Oral Aloe Vera for Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus and Dyslipidemia

Minh Q. Ngo, Pharm.D.; Nancy N. Nguyen, Pharm.D.; Sachin A. Shah, Pharm.D.

Disclosures

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010;67(21):1804-1811. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Introduction

The National Health Interview Survey revealed that 4 out of 10 adults in the United States age 18 and older used a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in 2007.[1] Aloe vera use has been reported in 8.5–13.8% of predominantly Hispanic populations in the southern United States.[2,3] Aloe vera is used just as frequently outside the United States—by 10.8%, 10.3%, and 7.6% of adults in Australia, Italy, and Jamaica, respectively, according to surveys.[4–6]

Aloe is a succulent plant[7] belonging to the Liliaceal family, of which there are more than 360 species.[8] Aloe vera is a common name for Aloe barbadensis, the most widely used species of aloe (figure).[9] It is often used in ointments, creams, and lotions intended for wound healing or skin protection. The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) describes three components of the plant that are used: leaf juice (whole leaf as the starting point), inner-leaf juice (from the inner gel fillet), and aloe latex (yellow-brown sap between the inner parenchymous tissues).[10] Good scientific evidence exists for beneficial effects of topical aloe vera in genital herpes, psoriasis vulgaris, and seborrheic dermatitis.[11] Monographs from Health Canada, the German Commission E, and the World Health Organization recognize the use of oral aloe vera as a laxative;[11–13] however, limited or conflicting evidence exists for other uses, including diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, sore throat, hypertension, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, fever, itching, asthma, epilepsy, depression, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and vision problems.[3,8,11]

Patients with uncontrolled medical conditions are often drawn to using natural products, although fewer than 50% of herb and supplement users report their use to physicians.[14] Type 2 diabetes mellitus affects an estimated 23.6 million Americans, and fewer than half of these patients have their condition adequately controlled.[15] It is estimated that patients with diabetes mellitus are 1.6 times more likely to use CAM (i.e., acupuncture, homeopathic therapy, spiritual healing, hypnosis, and herbal remedies) than patients without diabetes.[16] In an evaluation of children with diabetes mellitus (type 1) from Turkey and Germany, aloe vera was one of the most commonly consumed herbal medicines, used by 12.9% and 7.3% of the patients, respectively.[17,18] Hypercholesterolemia is another chronic condition, affecting 16% of U.S. adults age 20 years and older.[19,20] CAM use was reported by 1.8 million patients with dyslipidemia in 2007.[1]

In a 2007 review article, Ulbricht et al.[11] concluded that the evidence regarding oral aloe vera efficacy in patients with diabetes mellitus was conflicting. Since that publication, additional studies investigating aloe vera for lowering fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) concentrations have been reported. Further, to our knowledge, no clinical review of aloe vera use in dyslipidemia has been performed. With the emergence of new data and a lack of consensus on the glycemic and lipid effects of aloe vera in humans, a thorough review was warranted. This article reviews the available literature on the efficacy of oral aloe vera in diabetes mellitus and dyslipidemia in humans.

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