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Aloe vera has several potential uses. There are also numerous cosmetic products that contain aloe vera as an active ingredient.
Aloe vera is a plant that has a long history of medicinal use. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the use of aloe vera dates back at least 6,000 years. People have used aloe vera for conditions such as:
Keep reading to find out how to use aloe vera and what the research says about its benefits.
When people use aloe vera topically on the skin or as a mouthwash, experts generally consider it to be safe. Many products contain aloe vera as an active ingredient, but people can also use aloe vera directly from the plant.
A person can cut a leaf from an aloe vera plant and use the gel inside. Preprepared aloe vera gel is also available for purchase in many pharmacies and health shops.
A person should use a small amount of aloe vera when they first try it and then build the quantity up to suit their needs.
People can apply aloe vera directly to the skin. They can also use online recipes to create a lotion or cream that uses aloe vera as the main ingredient.
If a person is unsure whether their skin will react adversely to aloe vera, they can apply a small amount on the inner arm and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction.
The gel-like substance contains chemicals that can soothe and cool the skin, which makes it effective in treating sunburns and some of the symptoms of other skin conditions.
Using aloe vera on the face is the same as using it on the rest of the body. However, because the skin on the face is more sensitive, using smaller amounts of aloe vera is advisable.
Some people use aloe vera to moisturize the hair and scalp. A person can use raw aloe vera gel and rub it into the hair and scalp or use hair products with aloe vera as an ingredient.
Some types of mouthwash and toothpaste contain aloe vera as an ingredient. However, a person should avoid taking raw aloe vera orally.
According to the NIH, the safest way to use raw aloe vera is topically. Ingesting aloe vera for digestive issues may cause:
- less effective absorption of medications
People living with diabetes should talk to their doctor before taking aloe vera orally because it may cause an unsafe drop in blood sugar levels.
Some potential uses of aloe vera include:
Treating canker sores
Another study from 2012 backed up this finding. However, this study noted that aloe vera did not work as effectively as corticosteroids, which are the standard treatment for canker sores. Still, most of the participants reported being satisfied with the results of either treatment.
Aloe vera may help with healing minor wounds and burns. A recent review of studies showed some promising results for aloe vera’s use in healing wounds on the skin. The review included studies that found that aloe vera can help with preventing or treating conditions such as:
The researchers advise that people only use aloe vera alongside prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat these conditions.
Reducing plaque in the mouth
In a 2014 study, researchers found that an aloe vera mouthwash was as effective in treating plaque as contemporary mouthwash options. People used aloe vera as a mouthwash for 30 days and saw a significant reduction in plaque compared with the placebo group.
Helping with anal fissures
Anal fissures are small cuts or tears in the lining of the anus. They are often the result of a large or hard bowel movement.
A preliminary 2014 study found that applying aloe vera to anal fissures helped aid healing. Although the study showed positive results, the researchers indicated that further research is necessary to prove the effectiveness of this treatment option.
In a smaller 2013 study, researchers found that applying a combination of aloe vera and tretinoin to the skin helped treat acne. The study showed that aloe vera was effective in treating mild inflammation and reducing acne lesions over 8 weeks.
Controlling blood sugar
The authors of a 2016 review concluded that aloe vera may help improve blood sugar control in people living with type 2 diabetes. However, they noted that the reviewed studies had several limitations and that further studies are necessary to confirm the findings.
Aiding digestive issues
There is limited evidence to suggest that aloe vera may help with conditions such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Research has shown that aloe vera may be effective in treating IBS. The study found that aloe vera improved symptoms of IBS compared with the placebo, but there is a need for additional research to prove the results.
Other researchers have suggested that aloe vera may help prevent stomach ulcers. The study showed that aloe vera helped stop the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are responsible for stomach ulcers.
However, a person should use caution when taking aloe vera orally. It is important to limit the intake due to its potential negative effects, including:
- cytotoxicity (cell toxicity)
- mutagenicity (potential of a chemical to cause a cell mutation)
Scientists need to carry out additional research to help them fully understand the effects of taking aloe vera orally.
Aloe vera may effectively and safely treat or help soothe a variety of skin conditions and symptoms, including canker sores and acne.
People should use caution if they take aloe vera orally to help with IBS or constipation, as it may have side effects. The possible side effects of ingested aloe vera include diarrhea and interactions with medications.
A person should talk to their doctor before taking aloe vera or using it to treat skin conditions that may require additional medications.