There are several natural and homeopathic remedies that people use in place of or in addition to prescription medications.
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide. So it makes sense that you might be curious about potential natural treatments.
Several herbs and plants have been studied for their potential anti-diabetic properties.
One such plant is the aloe plant, most commonly used for topical application for sunburns and other skin issues.
Is there enough scientific evidence to support taking aloe vera for diabetes, and is it safe? We’ll answer those questions and dive into the other potential aloe vera benefits.
What is aloe vera?
The aloe vera plant looks like a cactus and grows in hot, dry climates. Aloe vera is most commonly used topically to help ease burns and other skin problems.
Aloe vera gel is one of the popular byproducts of the aloe plant and you can use it topically, whereas you can take aloe vera juice orally.
You can buy aloe vera juice plain to be used as a health supplement, but it’s also combined with other ingredients to make drinks more flavorful. Some types of aloe juice have high amounts of sugar, so it’s important to check the ingredients list and nutrition facts label.
Aloe vera contains vitamins A, vitamin C, and vitamin E, which are all antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation, which means they could help reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.
Aloe vera also contains enzymes, some of which are beneficial for reducing inflammation when applied to your skin. This is one of the reasons aloe vera gel is so popular for treating burns. It also contains minerals, natural sugars, and fatty acids that help fight bacteria and aid in pain relief.
Another property of aloe vera is that it contains anthraquinones which act as laxatives. Aloe latex is harvested from just under the aloe leaf’s skin and has been used as a laxative, though it may not be safe.
The Mayo Clinic advises that taking one gram of aloe latex per day can cause acute kidney failure and may even be fatal. The Food and Drug Administration banned the use of aloe as a laxative ingredient in over-the-counter products in 2002.
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Can aloe vera help manage diabetes?
There are some studies on the potential use of aloe vera for diabetes. While some of these studies have had positive results, the bottom line and consensus are that there isn’t enough scientific evidence in humans to warrant using aloe vera for diabetes.
Here are some of the positive results from scientific studies on aloe vera as a potential diabetes treatment.
1. Might Lower Blood Sugar
According to a 2015 systematic review of studies, aloe vera gel complex may help lower blood sugar, promote healthy cholesterol levels, reduce body fat and weight, and reduce insulin resistance in obese subjects with prediabetes.
Some people with diabetes don’t end up sticking with their medication regimens. Sometimes it’s due to cost, and other times it’s due to side effects.
Because aloe vera is natural and seems to be well-tolerated, it might help lower your blood sugar more because you’d be more likely to take it consistently.
2. Reduction in cholesterol
Aloe vera was used on diabetic mice to see if it could improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The mice received aloe vera gel extract at a dose of 300 milligrams per kilogram of body weight for 21 days. The result was a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
People with diabetes often have abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which is known as diabetic dyslipidemia.
Though the study was on animals, there is reason to be hopeful for a potential health benefit in humans. We need more studies on humans regarding aloe vera’s potential cholesterol-lowering benefits.
3. Reduces fasting blood sugar
According to another meta-analysis of studies, aloe vera significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels in people with prediabetes while “marginally” reducing fasting blood sugar in people with diabetes.
4. Reduces hemoglobin A1c levels
Four studies with a total of 197 patients with type 2 diabetes concluded that aloe vera significantly reduced hemoglobin A1c levels.
The hemoglobin A1c is a blood test that estimates the average blood sugar level over the past two to three months and is a better indicator of overall blood sugar control than fasting blood sugar.
5. Could help people with prediabetes
Aloe vera gel might help you if you have prediabetes. A meta-analysis looked at several studies on aloe vera for diabetes. It concluded that aloe vera might help improve blood sugar control in people with borderline diabetes (prediabetes), which might help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
6. Lowers your triglyceride levels
Aloe vera may help lower your triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your bloodstream. Insulin resistance and diabetes can increase your triglyceride levels.
