A popular household plant could hold promise as a new and effective way for people to manage their diabetes in the future — maybe even without side effects.
Research suggests that juice from the drought-resistant aloe vera plant could help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.
People have embraced aloe vera — of the genus Aloe — for its medicinal properties for centuries. Aloe vera has a long-standing reputation for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties, including healing sunburns and other wounds.
In fact, aloe vera contains
- amino acids
Although experts caution that more research is still needed, in recent years, researchers have been delving into aloe vera’s potential to help people lower their high blood sugar levels and keep their diabetes in check.
In 2016, a team of researchers reviewed a number of research studies that examined the use of aloe vera in people with diabetes and prediabetes. Some of those studies looked at aloe vera’s impact on important factors that affect the health of a person with diabetes.
Aloe vera may help lower:
- fasting blood glucose (FBG)
- hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which shows the 3-month average of the amount of blood glucose attached to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells
The report so far is that aloe vera does seem to have a positive impact on glycemic control.
Research suggests that aloe vera juice or supplements could have a number of possible benefits for people with diabetes:
- Lower fasting blood glucose levels. A 2015 study suggests that taking aloe vera gel can help people achieve better fasting blood glucose levels, as well as reduce body fat and weight.
- Few side effects. As the authors of a
review of studiespublished in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics noted, most people who have participated in studies involving aloe vera preparations seemed to tolerate the aloe vera and didn’t experience any adverse side effects.
- Lower HbA1c averages. Another review of studies found that the research results on this are currently mixed. One clinical trial involving laboratory rats found that aloe vera helped the animals reduce their HbA1c levels, which could bode well for people with diabetes, too. However, an earlier clinical trial involving people didn’t achieve the same results. More research is needed to determine if and how aloe vera could be used to help improve HbA1c levels.
- More people might take it. People with type 2 diabetes don’t always take their medications as directed. In fact, one study notes that less than half of people with type 2 diabetes are able to achieve their blood glucose goals. It could be a matter of cost, a matter of coping with side effects, or a combination of factors.
Some of the purported benefits of aloe vera could actually be drawbacks.
For example, the
But if you’re already taking a medication to control your blood sugar levels, drinking a big glass of aloe vera juice or taking some other aloe vera preparation could send your blood sugar crashing.
You could wind up developing hypoglycemia, a condition in which your blood sugar levels are dangerously low and can result in loss of consciousness.
Also, some people swear by aloe vera for its laxative effects and as a good antidote to constipation. But taking any substance that has a laxative effect can reduce the effectiveness of any other oral medications that you might be taking.
Your body won’t absorb those other medications as well, and you could experience problems, such as high blood glucose, if your oral diabetes medications aren’t working.
The Mayo Clinic also cautions against oral use of aloe latex, which acts as a laxative, as it may have serious and potentially fatal side effects.
First, a word of caution. The research into using aloe vera to manage diabetes is still preliminary.
Don’t race out to the grocery store to pick up a container of aloe vera juice or bottle of aloe vera supplements just yet. Don’t stop taking your current diabetes medications, either.
Currently, there’s no official recommendation for people with diabetes to take aloe vera supplements or drink aloe vera juice. Why? In part, there’s no consensus right now about the type of preparation or dosage amount that would be most appropriate.
As the authors of the review of studies published in the
Some drank aloe vera juice, while others consumed a powder containing a component from the aloe vera plant called acemannan, a polysaccharide that can enhance the body’s immune responses.
With such a wide variety, it would be hard to determine an optimum dose and delivery method without additional research.
If you’re interested in giving aloe vera a try, first check with your doctor to make sure it won’t conflict with any medications you’re already taking. Then, you can consider your options.
Aloe vera does seem to hold promise for people with diabetes who want to maintain their goal blood sugar levels. However, the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus yet about recommending aloe vera as a diabetes management strategy.
Plus, more research is needed to determine the correct type of preparation and dosage.
Until we know more about the best use of aloe vera to manage diabetes, talk to your doctor before consuming aloe vera products.
It’s important to know how aloe vera could affect you and your blood sugar levels, especially if you’re already using other medications to control your diabetes.