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Aloe vera is a succulent plant native to northern Africa, and has been a treasured healing plant for thousands of years. Aloe supplements are made from the mucilaginous gel obtained from the leaves and are sold as juice, gel or encapsulated powder. Aloe vera is also widely used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products for its soothing and healing properties.
Aloe juices and gels can be taken internally, and this is usually done to heal and soothe the stomach (gastritis, ulcers, reflux). Taken internally, aloe juice or gel has mild laxative and cleansing quality and is used for this reason also. Powdered aloe products are usually used for their laxative effect. Clinical studies have shown that topically applied aloe vera soothes and promotes the healing in a wide range of skin problems: burns, sunburns, cuts, scrapes, shingles and psoriasis. Taken internally, aloe juice or gel may ease heartburn or other types of stomach discomfort.
Use aloe products according to label directions. Discuss treatment options of chronic constipation with your physician. Begin with a low dose, and use as directed. Do not use laxatives continuously for more than two weeks as habitual use of laxatives will cause dependence.
In addition to causing dependence, prolonged use of any laxative may cause excessive mineral and nutrient loss, most notably loss of potassium (essential for proper heart function). Discuss using aloe products with your doctor if you are taking any medications. Laxatives may increase the effect of digitalis drugs, causing heart beat abnormalities. Consult your physician before using laxatives if you are using any other drug that reduces potassium levels, such as a diuretic. Avoid taking aloe vera while pregnant or menstruating, as it may cause uterine contractions. Aloe vera should not be taken by children or elderly individuals except under a doctor's advice. Laxatives should not be taken by individuals with intestinal obstructions, inflammatory bowel diseases, appendicitis or undiagnosed abdominal pain (except under strict physician supervision).