Does Aloe Vera Help IBS? What about Senna & Cascara?
Aloe is known for treating for minor burns and skin irritations. Is it safe and helpful to use internally for IBS?
Not Likely. Aloe vera is classified by the FDA as a Class 1 harsh stimulant laxative.
The anthroquinones and anthrones in aloe cause faster and stronger bowel contractions.
With IBS, this can mean violent abdominal cramps, painful spasms, and diarrhea.
Clinical studies on IBS patients are unable to show that aloe vera is superior to a placebo.
Aloe vera taken internally also has serious safety concerns.
Aloe is an anthranoid laxative (as are senna and cascara). All anthranoid laxatives can cause melanosis coli, cathartic colon, and possibly increase the risk of colon cancer.
Genotoxicity studies show that aloe-containing laxatives pose cancer risks to humans even when used as directed.
Chronic use of aloe internally can lead to serious medical consequences such as fluid and electrolyte imbalance, steatorrhea, gastroenteropathy, osteomalacia, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
When aloe is discontinued, radiographic and functional changes in the colon may only partially return to normal because of permanent drug-induced neuromuscular damage to the colon.
Aloe may be "natural" but that doesn't mean it's safe or helpful for IBS.
If you've been relying on aloe, senna, or cascara as laxatives and need to wean your bowel off of them, follow the guidelines for Getting of Laxatives (yes, you can!)
It's possible to find aloe (but not senna or cascara) from which the anthraquinones have been removed. The label should state this, or that "diarrhea-causing ingredients", "harsh latex chemicals", or "aloin and aloe emodin" have been removed. If you still want to take aloe internally, please contact the manufacturer about the anthraquinones.
Tip Takeaway: Aloe may be great for external use, but I wouldn't use it internally for IBS. The potential risks are just too high, and there are no established benefits for IBS symptoms.