Aloe is one of the most amazing herbs on the planet. The sheer variety of uses together with its undeniable soothing properties make it irreplaceable by pharmaceuticals.
And the science backs these statements up.
The past ten years have brought us over a hundred clinical human studies using Aloe vera from university researchers from around the world. While many showed the expected outcomes relating to burns and skin issues, there are many surprising findings.
This article summarizes a decade of research on Aloe vera. While there are many anecdotal uses of aloe vera, as well as many laboratory and animal studies involving Aloe, the studies identified and reviewed in this article are strictly human clinical studies with the gold standard – randomized, double-blinded (or at least blinded) and placebo-controlled.
It should be added that these findings still provide only a sliver of the many uses for this magical herbal medicine:
Researchers from Pakistan’s Nishtar Hospital tested 50 patients with burns. They randomly selected the patients, and treated them with either aloe vera or 1% silver sulfadiazine cream. The researchers found that the aloe treated-patients had quicker relief of pain, and their wounds healed faster than the conventional silver sulfadiazine treatment.
Iranian researchers used an Aloe cream or a placebo following surgery with 49 burn patients. The Aloe group experienced significantly less post-operative pain than did the placebo group.
Another Iranian study of 30 second-degree burn patients found that treating patients with Aloe sped up healing compared to conventional treatment with silver sulfadiazine.
2. Sunburn and inflammation
Researchers from Hamberg studied 40 healthy adults and found that aloe vera prevented inflammation resulting from ultraviolet radiation exposure. They also tested several other herbs, but Aloe was the only herb that significantly prevented the inflammation.
A 2008 study from Germany’s Freiburg University found that a 97% Aloe gel reduced inflammation following sun exposure, significantly greater than a 1% hydrocortisone cream.
We have discussed the research showing how Aloe can treat skin cancer.
However, it should be noted that Aloe does not offer protection from the sun. This was determined in a 2005 study from Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University.
Baylor College of Medicine scientists gave 45 adults with pre-diabetes two different standardized Aloe extract or a placebo for eight weeks. One extract significantly reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL-c) levels, glucose levels and fructosamine (an indicator of glycation metabolism) levels. Another extract (2% aloesin) significantly reduced HbA1c levels, fasting glucose and insulin levels. It also reduced fructosamine and homeostatic model assessment (HOMA), which indicates beta-cell health and insulin resistance.
4. Alzheimer’s disease
Scientists from the University of Miami’s School of Medicine determined that an a constituent of aloe vera was able to reduce Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and increase cognition scores. The researchers gave a supplement with aloe polymannose – also called acemannan – to Alzheimer’s patients over a one year period. They tested them every three months.
The researchers found that the cognitive improvements occurred in 46% of the patients taking the supplement. They also found that several cytokines and other inflammatory factors significantly decreased as well – indicating a reduction in neuro-inflammation among the patients.
5. Burning Mouth Syndrome
Research from Spain’s University of Murcia tested 75 patients with burning mouth syndrome. They found significant improvement among those patients who were given .5 ml of a 70% Aloe gel per day in addition to a tongue protector healed faster than those given a placebo along with the tongue protector.
Research from Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University found that giving HIV-infected women Aloe lowered CD4 count and reduced symptoms. The researchers tested 10 young women infected with HIV, comparing their results with 20 other HIV-infected women who took antiretroviral drugs.
Those taking the Aloe had 35% lower CD4 counts than the antiretroviral-treated patient after one year. The Aloe was mixed in with their food.
7. Oral submucous fibrosis
As we reported previously, Aloe treatment applied topically into the oral cavity for three months three times a day resulted in better healing among the Aloe group.
8. Diaper rash
Researchers from Iran’s Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences found that Aloe successfully treated diaper rash after tested 66 infants. They found that Calendula ointment treated the rashes a bit better than Aloe, however.
9. Liver disease
Aloe has been proven to benefit the liver. Scientists from Egypt’s Tanta University tested Aloe treatment (or placebo) with 40 patients diagnosed with liver fibrosis (an advanced stage of liver damage).
They found that the Aloe treatment after three months resulted in lower liver enzymes AST, ALT and ALP, as well as other fibrosis markers among the Aloe group. This means their liver health improved. They concluded:
“Oral supplementation with AHM could be helpful in alleviating the fibrosis and inflammation of hepatic fibrosis patients.”
10. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can be the result of smoking, stress, and other issues. University of Chile researchers tested 66 adult persons with dry mouth syndrome – or xerostomía – with two different mouth rinses, one containing Aloe. The Aloe mouth rinse was able to effectively reduce dry mouth symptoms.
