Aloe vera, a tropical plant with spiky edges and gel-filled center, is used both topically as a gel and internally as a juice. A staple in traditional medicine, aloe is garnering attention in the Western world as well. Research continues to evolve regarding the benefits and risks of drinking aloe juice.
Aloe's Potential Benefits, Inside and Out
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, aloe, which includes the plant's extracted juice, has been studied for potential effects on psoriasis and other skin issues, along with internal issues like constipation and diabetes. The center also notes studies indicating potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Other institutions such as the American College of Angiology report potential strides for heart conditions, while those studying dental and oral issues also cite potential benefits for treating and medicating oral diseases and conditions.
Dental Procedures and Oral Conditions
Swishing aloe juice around a little before you drink it may help keep your mouth healthy. A study from the "Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology" administered aloe to the periodontal pockets of people who had undergone scaling and root planing. At rechecks, enough periodontal improvement was found to recommend aloe as a local medical treatment for healing after dental procedures. Another study from the journal "Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine" showed aloe can help heal oral lichen planus, a common oral condition.
Heart Disease and Diabetes Promise
At its 26th annual meeting, the American College of Angiology presented a report about aloe's potential effect on heart disease and diabetes. Five thousand patients suffering from atheromatous heart disease or diabetes began consuming aloe vera and psyllium, resulting in a notable reduction in serum triglycerides, lipids and total cholesterol levels, while high-density cholesterol -- the "good cholesterol" -- increased. Blood sugar levels also improved in diabetics, and patients were able to taper the use of drugs.
Warnings and Potential Risks
Aloe vera juice is quite different from topical gel versions, so make sure the label specifies use as a dietary supplement or juice. Supplements aren't put through the same rigorous testing as drugs, so safety levels remain unknown; consumption may cause interaction with other items like drugs, herbs or foods, according to the American Cancer Society. Some reported side effects include gastrointestinal upset, electrolyte imbalance and liver inflammation in people who drank aloe juice for longer than a few weeks. As with any supplement, check with your doctor first.