Aloe Vera Treats Ulcerative Colitis
Backing up one of its common uses, new research confirms that Aloe vera gel relieves the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, reports a study in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics (2004;19:739–47). This finding is good news for those who suffer from this common and often serious condition.
Ulcerative colitis is a disease in which the colon becomes inflamed, resulting in abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. In its milder forms, ulcerative colitis is merely a nuisance or may produce no symptoms at all. However, in other cases, the diarrhea and bleeding can be severe enough to cause dehydration and anemia. People with ulcerative colitis often develop complications, including nutritional deficiencies, arthritis, skin and eye disorders, liver disease, kidney stones, and colon cancer.
Treatment consists primarily of cortisone-like drugs, other anti-inflammatory medications and, sometimes, antibiotics. If the condition becomes severe or debilitating, surgical removal of some or all of the colon may be necessary. In some cases, avoiding allergenic foods, such as wheat, dairy products, corn, or eggs, can control the disease. A recent study has shown that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands, is an effective treatment for some people with ulcerative colitis.
Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant belonging to the Lily family. A gel from the leaves of the aloe plant is a “folk remedy” used by many people with ulcerative colitis, although this treatment has not, until now, been studied scientifically.
Forty-four people with active ulcerative colitis participated in the current study. They were randomly assigned to ingest either Aloe vera or a placebo for four weeks. The initial dose was 1 to 2 ounces twice a day; this was increased over a three-day period, as tolerated, to a maximum of 3.5 ounces twice a day.
Forty-seven percent of the people taking aloe reported an improvement in symptoms, compared with only 14% of those taking the placebo. Objective signs of disease activity, such as the amount of inflammation in the colon seen on sigmoidoscopic examination, and laboratory measures of inflammation, were similar in the two treatment groups. The results of this study show that aloe gel can relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, although it does not seem to alter the underlying inflammation that causes the symptoms.
Although aloe is not a cure for ulcerative colitis, it is safe—no serious side effects were seen in this study—and it could play an important role in the treatment of this chronic illness.
Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Three Rivers Press, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Three Rivers Press, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes, Inc.
Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.