The latest buzz is that aloe vera can help prevent and treat skin cancer. Is this true or rumor? What does research say about aloe vera?
HISTORY OF ALOE VERA
Aloe vera can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times. The leaves contain a clear gel that can be used as an ointment and the green part of the leaf can be used to create a juice or a dried product that can be ingested orally. Throughout history, it has been used topically to heal wounds, soothe skin conditions, and to aid in constipation when ingested orally as a laxative. Aloe vera has also been ingested for a variety of other conditions including diabetes symptoms, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. It’s been used as a cream to heal and relieve osteoarthritis pain, burns, sunburns, and psoriasis and can be found in over-the-counter skin products. But what does scientific research say about aloe vera?
USING ALOE VERA TO HEAL THE SKIN
Multiple studies have been conducted, primarily with mice, on the effects of aloe vera on healing the skin such as a study by V. Thamlikitkul and others, published in the 1991 Siriraj Hosp Gazzette, showing that aloe vera is effective as an ointment in relieving and soothing pain and inflammation.
Reuter and other researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial compared the anti-inflammatory effect of 97.5% pure aloe vera gel to 1% hydrocortisone and a placebo gel. They concluded that the if the aloe vera gel, was applied under an occlusive bandage for 2 days following UV exposure, it significantly reduced inflammation compared to placebo gel or 1% hydrocortisone in placebo gel, but was less effective than 1% hydrocortisone cream. The authors suggest that aloe vera gel might be useful for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions.
Choonhakarn and others conducted a randomized, double-blind clinical trial evaluated the effectiveness of a prepared 70% aloe vera gel for the treatment of oral lichen planus infections compared to the base gel alone and reported a significant improvement of symptoms in the aloe vera group.
ALOE VERA AND CANCER
A few studies have been conducted on the effects of aloe vera and cancer. Many studies have been used with human skin cells in a laboratory or mice, such as the 2007 study led by M. Saini, “Anti-tumor activity of Aloe vera against DMBA/croton oil-induced skin papillomagenesis in Swiss albino mice,” from the Journal of Environmental Pathology Toxology and Oncology. This study showed that aloe vera might be helpful in reducing or treating cancer in mice but the researchers concluded that more studies are needed.
Researcher Popadic, and others, from the University of Belgrade School of Medicine found that Aloe vera and its constituents inhibit the process of skin cell production that accompanies skin cancer in a laboratory study. The researchers tested Aloe-emodin, (a part of Aloe), with human skin cells – keratinocytes – after being treated with radiation. Once radiated, keratinocytes will typically develop in the form skin tumors. The researchers found that the Aloe-emodin was significantly beneficial in stopping the progression of tumor formation after radiation by the sun. Further research is needed. No clinical research using human beings has been conducted.
Chen, and other researchers from the China Medical University found anticancer effect was greater with Emodin, as compared with Aloe-emodin and Rhein. But Aloe-emodin was observed having stronger cell repair abilities with the cells that hadn’t yet become cancerous. The researchers found that Aloe Emodin and Rhein stopped tumor progression and caused cancer cell death.
There is early evidence that oral aloe vera may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. Further research is needed in this area to clarify whether it is aloe itself or other factors that may cause this benefit. One study conducted in Italy in 2009, tested 240 patients using aloe vera with chemotherapy for people for lung cancer, bowel cancer, or stomach cancer. Half the patients took liquid aloe vera three times a day in combination with standard chemotherapy treatment. In this study the cancer was controlled or shrank for a time in 67% of patients who had the combined aloe and chemotherapy treatment and in 50% of patients who had chemotherapy alone. Researchers said that patients using aloe vera had a better quality of life and that they had fewer chemotherapy side effects such as numb fingers and fatigue. More research is needed under more controlled settings.
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS OF ALOE VERA?
Does ingesting aloe vera have negative side effects? No studies have shown negative effects of using aloe vera on the skin. However, aloe vera, when digested, has a laxative effect and is effective for relieving constipation, but it can be the cause of diarrhea.
Some countries approve of injecting aloe vera. Injecting aloe vera is illegal in the USA an UK and can have serious side effects.
A two-year National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on oral ingestion of non-decolorized whole leaf extract of aloe vera found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumors of the large intestine. According to the NTP, from what is known, they cannot predict that these findings are relevant to humans. The researchers concluded that more research and information is needed, including to determine how individuals use different types of aloe vera products, and the potential risks to humans.
Although aloe vera appears to be a promising alternative treatment for a variety of ailments, researchers agree that more controlled studies are needed to determine its effectiveness, both as a topical ointment or when ingested. The majority of research has been with skin cells and with laboratory animals, and therefore, researchers cannot accurately predict its effectiveness on human beings.
Chen YY, Chiang SY, Lin JG, Yang JS, Ma YS, Liao CL, Lai TY, Tang NY, Chung JG. Emodin, aloe-emodin and rhein induced DNA damage and inhibited DNA repair gene expression in SCC-4 human tongue cancer cells. Anticancer Res. 2010 Mar;30(3):945-51.
Choonhakarn C, Busaracome P, Sripanidkulchai B, Sarakarn P. The efficacy of aloe vera gel in the treatment of oral lichen planus: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2008;158(3):573-77.
Popadic D, Savic E, Ramic Z, Djordjevic V, Trajkovic V, Medenica L, Popadic S. Aloe-emodin inhibits proliferation of adult human keratinocytes in vitro. J Cosmet Sci. 2012 Sep-Oct;63(5):297-302.
Reuter J, Jocher A, Stump J, Grossjohann B, Franke G, Schempp CM. Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacol Physiol.2008;21(2):106-10.
Saini M, Goyal PK, Chaudhary G. Anti-tumor activity of Aloe vera against DMBA/croton oil-induced skin papillomagenesis in Swiss albino mice. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 2010;29(2):127-35.
Thamlikitkul V, Bunyapraphatsara N, Riewpaiboon W, Theerapong S, Chantrakul C, Thanaveerasuwan T. Clinical trial of aloe vera Linn. for treatment of minor burns. Siriraj Hosp Gaz.1991;43(5):313-316.
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com. Images used in this article are free public domain from Pixabay.com or Publicdomainpictures.net
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