Aloe vera is a type of plant native to southern Africa but is now mostly grown indoors all over the world. In fact, you have probably already encountered this thick-leaved, low-maintenance plant sitting on a patio or on a window sill. What you probably didn’t know is that this plant possesses several possible health benefits.
Aloe vera has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and it is still widely used to treat a variety of health conditions. The clear, gel-like pulp that is found inside the leaves is commonly applied to the skin to treat wounds, burns, and infections. The inner lining of the plant is used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions ranging from constipation to kidney stones.
Aloe vera plants are sold in many stores, and its components are included in certain skin lotions, cosmetics, and health foods. There are some studies that suggest that ingesting aloe vera may be able to help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels — but does it really work?
Aloe Vera and Your Lipid Levels
Many studies looking at the effects of aloe vera on lipid levels were also looking at the effects of the plant on glucose levels in people who had type II diabetes. In these studies, people were given an extract of the aloe vera leaf gel in the form of a capsule, ranging between 100 mg and 1000 mg daily. People took the aloe extract dose for a time period of between three weeks and three months.
In some studies, there did not appear to be a significant change in cholesterol or triglyceride levels in anyone taking the aloe vera extract — this included higher and lower doses of the extract. However, a few studies noted that taking aloe vera extract could affect your lipid levels by:
- Decreasing total cholesterol levels by anywhere between 10 percent and 15.5 percent.
- Lowering LDL cholesterol by at least 12 percent.
- Lowering triglyceride levels by anywhere between 25 percent and 31 percent.
Most studies did not see a significant impact on HDL cholesterol levels. However, a couple of studies noted that HDL levels were elevated between 7 percent and 9 percent.
One issue noted in these studies is that the preparation of the aloe vera extract varied widely from study to study. It is not known if the methods used to prepare the aloe vera extract could have had an impact on its ability to lower lipid levels.
How It Lowers Cholesterol and Triglycerides
It is not really known how aloe vera extract lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels in some of these studies. Aloe vera contains phytosterols, which have been shown in other studies to modestly lower LDL cholesterol levels. Another component of aloe vera, glucomannan, is a type of soluble fiber that has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels in some studies.
Should You Use Aloe Vera Extract?
The studies looking at aloe vera’s ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels are mixed. Although there are some studies that suggest that using aloe vera extract may be effective in keeping your lipid levels healthy, there are other studies that state that taking aloe vera for lowering lipids will not work. Therefore, until more studies are able to establish a relationship between aloe vera and lowered lipid levels, you should use more reliable methods to keep your cholesterol and triglycerides within a healthy range.
In these studies, there were not a lot of side effects noted from taking aloe vera extract. The most common side effects experienced were diarrhea and abdominal pain.
If you decide to try aloe vera extract to lower your lipids, you should speak with your healthcare provider first. It isn’t completely known if aloe vera can interact with certain medications that you are taking or worsen certain medical conditions you may have. Your healthcare provider can monitor your health while taking this supplement.