Although aloe has been used since ancient Egyptian times to treat skin problems and constipation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has removed laxatives containing aloe from the market due to safety concerns. Aloe may interact with some medicines you are taking and may worsen certain conditions that you may have, such as kidney disease, says the National Institutes of Health or NIH. As with any supplement, consult with your doctor before taking aloe medicinally.
How It Works
The aloe plant produces two compounds. Aloe latex is a bitter yellow juice that is formed just below the leaf’s skin, and the clear aloe gel is found in the inner part of the leaf. Aloe juice contains chemicals called anthraquinone glycosides that are strong laxatives. The active substances in the gel are glycoproteins and polysaccharides, which act to block pain and inflammation, repair tissue, and boost the immune system.
Preliminary evidence suggests that aloe gel may have beneficial effects in certain types of kidney disease. A study published in the "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology" in 2004 showed that diabetic laboratory animals with diabetes-induced kidney disease who received aloe gel had improvement in their kidney disease as compared to a control group of animals that did not receive aloe. The authors suggested that aloe gel may have protective effects against kidney damage produced by type 2 diabetes.
According to the NIH, aloe juice can cause potentially serious kidney injury and possibly death. In fact, in 2002 the "American Journal of Kidney Diseases" published a case report of a man who was hospitalized with kidney failure after taking aloe juice. After several weeks of kidney dialysis, this person slowly regained his kidney function. The NIH warns that, if you have kidney disease, you should avoid aloe juice because it can make your condition worse.
If you take aloe juice, you may experience some side effects, such as stomach pain and cramping, says the NIH. When taken in large doses for an extended time, aloe juice may cause other serious problems, including heart disorders, muscle weakness, diarrhea, and weight loss. Avoid aloe juice during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
- Drugs.com: Aloe
- National Institutes of Health: Aloe
- PaloAltoMedicalFoundation.org: Aloe
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Aloe
- “Indian Journal of Experimental Biology”; Effect of Aloe Vera (L.) Burm. Fil. Leaf Gel and Pulp Extracts on Kidney in Type-II Diabetic Rat Models; S Bolkent, et al.; Jan 2004
- “American Journal of Kidney Diseases”; Herbal Remedy-Associated Acute Renal Failure Secondary to Cape Aloes; VA Luyckx, et al.; Mar 2002