The ins and outs of how and why to use aloe
These days, you can find aloe vera in everything from lotions to shampoos. But, there are more applications for aloe than just topical use. Studies have shown that aloe can be used to benefit many aspects of one’s health, including detoxification, blood glucose support and digestive health.
In fact, aloe is said to contain 200 active components such as polysaccharides, vitamins, enzymes and minerals that “work harmoniously together to support overall health,” according to one industry company (1).
The idea that aloe supports “digestive health” sounds broad, but shoppers may be interested to know that there are very specific reasons people buy aloe, including support for occasional constipation and overall digestive balance (2).
It should be noted that one reason for the laxative effect may be aloe’s aloin content, which can be harmful when consumed in large doses. Therefore, responsible companies filter it out and only include very low, safe levels of aloin that help support digestive regularity (1).
Studies have pointed to other benefits for gastrointestinal health thanks to its polysaccharides. These components may support a healthy pH in the stomach, and create an ideal environment for the growth of normal, healthy bacteria (1). Some say aloe’s ability to help maintain normal pH balance may also benefit those with occasional heartburn and indigestion (1).
While aloe cannot cure, treat or prevent any disease, some studies link aloe to support for gastrointestinal conditions and inflammation balance. One seminal study from 1963 suggested that when given to patients with peptide ulcers, aloe was helpful (3). More recently, a 2014 study combined aloe with ellagic acid (found in many fruits and nuts) and showed a positive effect on patients with ulcers.
Ranade et al., state: “In vivo studies showed that a combination of ellagic acid and Aloe vera gave 75% ulcer inhibition in comparison to 57% ulcer inhibition in the group which was administered with ellagic acid alone” (4).
In addition to its gastrointestinal use, aloe has been known to aid in detoxification and encourage the absorption of certain vitamins. A 2010 study, for instance, found that aloe promotes the absorption of vitamins E and C. The study included 18 patients that took either 500 mg of ascorbic acid or 420 mg of vitamin E alone or with 2 oz of aloe (whole leaf extract or inner fillet gel). After consumption, several blood samples were taken and the groups then switched regimens (5).
In the end, “Only Aloe Gel caused a significant increase in plasma ascorbate after 8 and 24 h….Only the aloes produced a significant increase in plasma tocopherol after 6 and 8 hours” (5). The authors add, “The results indicate that the Aloes improve the absorption of both vitamins C and E. The absorption is slower and the vitamins last longer in the plasma with the Aloes” (5).
Aloe’s support of nutrient absorption is one reason why some people believe in aloe for immune health.
Moving beyond digestive heath, preliminary research suggests that aloe vera intake can help support balanced, normal blood glucose levels.
In a 2009 study involving 15 type-2 diabetics, high molecular-weight fractions of aloe vera offered a “significant decrease in blood glucose level sustained for six weeks [from] the start of the study” (6).
A 2015 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial explored the effects of aloe on 72 prediabetic patients. Patients were administered capsules of aloe vera twice a day (doses of 300 mg or 500 mg) or a placebo. Fasting blood glucose (no food after eight hours) and hemoglobin plasma and lipid levels in the blood were assessed at baseline, four weeks and eight weeks (7).
Those taking 300 mg of aloe vera had a significant decrease in fasting blood glucose levels after four weeks, whereas the placebo group did not. This 300-mg group also experienced decreased HbA1C, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels after eight weeks, plus an increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
Make sure to tell shoppers interested in taking aloe, especially those under a physician’s care for blood sugar-related issues, to discuss the option with their doctor before adding aloe to their supplement regimens. WF
References1. Lily of the Desert, www.lilyofthedesert.com, accessed 11/20/15.
2. Mayo Clinic, “Aloe (Aloe vera),” www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/aloe/background/hrb-20058665, accessed 11/20/15.
3. J.J. Blitz, J.W. Smith and J.R. Gerard, “Aloe Vera Gel In Peptic Ulcer Therapy: Preliminary Report,”
J. Am. Osteopath. Assoc. 62: 731–735 (1963).
4. A.N. Ranade, N.S. Ranpise and C. Ramesh, “Exploring the Potential of Gastro Retentive Dosage Form in Delivery of Ellagic Acid and Aloe Vera Gel Powder for Treatment of Gastric Ulcers,” Curr. Drug Deliv. 11 (2), 287–297 (2014).
5. J.A. Vinson, H. Al Kharrat and L. Andreoli, “Effect of Aloe vera Preparations on the Human Bioavailability of Vitamins C and E,” Phytomedicine 12 (10), 760–765 (2005).
6. A. Yagi, “Possible Hypoglycemic Effect of Aloe Vera L. High Molecular Weight Fractions on Type 2 Diabetic Patients,” Saudi Pharm J. 17 (3), 209–215 (2009).
7. S. Alinejad-Mofrad et al., “Improvement of Glucose and Lipid Profile Status with Aloe Vera in Pre-Diabetic Subjects: A Randomized Controlled-Trial,” J. Diabetes Metab. Disord. 14, 22 (2015).
Published in WholeFoods Magazine January 2016