Visitors to RefluxMD are often searching for new natural home remedies for acid reflux to help their heartburn symptoms – what they can try, what works, what’s safe. Several readers have written to ask about aloe vera (or aloe juice) as one of the home remedies for acid reflux symptoms, so we decided to learn more.
Have you ever used aloe to soothe a cut or burn? For many, the green gel of the aloe plant is the go-to remedy to cool a sunburn or other minor burns. They believe that aloe can have that same soothing effect on the digestive tract and help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. Some swear by aloe, and consider it one of the best natural remedies for acid reflux.
What is aloe?
Aloe, or aloe vera, is a succulent plant used for a variety of cosmetic or medicinal purposes. While some believe aloe has healing properties, there is little scientific evidence to support its use as a medicine. The aloe plant produces two substances that can be used for medicines – gel and latex.
Aloe gel is most often used topically to relieve skin conditions like burns, cold sores, and wounds. While some studies have suggested the chemicals in aloe can speed the healing process by increasing circulation and killing bacteria, the evidence is contradictory and other studies seem to show aloe can actually slow the healing process.
Aloe gel is also taken by mouth for a variety of conditions like diabetes (to lower blood sugar), high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and GERD. But, again, there isn’t sufficient evidence to determine if aloe effectively treats those conditions.
Learn more: Why do I have Heartburn? The role of the LES
Aloe latex is often taken by mouth to relieve constipation. In fact, it was a popular ingredient in over the counter remedies for constipation until the FDA mandated its removal after concerns about safety. According to MedlinePlus, taking aloe latex by mouth is “likely unsafe” because there is concern that the chemicals in the latex may cause cancer and lead to kidney damage. According to the International Aloe Science Council, however, that applies only to unpurified whole leaf aloe vera products. Products that have been purified by a process called decolorization appear to have no known carcinogenic concerns and are considered safe.
Aloe vera: one of many natural home remedies for acid reflux
You can find aloe as a living plant or as a juice in health food stores. Because aloe latex is a powerful laxative and can cause diarrhea, the safest way to take aloe is to buy an aloe juice specifically prepared for internal use. Look for purified (or decolorized) products since the purification process removes the parts of the aloe that can irritate the digestive system.
To use aloe juice as a remedy for acid reflux, try drinking 2-3 ounces when you have symptoms or drink it about 20 minutes before meals to prevent symptoms. Aloe juice can also be used as a thickener in recipes.
The most common side effect when taking aloe by mouth is diarrhea so add aloe to your diet slowly to prevent this symptom. Start with one ounce a day and increase as needed.
Use with caution!
Be cautious if you’re thinking about trying this home remedy. MedlinePlus categorizes aloe gel by mouth as “possibly safe” and offers the following cautions:
- Do not take aloe by mouth if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar regularly if you take aloe by mouth, as it may lower blood sugar. Aloe in combination with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low.
- Do not take aloe latex (including any product made from whole aloe leaves) by mouth if you have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or hemorrhoids.
- Stop taking aloe two weeks before a scheduled surgery because aloe may decrease the clotting of blood.
- Because aloe latex is a laxative, it can reduce the effectiveness of other medications you may be taking.
- Aloe can interact with certain medications. DO NOT TAKE ALOE LATEX IF YOU ARE TAKING DIGOXIN (LANOXIN). See MedlinePlus for a complete list of interactions.
Remember, just because many natural home remedies for acid reflux are called “natural” doesn’t mean they are safe! Taking aloe by mouth comes with the risk of side effects and drug interactions. If you decide to try it, be sure to talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you.