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The First Aid Plant That May Be Able To Help Your Gut

Aloe vera is a universal herb promoted for its healing and rejuvenating properties. Although most of its indications are for skin diseases, aloe vera can also be taken orally. Healing the gastrointestinal tract is one of the benefits of oral aloe vera therapy. Although there only a very few studies investigating the efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, there is enough positive studies to indicate that this herb should be used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Read on to find out how aloe vera may help heal your gut and why the gel, rather than the latex, is the recommended form of this herb.
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Aloe Vera as a Medicinal Herb

Aloe vera is a popular medicinal herb in alternative medicine. It is a green, succulent plant native to Africa but now grown all over the world.

Aloe vera has been used for its healing and soothing properties for thousands of years. Currently, it is not only a common ingredients of medicinal preparations but also of cosmetic products.

Bioactive Phytochemicals of Aloe Vera
  • Salicylates
  • Anthraquinones
  • Lupeol
  • Campesterol
  • Beta sitosterol
  • Gamma linolenic acid or GLA
  • Mannans and polymannans
  • Magnesium lactate

There are only preliminary (and sometimes conflicting) evidence for the use of aloe vera in the treatment of different conditions. Some of the studied indications for aloe vera include wound healing, skin infections, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, hepatitis and ulcerative colitis.

Aloe Vera and Crohn’s Disease

Some of the confirmed medicinal properties of aloe vera may be helpful in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.

For example, studies show that besides its antifungal properties, aloe vera is also effective against certain bacteria. This is useful because Crohn’s disease is triggered by widespread microbial (Mycobacterium species and the fungus, Candida albicans) colonization of the gastrointestinal tract and the uncontrolled response of the immune system.

In addition, the healing properties of aloe vera may speed up recovery in patients with active Crohn’s disease by promoting the healing of the damaged sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Another useful medicinal property of aloe vera is its anti-inflammatory effect. Although this effect is only modest, it can contribute to the reduction of intestinal inflammation (one of the major presentations) in Crohn’s disease.

Only a few studies have been done on the effectiveness of aloe vera in the management of Crohn’s disease.

However, in the few available studies investigating the possible usefulness of this herb in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, the clinical evidence shows that aloe vera may work.

At least one study indicate that oral aloe vera gel may help with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease related to Crohn’s disease.

Besides the potential of aloe vera in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, there are also certain side effects of the herb that make it dangerous in Crohn’s disease. For example, aloe vera is an immune system stimulant that may worsen the misguided immune reaction known to be the root cause of the inflammatory bowel disease.

However, the boost in the immune reaction may activate the release of antimicrobial antibodies to help combat the microbial invasion of the gut in Crohn’s disease.

Aloe Gel or Latex?

There are 2 commonly used preparations of aloe vera: the latex or exudate obtained from the leaves and the gel.

Aloe latex is known for its laxative effect which is due to its aloin content. Aloin was once extracted and included in over-the-counter laxative preparations until its use was banned by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2003.

Therefore, aloe latex is not recommended for ingestion especially in large doses. When taken in large doses, it may induce diarrhea. Since diarrhea is one of the classic symptoms of Crohn’s disease and a known cause of nutritional deficiency and electrolyte imbalance, aloe latex should be avoided by people with Crohn’s disease.

The diarrhea induced by aloe vera can also reduce the absorption and effectiveness of other drugs.

Therefore, aloe vera supplement and drugs (such as methotrexate) used in the treatment of Crohn’s disease should only be combined after consulting with your doctor.

Furthermore, aloe latex may irritate the inflamed linings of the gastrointestinal tract leading to intestinal bleeding and worsening ulcers. The irritation of mucosal lining of the gut can also cause abdominal cramps.

Aloe gel, on the other hand, is milder and rejuvenating and, therefore, recommended for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Aloe vera gel is the mucilage extracted from the leaf pulp of the plant, Aloe barbadensis.

In conclusion, aloe vera gel is safe while aloe latex is a potent laxative and even poisonous in high doses.

Studies on Aloe Vera and Crohn’s Disease

Aloe Vera Gel and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The most important study done to investigate the possible benefits of aloe vera in the management of Crohn’s disease was published in the journal, Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2004.

This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study actually investigated ulcerative colitis but its results can be extended to Crohn’s disease, the other popular inflammatory bowel disease.

For this study, the researchers recruited 44 out-patients. Thirty of the participants were given 100 ml twice daily of aloe vera gel for 4 weeks while the other 14 participants were given the same dosage of placebo.

The results of the study showed that the symptoms of 11 of the patients who were given aloe vera improved. The improvement in 9 of them was significant enough to put them in remission. For the placebo group, only one patient went into remission and only 2 others improved at all.

The results also showed that disease activity was lowered in everyone who took aloe vera gel but not in the placebo group.

Side effects were minor and comparable in both the treatment group and placebo group.

The study showed that oral aloe vera gel can significantly improve the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and even put patients in remission.

Although this study investigated the effects of aloe vera gel on ulcerative colitis, a similar result is expected for Crohn’s disease. However, there is no definitive proof that aloe vera gel will be as successful in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.

The Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties of Aloe Vera

A 2004 study published in the same journal investigated how the antioxidant effect of aloe vera can help reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines in inflammatory bowel disease.

For this in vitro study, the researchers treated incubated human colorectal mucosal samples with aloe vera gel then measured the production of inflammatory cytokines.

The result showed that aloe vera gel inhibited the production of reactive oxygen species in gastrointestinal mucosa studied. This inhibition was dependent on the dose of aloe vera gel used.

More specifically, aloe vera gel inhibited the release of prostaglandin E2 and interleukin-8.

The researchers concluded that the antioxidant properties of aloe vera gel can significantly translate into anti-inflammatory effect. This study provides a significant clinical support for the use of aloe vera gel in the management of inflammatory bowel disease.

While this study may suggest that increasing the dose of oral aloe vera gel may provide better results in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, high doses of the herb may actually worsen the symptoms of the disease.

Therefore, further studies are required to determine the effective and safe dose of aloe vera gel in the management of Crohn’s disease.

Conclusion

Aloe vera is universally known as a healing herb. However, most of its healing actions have only been demonstrated with topical preparations of the gel.

Oral aloe vera gel in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease is a relatively unexplored treatment option. However, the few studies done on the subject have been positive and provide preliminary evidence to support the use of the herb in the treatment of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Without larger, well-designed studies, oral aloe vera gel should only be used cautiously by patients with Crohn’s disease.

Fortunately, clinical trials and user testimonies largely indicate that oral aloe vera gel is safe. Therefore, there is no harm in taking it as an adjunctive therapy in the management of Crohn’s disease.

Sources


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3271691/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc1925010/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.01902.x/full

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