High triglycerides can harden your arteries, increasing your risk of complications like heart attack and stroke, as well as heart disease.
7. Protects against heart disease
A systematic review of studies discussed the potential ability of aloe vera in protecting against heart disease, which is prevalent among people with diabetes.
8. Supresses inflammation
Aloe vera may help suppress inflammation. Inflammation is believed to be a leading contributor to developing diabetes, which is another one of the potential aloe vera benefits.
The results of scientific studies are only as good as the quality of the studies. A meta-analysis noted that some of the studies on aloe vera were of “low quality,” which is essential to note.
The type of aloe vera used varied among studies as well – one used aloe vera juice, another used powdered aloe vera gel, and another used aloe vera extract.
Because the presentation of aloe vera varies so much among studies, it’s difficult to recommend a specific dosage that may be therapeutic for use in diabetes. However, researchers noted that aloe vera was well-tolerated among test subjects, with no adverse effects noted.
Drawbacks of aloe vera for diabetes
- If you’re already taking diabetes medications that lower your blood sugar, you may develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if you take aloe vera along with those medications. Because of this, you should avoid taking aloe vera in addition to diabetes medications that can cause low blood sugar, like insulin and sulfonylureas.
- Aloe latex in aloe vera may have a laxative effect. This means that it may reduce the absorption of any other medications you’re taking, such as medications for high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. So you want to be sure that your other medications are being absorbed correctly.
- There are many studies showing aloe vera benefits for diabetes. However, researchers point out that many of the studies were poorly designed or resulted in inconsistent results. We need more well-designed studies to confidently recommend aloe vera for diabetes management.
How to use aloe vera
The studies on aloe vera for diabetes have varied in the type of aloe vera used, so there isn’t a
set recommended amount to take for diabetes.
One study recommended taking one tablespoon of aloe vera juice twice daily for diabetes. If you choose to take aloe vera for diabetes, be sure to get the pure, plain aloe vera juice without any added flavors or sweeteners.
Be sure to let your healthcare provider know that you’d like to start taking aloe vera for diabetes or prediabetes. They’ll be able to tell you if you’re a good candidate for trying natural remedies or at least make adjustments to your other medications to lower the risk of low blood sugar.
You can also find aloe vera in capsule form. The serving size is two capsules for popular brands, which provide 100 milligrams of aloe vera total.
The aloe in aloe vera capsules comes from the inner leaf. Therefore, it’s likely safer than taking aloe latex which is found just under the leaf’s skin.
There isn’t an acceptable dosage for aloe vera for diabetes. Therefore, it would be advisable to start with one serving a day of aloe gel or juice and see how your body responds. Remember to be wary of aloe latex, which may cause health problems if taken consistently.
Other health benefits of aloe vera
- Aloe vera increases collagen production when applied to your skin or taken orally. Aloe gel can also increase the strength of scar tissue during the wound healing process.
- UV rays cause inflammation in your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Aloe gel has been shown to be protective against UV radiation damage to your skin.
- Increased collagen production can mean your skin is less likely to wrinkle, and it may appear more smooth and youthful.
- Aloe vera contains anthraquinones which have the ability to deactivate certain viruses like herpes simplex, varicella-zoster (chickenpox), and influenza.
- Aloe gel has antitumor properties, which means it might be able to reduce the development of cancerous tumors. These results came from a study on rats, so results can’t be immediately translated to aloe vera benefits in humans.
There are several studies on aloe vera for diabetes. Some of the studies were done on animals, while others were conducted on humans.
Based on reviews of many studies, researchers have concluded that aloe vera may help lower blood sugar in people with prediabetes and diabetes. However, they note that many of the studies were poorly designed and yielded conflicting results.
The bottom line in the research world is that we need more well-designed studies in humans to determine the health benefits of aloe vera for diabetes.
If you have existing diabetes and take medications for it, you should speak with your healthcare provider since the efficacy of aloe vera for diabetes isn’t solidified.