Aloe barbadensis miller, commonly known as aloe vera, is one of the oldest plants on record used for medicinal purposes. Egyptians used this perennial succulent to heal wounds and burns and reduce fever, while Alexander the Great followed the advice of Aristotle and invaded territories rich in aloe in order to treat the wounds of his soldiers. In addition to being used topically, aloe vera can be taken internally in the form of a supplemental juice.
The fleshy leaves of the aloe plant consist of three layers: an inner gel, a middle latex layer and a thick outer rind. The inner fleshy layer and the latex layer are commonly used for digestive purposes.
Drinking aloe vera juice as a supplement may have an effect on stomach acid and intestinal secretions in people with gastric ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and other gastrointestinal disorders.
A study published in a 2014 issue of the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine found that supplemental aloe vera juice temporarily inhibits gastric secretions, and its gelatinous consistency may have a protective effect on the stomach and intestinal lining. The researchers further determined that the antioxidants in aloe vera gel reduce inflammation in the gut and may promote healing.
Blood Glucose Regulation
Supplemental aloe vera, when combined with a nutrition and lifestyle treatment plan, may help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
Aloe vera gel contains specific polysaccharides and aromatic compounds that regulate blood sugar. A study published in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that when Type 2 diabetics were given a daily oral supplement of aloe vera gel, their blood glucose and blood pressure dropped and their LDL and HDL levels improved.
The antiseptic, ant-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antiviral properties of aloe vera juice may be beneficial for maintaining oral health. Using aloe vera juice in a mouth rinse may help reduce inflammation associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease.
A study in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Applied Oral Science found aloe vera mouth rinses as effective as fluoride mouth rinses for reducing plaque and gingivitis. Furthermore, unlike other dental health treatments, aloe vera has no known negative side effects.
Aloe vera's gelatinous layer contains beneficial amino acids, lipids, sterols and vitamins that make it beneficial as a topical treatment for burns and wound healing and in cosmetics.
A study published in a 2014 edition of BioMed Research International found that bandages containing aloe vera significantly decreased burn wound healing time in human subjects.
Another study from the World Journal of Plastic Surgery, also published in 2014, compared wound healing effects of silver sulfadiazine -- a common over the counter burn cream -- and aloe vera extract. Not only did aloe vera promote wound healing, it outperformed the silver sulfadiazine cream.
Considerations and Contraindications
Before supplementing with aloe vera juice or gel, seek the guidance of a qualified health care professional. Occasional allergic reactions to aloe can occur, but few serious problems involving topical or internal use of aloe vera have been reported. The latex layer of aloe vera can have a laxative effect, so you should be careful about taking it orally.
Possible contraindications of aloe vera include a drug-herb interaction with the anesthesia drug sevoflurane, skin rash and sensitivity.