We have also discussed how aloe helps deal with the effects of betal chewing.
11. High cholesterol
Medical researchers from Iran studied 60 patients who had diabetes and high cholesterol. They gave half the group 300 milligrams of Aloe three times per day for a year.
After the year, the Aloe group had significantly lower fasting glucose levels, lower HbA1c levels, lower total cholesterol and lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The researchers concluded:
Researchers from India’s Government Dental College studied 90 patients who had gingivitis. They divided the patients into three groups, and gave them either a commercial toothpaste, a toothpaste containing fluoride and triclosan (antiseptic), or a toothpaste containing Aloe to brush with. The subjects were assessed at the beginning, at six weeks, 12 weeks and 24 weeks (six months).
They were assessed for microorganisms, gingival index, plaque and the Quigley-Hein plaque index – which rates the space between the gums and the teeth root at the gumline.
The group brushing with the Aloe toothpaste showed significantly better results than the commercial toothpaste, and similar results to the triclosan toothpaste.
Note that triclosan can also damage our healthy oral probiotics and intestinal probiotics. Learn more about our oral probiotics.
In fairness, a 2008 Brazilian study showed no difference between an Aloe toothpaste and a fluoride toothpaste with respect to plaque and gingivitis.
13. Mustard gas skin lesions
Hopefully none of us will ever need to be treated for this. Iranian researchers studied 63 soldiers with chronic skin rashes who were poisoned in chemical warfare (seemingly from Iran/Iraq war). They found that a combination of Aloe and olive oil was as effective as betamethasone cream.
14. Oral lichen planus
In a Spanish University study, 64 patients with oral lichen planus – an infection of the mouth – were given a placebo or Aloe gel at 70% concentration. After six and 12 weeks, the patients were assessed. After six weeks, 31% of the Aloe patients went into remission compared to 17% of the placebo group. After 12 weeks, 61% of the Aloe group went into remission compared to 42% of the placebo group.
Iranian medical researchers also studied Aloe with 46 patients with oral lichen planus. Two months after a four-week treatment, the research found that an Aloe mouth rinse was equivalent to triamcinolone acetonide mouth rinse in treating this condition.
A 2008 study from India’s Isra University found similar results among 34 patients. And a 2008 study from Thailand’s Khon Khaen University found similar results in treating 54 patients for eight weeks.
15. Nutrient absorption
Researchers from University of California’s Davis Medical Center tested 15 elderly adults for the absorption of vitamin C and vitamin B12 using Aloe. The researchers gave the patients a whole leaf Aloe extract with the vitamins; an Aloe gel with the vitamins or the vitamins with water. The researchers then tested the patients’ blood to determine the nutrient absorption.
Both Aloe products increased vitamin B12 absorption among the subjects compared to the water group. The gel significantly increased vitamin C absorption, and both Aloes increased the blood’s antioxidant capacity significantly.
Similar results were found in a 2005 study from the University of Scranton. In this study of 18 adults, Aloe gel increased vitamin E absorption by 369% and vitamin C absorption by 304%.
Research from Thailand’s Khon Kaen University studied psoriasis patients either the standard treatment of a 0.1% triamcinolone acetonide cream or Aloe vera for eight weeks. Those treated with the Aloe gel had significantly lower Psoriasis Area Severity Index scores than did the conventional treatment – 4.3 versus 3.9.
In a 2009 study, researchers from Italy’s St. Gerardo Hospital treated 240 patients with solid metastatic tumors of different types with chemotherapy combined with or without Aloe treatment. Ten milliliters of liquid Aloe was given daily three times a day.
The researchers found that those treated with Aloe had a significantly longer survival rate and had significantly more regression of tumors.
A number of new studies are showing that Aloe vera can both prevent and even treat melanoma.
Aloe-emodin stops cancer growth
Aloe-emodin is a compound found in Aloe. Turns out this compound can halt the growth of skin cancer cells.
Research from the University of Belgrade’s School of Medicine confirmed what previous studies on Aloe-emodin found. The biochemical inhibit the process of skin cancer growth – also called cancer cell proliferation.
The researchers tested Aloe-emodin on human skin cells called keratinocytes after being treated with radiation. Once radiated, keratinocytes will typically proliferate (expand) into skin cancer tumors.
The researchers found that the Aloe-emodin significantly stopped the proliferation process. This confirmed Aloe’s benefit in halting the progression of tumor formation after radiation by the sun.
