It seems as if every day I come across a new ad claiming all sorts of benefits of aloe vera juice for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Ads are one thing, solid research backing is quite another. Let's take a look at what is known about aloe vera and whether it is safe or effective for IBS.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a gel extracted from the inner pulp of the leaf of the aloe vera plant. Aloe vera gel needs to be differentiated from aloe latex, a substance that is derived from the inner lining of the plant's leaf. Aloe latex contains anthraquinones and has the effect of a stimulant laxative. Aloe vera gel does contain a component called aloin, a substance that has laxative effects and has been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. Fortunately, it has been processed out of most aloe vera juice formulations.
Why Aloe Vera for IBS?
Aloe vera gel has been used for a variety of medical ailments and claims have been made that it has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting qualities. It is thought that aloe vera's anti-inflammatory effect could help reduce the visceral hypersensitivity seen in IBS.
Is There Research Support?
To date, research on the use of aloe vera for IBS has been almost non-existent. One study found a small but positive effect of aloe vera gel on patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, a different diagnosis than IBS, but with some similar symptoms. This finding prompted a study comparing one month's use of aloe vera to placebo in a small group of IBS patients whose symptoms had not responded to conventional IBS treatment. The results indicated that although there were "trends toward improvement" in various IBS symptoms, these results were not statistically significant. Interestingly, the researchers concluded that aloe vera gel had no effect on those who suffered from constipation-predominant IBS. (IBS-C). No major negative side effects were experienced by those taking aloe vera gel, although there was a non-significant trend toward distenstion in the aloe vera group.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there is yet no research-based evidence that aloe vera gel will help reduce IBS symptoms. Hopefully, further clinical trials will be conducted. Until then, you might be better off looking into other, better understood, OTC remedies. As always, remember to consult with your physician before trying any OTC product.
Davis, K., et. al. "Randomised Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial Of Aloe Vera For Irritable Bowel Syndrome" International Journal of Clinical Practice 2006 60:1080-1086.
Langmead, L., et. al. "Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis" Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2004 19:739-747.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.