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 vera leaves contain latex. Many people have a latex allergy, which can cause issues like irritation, stomach cramps and low potassium levels.

  • 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.

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