Other studies confirm Aloe anticancer effect
A similar result was found by researchers from South Korea’s Gachon University of Medicine and Science. They determined that Aloe-emodin specifically halted the growth of human cancerous liver cells. The researchers found that Aloe-emodin stimulated a genetic change within the cancerous cells that not only halted their expansion, but induced cell death among the cancer cells.
Researchers from Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology found that Aloe-emodid was able to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. The Aloe-emodin also induced cell death among the individual cancer cells.
These studies of human cells confirm similar findings in animal research – showing the application of Aloe vera gel onto the skin significantly inhibits the progression of skin cancer.
China Medical University researchers determined that another Aloe constituent called Rhein also produced anticancer effects. They found that tumor progression was halted and cancer cell death occurred as a result of Rhein.
Research from Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University in 2009 treated 30 patients with scabies – an infection of the Sarcoptes scabiei mite – with either benzyl benzoate standard treatment or with an Aloe vera gel. All of the patients except 5 – 3 in the benzyl benzoate group and 2 in the Aloe group – showed no scabies lesions. The researchers concluded that Aloe treatment was as good if not better than benzyl benzoate group.
19. Diabetic Foot, Veinous ulcers
Spanish hospital researchers tested a combination of Aloe and Mimosa tenuiflora with 195 patients. About a third of the patients had symptoms of vein ulcers, and a little over a third had skin lesions. The researchers found the combination resulted in the improvement of nearly every patient, and completely eliminated dryness, itching, pain and eczema on most of the patients after five months of treatment.
20. Kidney Stones
Thailand researchers found in 2006 that 100 grams of fresh aloe taken twice a day significantly reduced the risk of contracting kidney stones. The researchers tested 13 healthy boys at risk of kidney stones, and then 31 adults, and found that seven days of Aloe supplementation resulted in lower risk as identified by urine analysis.
21. Irritable bowel syndrome
A 2006 study from the UK’s St Georges Hospital Medical School gave Aloe or a placebo for one month to 58 IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Of those taking Aloe, 35% had significant improvement in symptoms, while 22% of the placebo group had symptom improvement.
22. Ulcerative Colitis
A 2004 study from London’s Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry had similar findings. Here 44 ulcerative colitis patients were given either 100 milliliters of Aloe gel (orally) or a placebo twice a day for a month.
Of the 30 patients treated with the Aloe, 30% experienced clinical remission, 37% experienced improvement and 47% experienced reduced symptoms (clinical response). Among the placebo group, these results were 7%, 7% and 14% respectively.
Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects millions of people around the world. Aloe vera helps reduce symptoms of heartburn. This was proven out in a 2015 study that tested 79 patients with GERD. They were split into groups. One group was given 10 milliliters per day in the morning. Other patients received conventional medicines.
The researchers found that after two weeks and four weeks, the Aloe vera group had significantly fewer symptoms of heartburn. The scientists stated:
“Aloe vera may provide a safe and effective treatment for reducing the symptoms of GERD.”
24. Dry, unhealthy skin
Yes, multiple studies have determined that Aloe treats dry, irritated and cracked skin. A 2016 study of 64 adults from Japan showed that 12 weeks of Aloe vera supplementation (internally) increased skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen content in the skin. The subjects ate yogurt containing Aloe.
A 2004 study showed Aloe decreases wrinkles as well.
Aloe contains hundreds of nutrients and constituents
Aloe vera contains over 200 active constituents and nutrients, including B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folate), vitamin A, C, and E. It contains 20 minerals, including zinc, chromium, selenium, calcium, magnesium, potassium and copper. Aloe also contains all of the essential amino acids and up to 20 aminos total.
Aloe contains at least eight enzymes. These include superoxide dismutase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, peroxidase, aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, catalase, cellulase and lipase. The last four increase the breakdown and absorption of starches and plant-based nutrients, and bradykinase reduces inflammation. SOD is an antioxidant.
The fatty acid content in Aloe is one of its unique characteristics. Beta-sitosterol, campesterol and other fatty acids such as oleic and caprylic acids provide medicinal properties that help reduce low-density liproproteins.
Aloe also contains several polysaccharides called glucomannans and polymannoses. One of the most studied is the aloe polymannose used in the formula that improved cognition and reduced Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Aloe also contains D-mannose, known for its anti-inflammatory and urinary tract health effects.
One unique polysaccharide called mannose-6-phosphate. This compound has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and appears to be one of its central wound-healing compounds.
Another anti-inflammatory component of Aloe is gibberellin. This has been shown to reduce inflammation related to diabetes and leukocyte infiltration.
Aloe is truly one of nature’s miracle medicines. Growing a plant or two around or even in the house is probably a good call.
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Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.