Natural Health Products
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Aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the "plant of immortality " aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.
How is this product usually used?
Aloe leaves contain a clear gel. This gel can be taken orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) and is also often used as a topical (surface-applied) ointment.
The green part of the leaf that surrounds the gel can be used to produce a juice or a dried substance (called latex) that is taken by mouth.
What is this product used for?
Aloe is used topicallytopicallyto be applied on the skin (directly on the skin) to heal minor wounds and to relieve minor burns (including sunburns).
orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) (by mouth) it is used as a laxativelaxativean agent that stimulates bowel movement and relieves constipation and a source of antioxidantantioxidanta chemical substance that prevents cellular damage from free radicalss and to help sooth irriration of the gastrointestinal tract.
Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks.
Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What else should I be aware of?
There is some evidence that applying aloe gel may help to improve healing of burns and that taking aloe latex orallyorallyto be taken by mouth (swallowed) can relieve constipation due to the anthraquinones in the aloe.
The US government conducted a 2-year National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on oral consumption of whole-leaf extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient of aloe vera and found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumours of the large intestine. Components of aloe vera called anthraquinones are suspected to be carcinogenic when consumed orally. According to the NTP, from what is known right now there is nothing that would lead them to believe that these findings are not relevant to humans. However, more information, including how individuals use different types of aloe vera products, is needed to determine the risk to humans.
Topical aloe vera and oral aloe gel are generally well tolerated. Occasionally their use has been associated with burning, rash, and itching.
However, aloe latex has been reported to cause abdominalabdominalrelating to the stomach and intestines pain and cramps, diarrhea, muscle weakness, weight loss, depletion in blood potassium levels, heart disturbance, hematuria (blood in urine), weight loss, and pseudomelonosis coli (pigment spots in the intestinal lining).
There have been a few case reports of acute hepatitis from aloe latex. However, the evidence is not definitive and the safety of aloe has not been systematically studied. Nephritis (kidney disease) and kidney failure have also been associated with ingesting high doses of aloe latex. Theoretically, aloe latex may aggravate kidney disorders.
Aloe (used both topicallytopicallyto be applied on the skin and orally) may cause an allergic reaction. If this happens, discontinue use.
Aloe latex can interact with drugs such as digoxin, diureticdiuretican agent that increases urine flows, stimulant laxativelaxativean agent that stimulates bowel movement and relieves constipations, and warfarin. It can also interact with oral drugs in general by reduce their absorption.
If you have diabetes and use glucose-lowering medication, be cautious about also taking aloe by mouth because preliminary studies suggest aloe may lower blood glucose levels. If you have a kidney disorder, are taking medications or health products that may worsen electrolyte imbalance (e.g., thiazide diuretics, corticosteroids), are taking cardiaccardiacrelating to the heart medications (e.g., medications used for arrthymia), or have fecal impaction or symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever, talk to your health care professional before using aloe latex.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, cramps, spasms, or diarrhea, reduce your dose of aloe latex or stop using it.
Do not take aloe latex if you have certain diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis), undiagnosed rectal bleeding, abdominal pain with an unknown cause, severe dehydration, hemorrhoids or diarrhea.
Do not take aloe orally if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Children should also not take aloe orally.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, talk to your health care provider.
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Herbs at a Glance. Aloe Vera. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera. Accessed March 12, 2014.
- Health Canada. Drugs and Health Products – Laxatives: Stimulants. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/applic-demande/guide-ld/label-etiquet-pharm/laxstimu-eng.php. Accessed 19 June, 2015.
- Piszczek, J. Identifying natural health products listed in NAPRA’s National Drug Schedules. http://napra.ca/Content_Files/Files/Identifying-NHPs-in-the-NDS-Final-Oct-31.pdf. Accessed 19 June, 2015.
- National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA). National Drug Schedules and Natural Health Products. http://napra.ca/pages/Schedules/Schedules_Products.aspx. Accessed 19 June, 2015.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Aloe professional monograph. Accessed June 2, 2016.
- Health Canada. Aloe Oral monograph. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=31&lang=eng. Accessed June 2, 2016.
- Health Canada. Aloe Topical monograph. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=32&lang=eng. Accessed June 2, 2016.
- Health Canada. Aloe latex monograph. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=aloe.gel&lang=eng. Accessed June 2, 2016.