider before trying aloe products for internal use.

Topical Use of Aloe Vera: Safety and Skin Irritation Concerns

When it comes to the use of aloe vera on the skin, many of us have come to accept it as a benign, if not a beneficial inclusion in our skincare routine. The clear gel found in the leaves of the aloe vera plant has been used for centuries for its supposed moisturizing, healing, and soothing properties. However, as any good sleuth of the supplement and health industry would, one must dig beneath the surface to scrutinize safety and potential skin irritation concerns.

First and foremost, it's crucial to understand that aloe vera contains various compounds, with the most prominent one being acemannan, believed to be chiefly responsible for its moisturizing and healing properties. However, not all components of aloe vera are soothing; in fact, certain compounds can trigger skin irritation and allergies in some individuals.

An interesting study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology looked at the prevalence of contact dermatitis from aloe vera and found that out of 3,200 patients who underwent patch testing, 3.8% showed positive reactions to aloe vera. What's more, concentrations of aloe vera used in over-the-counter products can vary, potentially increasing the risk of irritation or sensitization, especially if used without appropriate testing or moderation.

It's also worth mentioning that skin irritation can also occur due to the presence of anthraquinones, compounds found in the latex layer of aloe leaves, which are powerful laxatives and can be harsh to the skin. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to remove over-the-counter aloe laxative products from the U.S. market due to safety concerns, which speaks volumes about the caution one should put into topical applications as well.

A list of factors that can contribute to potential skin irritation from topical aloe vera includes:

  • Individual Sensitivity: Range from mild itching to severe redness and inflammation upon application.
  • Product Purity: Many commercial aloe products contain additives, preservatives, or fragrances that can themselves cause skin reactions.
  • Improper Usage: Overuse or use on severe cuts or burns could exacerbate irritation rather than soothing skin.

Therefore, when contemplating the safety of aloe vera for topical use, it's imperatively suggested that users perform a patch test: apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to a patch of skin and wait 24 hours to rule out hypersensitivity or allergic reaction. This prevents widespread application in case the skin reacts negatively.

Moreover, seeking out high-quality, certified organic aloe vera products, or using the gel directly from the plant, while ensuring the removal of the latex-containing yellow layer below the plant skin, can help minimize the risk of irritation.

It's also particularly noteworthy that people with sensitive skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, should consult with a healthcare professional or dermatologist before incorporating aloe vera into their skin care regimen, as their skin may be more reactive to various compounds found in plants.

In conclusion, while aloe vera is widely celebrated for its skin benefits, remember the adage "everything in moderation" and use it with the understanding that natural does not always equate to irritation-free. In the realm of topical treatments, it pays to do your homework, ensure the purity of your products, and always pay heed to the wisdom of your own skin's reactions.

Interactions Between Aloe Vera and Medications

The use of Aloe Vera, whether as a gel, juice, or supplement, has gained popularity due to its purported health benefits. However, its interactions with certain medications can lead to adverse effects and should not be overlooked. Here, we examine Aloe Vera’s potential interactions with common medications, supported by scientific findings.

1. Diabetic Medications:

Studies have indicated that Aloe Vera might affect blood glucose levels. When taken concurrently with diabetic medications, it could potentially enhance their effects, leading to hypoglycemia, a dangerously low blood sugar condition. It is critical for individuals on diabetic medications such as insulin or oral hypoglycemics to monitor their blood sugar levels closely if they are using Aloe Vera products.

Reference: Yongchaiyudha S, Rungpitarangsi V, Bunyapraphatsara N, Chokechaijaroenporn O. Antidiabetic activity of Aloe vera L. juice. 1996.

2. Diuretics ("Water Pills"):

Aloe Vera has natural diuretic properties which can amplify the effects of diuretic medications. This can result in excessive fluid and electrolyte loss, particularly potassium, which may cause muscle weakness, heart disturbances, and exacerbate health issues. Potassium levels should be monitored in patients on both Aloe Vera and diuretic therapy.

Reference: Stewart, A. Aloe Vera Gel: What is the evidence? Pharm J. 1993.

3. Laxatives:

Since Aloe Vera can act as a laxative, adding it to a regimen including laxative drugs may heighten gastrointestinal effects, leading to dehydration and the loss of important electrolytes. This increased activity can create imbalances and exacerbate conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders.

4. Heart Drugs:

Concerns have been raised regarding the use of Aloe Vera in individuals taking heart medications, specifically those related to cardiac glycosides and antiarrhythmic medications. Aloe's potential to deplete potassium in the body could thereby potentiate the effects of these drugs and increase the risk for cardiac side effects. Such interactions need to be monitored closely by healthcare professionals.

5. Corticosteroids:

The topical application of Aloe Vera may interact with steroid medications, potentially increasing the risk of developing dermatitis or other skin conditions. Oral Aloe Vera may also alter the absorption and effectiveness of oral corticosteroids.

6. Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) Substrates:

Aloe Vera might influence the activity of the enzyme CYP3A4, which is involved in the metabolism of certain drugs. Consequently, it could affect the concentration of drugs metabolized by this enzyme, possibly leading to either an increase in drug levels and toxicity or a decrease in efficacy.

In conclusion, while Aloe Vera is safe for most individuals in moderate amounts, it is crucial for those on medications to consult with a healthcare provider before starting to use Aloe Vera. This consultation is vital to prevent any potential adverse interactions and to ensure safe, coordinated treatment. The enlisted interactions are not exhaustive, and continued research is recommended to remain abreast of new findings regarding drug-supplement interactions.

It is essential for consumers to be vigilant, informed, and appropriately cautious when incorporating any form of Aloe Vera into their health regimen, especially if they are taking other medications.

Benefits of Aloe Vera: When Is It Good for You?

Aloe vera, a succulent plant species, has been revered for centuries for its medicinal properties. However, as with any natural product, its effects can be double-edged depending upon the context of use. Below are scenarios where aloe vera shows potential benefits supported by scientific evidence:

  • Topical Application for Skin Health: Aloe vera gel is widely recognized for its soothing effects on the skin. Studies have shown that when applied topically, it can help heal burns, wounds, and other skin conditions. A systematic review published in the "Burns" journal concluded that aloe vera might shorten the duration of burn healing by approximately nine days when compared to conventional medication.
  • Oral Use for Digestive Comfort: Some research suggests that oral consumption of aloe vera juice can aid in digestion and relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences featured a study wherein IBS patients reported significant relief after ingesting aloe vera gel for four weeks.
  • Immune System Boost: The presence of various vitamins, enzymes, and other immune-boosting compounds in aloe vera could potentially enhance your immune system when the plant's components are consumed in moderation. Polysaccharides found in aloe vera, for example, are known to stimulate macrophages, which combat viruses.
  • Dental Health: There's evidence pointing towards the benefits of aloe vera in dental and oral health. A study in the "Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry" showed that aloe vera tooth gel was equally effective as regular toothpaste in combating cavities by killing harmful bacteria in the mouth.
  • Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Properties: Due to its rich composition of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, aloe vera can help protect the body against oxidative stress and may exhibit anti-inflammatory actions. This is affirmed by research, including a study published in the "Phytotherapy Research" journal addressing its modulation of the immune system.

While aloe vera has these promising attributes, it is critical to recognize the nuances of its application. For instance, the outer leaf pulp of the aloe plant contains compounds called anthraquinones which can be harsh laxatives if ingested improperly. Therefore, it is important to use aloe vera products that are correctly processed to reduce such components to safe levels.

The benefits listed above are contingent on the use of high-quality, appropriately processed aloe vera products and the context of individual health conditions. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before making it part of your wellness routine, ensuring that it aligns with your personal health needs.

Frequently asked questions

Aloe vera may interact with foods that have laxative effects or those high in potassium, which can affect electrolyte balance. It's best to avoid combining aloe vera with such foods to prevent exacerbating its laxative effect or further impacting electrolyte levels.

Yes, aloe vera juice can interact with over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The laxative effect of aloe vera may increase the risk of dehydration, which can potentially enhance the side effects of NSAIDs on the gastrointestinal tract, like stomach irritation and ulcers.

Individuals with IBS or similar gastrointestinal problems should be cautious with aloe vera intake due to its laxative properties. They should use low-aloin or aloin-free aloe vera juice, start small with dosage, and only consume under the guidance and supervision of a healthcare provider.

While pure aloe vera gel is generally considered safe for topical use in pregnant women, there are concerns about the potential presence of aloe latex which can induce uterine contractions. Pregnant women should opt for purified aloe vera products free of aloe latex and consult with their healthcare provider before use.

Ask a question about Aloe Vera and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • skin irritation
  • photosensitivity
  • hives
  • respiratory symptoms
  • difficulty breathing
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • dehydration
  • electrolyte imbalances
  • muscle weakness
  • heart complications
  • anaphylaxis

Possible long-term side effects

  • cathartic colon
  • liver damage
  • renal failure
  • increased risk of colorectal cancer
  • dependency on laxatives
  • potential interaction with drugs
  • heart disturbances

Ingredients to be aware of

  • aloin
  • anthraquinones


  • topical relief for skin
  • digestive comfort
  • immune support
  • dental health
  • antioxidant properties
  • anti-inflammatory effects

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

George's Always Active Aloe

  • Soothes digestive system
  • Hydrates skin
  • Promotes healing
  • Large 128 fl oz quantity
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 11-29-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Joey Conners
Published on: 11-29-2023
Last updated: 12-15-2023

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