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Aloe vera may cause cancer and here’s what we know so far

Oh Aloe vera! Used by various cultures in the world to treat various forms of ailments and diseases, the aloe vera plant has a long history of healing power. Its ability to heal burns and cuts and soothe pain has been recorded as far back as the 10th century. Legend has it that Cleopatra used Aloe vera to keep her skin supple and soft.  Aloe vera has all along been touted as an excellent treatment for skin conditions such as eczema and burns, and there is little reason not to believe so. As studied by experts, Aloe vera, also known as Aloe barbadensis, is one of approximately 420 species of Aloe plants to have a special polysaccharide that speeds up wound healing. It has other common names like Barbados aloe, Mediterranean aloe, True aloe, and Curaçao aloe.

The whole leaf extract of Aloe vera is commonly referred to as whole leaf Aloe vera juice or Aloe juice.

Researchers and doctors alike, have welcomed the benefits-touting Aloe vera for as long as we know Aloe vera. The following video shows one such example.

From the video: In these patients I saw increased instance of malignancies, autoimmune diseases, and infections because their immune system was knocked out. Not only did their AIDS improve, but also their ulcerative colitis and Krohn’s disease, their lymphoma, their leukemia, their Capuche’s sarcoma, all improved. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to wonder whether a person without AIDS would respond to Aloe Vera. The answer was, yes, they did. That’s why the story continues to grow.

Similarly, Dr. Ian Tizard, a professor of immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University is one of those who has been studying Aloe vera for many years. In a 2002 public release, he claimed that the polysaccharide, the substance that forms along cell walls of the Aloe vera, works differently from its cousins. In his view then, the polysaccharide seems to bind growth factors in wounds whereas normally they would be destroyed. In later years, it has been documented that the Aloe vera polysaccharide do speed along the healing process much quicker.

When Aloe vera is placed on many types of wounds, such as bedsores, it can often heal the wound quickly, and the likely reason why is the special polysaccharide in it.

Proposal to list Aloe vera as cancer causing

Despite all the widely-accepted documented uses for medicinal purposes, the plant the Egyptians called the “plant of immortality”, may no longer be the magic potion most of us know. Last year, Aloe vera became a target by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) where it announced its intent on April to list the leaf extracts of aloe vera as one of the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the Golden State to cause cancer.

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IMAGE: STATE GOVERNMENT OF CALIFORNIA

The chemical the OEHHA is seeking to list as carcinogenic is in the liquid portion of the Aloe vera leaf and it is not to be confused with the Aloe vera gel, aloe vera gel extract, and Aloe vera latex. This marks the first time Aloe vera is known to the state of California to cause cancer when the proposition was listed effective as of December 4, 2015.

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Is Aloe vera really cancer causing?

In a paper released in 2011, a group of researchers at the National Toxicology Program and the National Center for Toxicological Research conducted a chronic 2 year study and found that when rats of both genders were exposed to non-decolorized Aloe vera whole leaf extract in drinking water, they developed an increased number of intestinal tumors. The tumors developed were significant as the morphological and molecular levels were similar to that of the human colorectal cancer.

Now you might be wondering, does this mean Aloe vera is bad for us?

Probably yes, probably no. Here’s why.

The study has only conducted its research on rats and none on humans. Sure, the molecular and morphological pathways might be similar, but the results to date, as far as human beings are concerned, are far from conclusive.

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Growing up, I remember having drinks with juicy bits of Aloe vera in it. I have always enjoyed drinking them and never would have thought those bits of Aloe may someday cause cancer. IMAGE: ADFRASER/FLICKR

I have always heard stories of Aloe vera being used to treat burns in a speedier fashion and it most definitely baffles me to hear that despite the globally and widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, we are now hearing Aloe vera could contain a carcinogenic chemical. I have also used Aloe vera on my skin once or twice in my lifetime on the advice of my parents who suggested that Aloe vera could treat acne. While acne didn’t magically disappear overnight, it most certainly had a cooling effect on the skin, and whether it works or not, I didn’t matter so much to me at all. With that said though, I’ll be keeping a look out for the research on Aloe vera so remember to check back at BotanyFever.com for future updates!