The Disadvantages of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera
A close-up of aloe vera gel inside of a cut aloe vera leaf. (Image: Pierphotographer/iStock/Getty Images)

Aloe vera gel is a slick substance from the interior of the thick aloe vera leaf, while aloe latex comes from just under the leaf skin. Applying aloe vera gel topically is generally considered safe, but consuming aloe vera latex or juice extracted from the latex has many disadvantages. Consult a qualified healthcare provider before using aloe for any purpose.

Uses

Whole-leaf aloe vera products and aloe latex contain anthraquinone, which has laxative properties, while aloe gel is perhaps best known as a topical solution that can soothe and speed healing of sunburns and other burns. The primary use of aloe latex is for relieving constipation, although some people take it for other health conditions, including diabetes and arthritis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, MedlinePlus.

Side Effects

Consuming aloe latex is associated with many negative effects. You could experience stomach pain and cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and electrolyte imbalances. Ingesting the substance has been connected with serious effects such as hepatitis, kidney problems, muscle weakness, heart disturbances and thyroid dysfunction. Some chemicals in aloe latex may be carcinogenic, warns MedlinePlus.

Tolerance

Before November 2002, many over-the-counter laxatives contained aloe latex. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned aloe latex as an ingredient in these products because of safety concerns. Health risks associated with aloe latex tend to increase as people using it regularly develop a tolerance to the substance and need to take more of it for the same results.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Concerns

Do not consume aloe latex if you are pregnant because it may stimulate uterine contractions and lead to miscarriage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Aloe latex also may cause birth defects. Its safety for infants is unknown, so you also should not consume aloe latex if you are breastfeeding.

Dangerous Injections

Aloe vera injections are legal in some countries as an alternative treatment for cancer, but not in the United States. Available evidence does not support claims that these injections are effective, reports the American Cancer Society. In addition, several people who received this type of treatment for cancer died due to negative effects from the shots.

Topical Reactions

Topical aloe gel use is not completely without disadvantages. Using the gel on skin for long time frames can cause an allergy to develop, with symptoms such as hives or a rash. In addition, research is lacking or conflicting on the effectiveness of topical aloe for bedsores, wound healing or reducing skin damage from cancer radiation therapy, according to MedlinePlus.

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