Aloe, aloe? Wrong number.

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So. You want to drink Aloe juice. Why? Out of your mind?

It is a complete myth that herbs are safe for you. There’s a long list of herbs that are hyped out of proportion but are directly harmful to you. At the head of this list, stands Aloe. And not just for alphabetical reasons.

Aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis, has been used in folk medicine since a few thousand years across various countries, including ours. Traditionally, aloe gel was a topical application for small wounds, cuts and burns and for skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis. The term ‘topical’ means ‘applied on the skin’.

Aloe juice is used in Ayurveda as a cathartic. The term ‘cathartic’ means ‘crap your guts out’.

That you see, is Aloe’s primary effect when ingested. It will make you crap your guts out.

That is why Ayurveda uses aloe juice as a medicine, not as a “health drink”. And like any other medicine, Ayurveda uses it sparingly. And under strict medical supervision.

There are innumerable claims being made about the juice of Aloe vera. You know, the usual tall tales – antidiabetic, antibacterial, anti-cholesterol, anti-hypertensive, anti-arthritic – and to top it all, the claim that aloe gel can cure burns caused by an atom bomb. Yeah. Atom bomb

Finally, as with all herbal remedies, it boils down to … evidence.

And in the case of Aloe, as with many other over-hyped herbal remedies, the evidence about its claimed health benefits is exactly equal to zero.

On the other hand, the evidence about Aloe’s nasty effects on your body is very real indeed.

  • A two-year study has shown that Aloe extract can cause intestinal cancer in rats and mice. And this study was done by a division of the US government’s department of health, no less. You can download the entire report here.
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea have been reported with oral use of aloe vera.
  • Diarrhoea caused by aloe can in turn decrease the absorption of many drugs.
  • Aloe can interact with your diabetes medication, and can bring down your blood sugar drastically.
  • Some studies have shown that aloe can adversely affect your liver.

Please don’t believe me. Download a detailed technical report from the US Dept of Health and Human Services, here.

If you want even more information, please visit  The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, this being the US Government’s “lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine“.

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On the other hand, no major toxicity has been reported from the use of Aloe gel as a topical application for sunburn, rashes or minor abrasions on the skin. Mind you, aloe gel will not treat any skin condition, especially sunburn. But it can soothe irritated skin and have a cooling effect, while your body heals itself. Use a reputable commercial brand, not some home-made junk that you made yourself.

Bottom line:

Use the gel on your bottom, if it’s been exposed to the sun.

Instead of using aloe gel after you burn your skin in the sun, don’t you think it’s better to stay out of the sun in the first place? Or, use sunscreen. Or, use an umbrella. I’m not joking. Dermatologists will tell you that the best way to protect yourself from the sun is to use an umbrella.

And here’s what you do not do. You do not guzzle aloe juice, as if it’s nimbu paani. Aloe juice, no matter where you get it from, is not entirely safe for you. Why do you want to drink aloe juice anyway? What incurable disease can it cure? What miracles can it perform in your body? Make you young again? Grow your hair back?

Do you know how awful that stuff tastes?

Herbs can cure. Herbs can kill. Look at the evidence first. Get your facts right. Talk to a real doctor.

And even then, think twice about taking any herbal remedy instead of properly prescribed medicine, a sensible diet and regular exercise.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

Srini.

Key References:

  1. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/assets/docs_f_o/ntp_draft_technical_report_577_a_nondecolorized_whole_leaf_extract_of_aloe_barbadensis_miller_aloe_vera_508.pdf
  2. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera#science
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