Aloe & Hormone Imbalance

Aloe vera plant
Aloe may affect some hormones within your body. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Aloe is a family of succulent plants, collectively called aloe vera. The thick leaves of the aloe plant contain a viscous gel, rich in compounds thought to have medicinal properties. However, the full range of health effects from taking aloe are not yet known, and aloe might cause side effects. Aloe has yet not been linked to hormonal imbalances, but it might have an effect on some hormones produced in the human body.

Estrogen

One of the hormones potentially affected by aloe is estrogen, a steroid hormone involved in fertility and breast growth. Aloe vera leaves contain phytoestrogens, compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in your body. A study published in "Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters" in 2001 found that compounds in aloe could stimulate breast cell growth in test tube experiments, mimicking the effects of estrogen. An additional study published in "Archives of Pharmacal Research" in 2008 indicates that aloe extract can activate the estrogen receptor -- the protein your cells use to sense the presence of and respond to estrogen. These data suggest that aloe might have some physiological effects similar to estrogen in your body, but the role of aloe in an estrogen hormone imbalance is not yet known.

Testosterone

Aloe might also have an effect on testosterone, another type of steroid hormone involved in fertility. Testosterone is initially produced in the testes in men or -- in smaller amounts -- ovaries in women, then undergoes metabolization to increase or decrease the activity of the hormone. Aloe juice inhibits the function of two enzymes involved in testosterone metabolism, according to a study published in "Phytotherapy Research" in 2011, indicating that the juice might also have an effect on testosterone activity in the body. However, the physiological effects of aloe's interaction with testosterone remain unclear.

Ovarian Function

One way aloe juice might affect your hormone balance is through its potential effect on ovarian function. The ovaries serve as a major site of hormone production in women, producing a number of hormones involved in various aspects of reproduction and development. Research published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in 2009 reports that laboratory rats fed aloe vera gel experience changes in ovarian function--the gel stimulates the rats' ovaries, helping promote the development of mature ova, or eggs. Although the effect of aloe on human ovaries requires further investigation, consuming aloe vera gel might affect ovarian function in women, possibly affecting hormone balance or fertility.

Considerations and Safety

Although no studies have definitively linked aloe use to hormone imbalances, consult a doctor before you take products containing aloe. Since aloe has the potential to affect male and female sex hormone activity, taking large doses of aloe might impact your health, especially if you already suffer from a hormone imbalance. You should also avoid aloe if you're pregnant, since animal studies suggest that aloe might increase the risk of skeletal abnormalities during development, according to a 2007 review published in the "International Journal of Toxicology."

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