We have been told about the benefits of aloe vera all along. But, in all honesty, most of those benefits haven’t been scientifically proven.
Shocking, isn’t it?
Well, that’s nothing when compared to the list of side effects aloe vera has. Which is what we will discuss in this post.
Aloe Vera – A Brief
Belonging to the genus Aloe, aloe vera is a plant species that grows in tropical climates around the world. Though it is found in numerous skin care products, cosmetics, and ointments, there is little scientific evidence proving its efficacy.
Most often, studies that substantiate its benefits are contradicted by several other studies.
The plant is usually stemless (or short-stemmed) and grows up to 60-100 cm tall. The leaves of the plant are thick, fleshy, and green. And, as we have already seen in the initial lines, it has side effects.
But before we talk about the side effects of the plant, there’s something else.
Side Effects Of Aloe Vera Latex
There is speculation about aloe vera latex and its ill effects – which is why we are covering this first.
The aloe vera latex is one of the two substances the plant produces (the other being the gel). The latex is yellow and comes from underneath the plant’s skin.
Taking the latex internally can be unsafe, irrespective of the dose. Some of the side effects it can cause include stomach cramps, kidney issues, and low potassium levels (1). Even taking just 1 gram of aloe latex for several days can be fatal.
Externally, the latex could be safe if appropriately applied to the skin. However, more research is required in this regard.
Side Effects Of Aloe Vera
1. Skin Allergy
Prolonged use of aloe gel can cause skin allergies like hives and widespread inflammation (2). It can also cause redness of the eyelids. Other effects on the skin include its hardening, dryness, splitting, and the development of purple spots.
The gel can also cause skin rashes or irritation (3). And as per studies, aloe gel can decelerate the healing of surgical wounds. Applying aloe juice to your face after a skin peel can also cause redness and burning. Applying the juice to the face after sun exposure can lead to rashes. Your skin might get swollen as well.
Using aloe latex on the skin (for some beneficial purpose) can stain the skin yellow if improperly applied.
According to one Mumbai study, the topical application of aloe vera can cause a stinging sensation (4). In sensitive individuals, it can also cause a mild form of dermatitis.
Aloe vera has laxative effects, which might increase the chances of dehydration or electrolyte imbalance in diabetic individuals.
Though certain people believe aloe vera can help treat constipation, there is no evidence for this. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, the sale of aloe vera products as a treatment option for constipation was banned due to lack of proper evidence.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aloe juice or latex can cause painful stomach cramping (and possibly constipation) due to its powerful laxative properties (5).
The laxative effects of aloe vera can also lead to dehydration. One report recommends against the use of aloe vera in patients suffering from severe dehydration (6).
Diarrhea is one of the side effects of consuming aloe vera latex. If you have an existent digestive disorder, drinking aloe juice can also cause diarrhea.
Oral use of aloe vera has been linked to diarrhea as well as vomiting. Aloe vera latex might cause watery diarrhea, eventually leading to electrolyte imbalance (7). Even the University of Maryland Medical Center strongly suggests against the oral intake of aloe vera latex as it can lead to severe intestinal cramps and diarrhea (8).
Aloe vera might have a beneficial effect on people suffering from ulcerative colitis, but it might also cause diarrhea (9). And according to a report by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aloe vera can cause diarrhea in cats as well (10).
6. Lower Blood Sugar Levels
This might be good news, in a way. But the problem arises with the fact that aloe vera juice can lower blood glucose levels, which, in turn, can affect the performance of certain medications that are used to treat diabetes.
7. Electrolyte Imbalance
Aloe vera can cause electrolyte imbalance, more so in people who are already experiencing diarrhea. This can also lead to low potassium levels. One study says that the laxative effect of aloe vera can lead to electrolyte imbalance (13).
Aloe vera must be used cautiously in people who already are on medication that increases potassium excretion (14).
8. Irregular Heartbeat
According to a Nigerian study, using aloe vera can increase the risk of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat (15).
9. Kidney Failure
Aloe vera can interact with certain medications and aggravate a few conditions, with kidney disease being one of them. Further research suggests that aloe vera juice can, in some cases, cause serious kidney injury that might even lead to death. Hence, individuals suffering from any kidney problem must abstain from consuming aloe vera.
An Indian study had reported acute renal failure in an individual following the intake of a herbal remedy, with aloe vera being its primary component (16).
Aloe vera latex has also been linked to kidney failure and other related conditions.
10. Liver Toxicity
High-dose ingestion of aloe vera, according to studies, can lead to liver inflammation. The bioactive compounds in aloe vera might interfere with the liver’s detoxification process, thereby causing complications in sensitive individuals.
11. Muscle Weakness
Consuming aloe latex can also cause muscle weakness. One Chinese study notes muscle weakness as one of the common adverse effects of aloe vera supplementation (19).
12. Stomach Discomfort
Though aloe vera can help relieve stomach bloating, it might cause stomach cramps in some cases. The latex can also cause vomiting if consumed (20).
13. Thyroid Dysfunction
Aloe vera might obstruct the absorption of thyroid medication, thereby causing the symptoms to aggravate. Intake of aloe supplements has been directly linked to thyroid problems.
Safety During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
Topical use of aloe vera during pregnancy or breastfeeding may not be as harmful, but internal use is discouraged. As per a theory, aloe vera can stimulate uterine contractions and cause complications. Also, we don’t know if aloe vera would be excreted in breast milk. Hence, avoiding internal use is the best way to go.
Consumption of aloe vera juice is also not advised.
Interactions With Supplements
As aloe vera might lower blood sugar, caution is recommended while taking medications that lower blood sugar. Aloe vera might also interact with agents for cancer, brain, heart, intestines, liver, and stomach. It can interact with substances that increase urination or potassium excretion. It can also interact with hormonal agents, antifungals, anesthetics, thyroid hormones, and wound healing agents (21). It can also interfere with supplements related to all of the conditions stated above.
Precautions And Warnings
Don’t take aloe vera if you have diabetes, intestinal conditions (like Crohn’s disease, etc.), hemorrhoids, and kidney problems (22). Also, stay away from aloe if you are allergic to garlic, tulips, or onions (23).
Though shocking, it is something we must accept. Aloe could be healthy, but keeping in mind its side effects is the way to go about it.
Tell us how this post has helped you. We appreciate your valuable feedback.
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