In this article
After a day in the sun, you might reach for a bottle of aloe vera to ease the discomfort of a painful sunburn. But did you know that aloe vera can help manage conditions like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease?
Recent research suggests that aloe vera may also benefit those with a thyroid condition, including hypothyroidism. Keep reading to learn more about aloe vera and its health benefits.
Aloe vera, commonly called aloe, is a cactus-like plant that grows best in hot, dry climates. Aloe leaves have a clear inner gel that is 99% water. The remaining 1% contains many nutritional substances, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. These nutrients are what give aloe its medicinal properties.
The ancient Egyptians first discovered aloe’s health benefits. By the 17th century, aloe was recognized as a medicinal plant and was used to manage many health conditions. Today, it is still used as a medicinal botanical and is included in many products, including topical sprays and gels, face creams, and oral tablets.
Remember that aloe has not been extensively studied in all the medical conditions it claims to help. Some of these claims are based on anecdotal evidence, personal accounts, or tradition. Before starting any aloe supplement, talk with your healthcare provider to ensure it is safe for you.
Although limited, evidence shows that oral formulations of aloe vera may improve thyroid function in those with hypothyroidism. But why is thyroid hormone so important in the first place?
Thyroid hormones are crucial to keeping our body's process regulated and balanced. They help with normal growth and development and regulate your metabolism. Every cell needs thyroid hormone to function correctly. A change in thyroid hormone production can lead to low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) or high levels (hyperthyroidism). Both of these thyroid conditions can greatly impact how your body functions.
Let’s look at the evidence supporting aloe use in those with hypothyroidism.
An anecdotal report discussing a patient with subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH) showed that drinking Aloe Barbadensis miller juice every morning for six months improved their thyroid function. This led to a small clinical study in women with SCH comparing thyroid function in those who drank aloe juice versus those who didn’t. These women were not taking thyroid replacement medications or supplements to manage their SCH.
The results showed that women who didn’t drink aloe vera juice had no improvement in their thyroid function. But, after nine months, nearly 100% of those drinking aloe vera juice achieved normal thyroid hormone levels (euthyroidism).
You should know that SCH is a mild form of hypothyroidism with only a slight elevation in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH signals your thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones. Those with SCH don’t always have hypothyroid symptoms or need treatment with thyroid hormone medications.
This differs from overt hypothyroidism, where TSH levels and thyroid hormones are out of balance. Those with overt hypothyroidism generally have symptoms such as weight gain, constipation, and fatigue. Overt hypothyroidism requires a thyroid hormone replacement drug to resolve the hormone deficiency.
A recent 2022 study suggests that aloe vera can help maintain a steady level of thyroid hormones. One thought is that it does so by increasing thyroid peroxidase (TPO), an enzyme that produces thyroid hormone. This increase in TPO improves thyroid hormone production by lowering the amount of TPO antibodies in the body. TPO antibodies destroy TPO and are common in those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. This study further supports aloe’s benefits in those with hypothyroidism.
Besides potentially helping people with autoimmune thyroid disease and hypothyroidism, aloe vera may also provide the following benefits:
- Anti-aging. Topical aloe can improve your skin's moisture and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It may also help prevent acne.
- Anti-inflammatory. Fatty acids, hormones, and amino acids found in aloe leaves block inflammatory pathways in our bodies. In turn, this decreases your body's inflammatory response.
- Antioxidant. Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants found in the inner gel of aloe leaves. Antioxidants can lower or prevent cell damage caused by oxygen free radicals.
- Immune-modulating. Aloe vera may boost your immune system’s activity and prevent the release of reactive oxygen free radicals. When free radicals build up, they can damage your cells and, in some cases, increase your risk of cancer and other medical conditions.
- Laxative effect. Oral aloe vera can produce a laxative effect. But, the FDA issued a warning in 2002 about the lack of safety and efficacy when used as a laxative.
- Wound healing. Aloe can change the composition of collagen, a substance our bodies produce to help heal wounds. By changing the composition, wounds heal faster and strengthen scar tissue. Aloe also has antiseptic properties, which help prevent infections.
Studies have also reported aloe vera may benefit those with diabetes and heart disease and may prevent certain types of cancers. But, more scientific studies are needed to fully understand all of its health benefits.
Aloe vera’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulating properties may benefit those with autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. While it isn’t clear what causes an autoimmune disorder, there appears to be a link between oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which aloe vera may help.
Even though aloe vera comes from a plant, taking it internally may cause side effects such as:
- Abdominal cramps
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
- Red urine
Topical aloe gels and lotions containing aloe can cause temporary redness, stinging, or burning at the site.
If you're pregnant, avoid taking aloe vera, as there's evidence that it may trigger contractions. For breastfeeding mothers, be aware that aloe does enter the breast milk. Thus, those breastfeeding should avoid taking it.
Both topical and oral formulations of aloe vera can interact with other medications. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting aloe vera to ensure it is safe for you.
Aloe has been used for centuries to manage many medical conditions. At present, however, there is limited but promising research on its benefits. Because of this, working with a thyroid specialist is essential if you want to add aloe vera to your treatment regimen.
At Paloma Health, our thyroid specialists take a personalized, holistic approach to managing hypothyroidism. Set up an appointment with one of them today.
<div id="schedule_snippet_2" class="max-width _700 doctor-ads"><h1 class="heading-2 hero v2 chechkout-right-copy">Dealing with Hypothyroidism? Video chat with a thyroid doctor</h1><h5 class="heading-3 centered left leftyer">Get answers and treatments in minutes without leaving home - anytime. Consult with a U.S. board certified doctor who only treats hypothyroidism via high-quality video. Insurance accepted.</h5><a href="https://app.palomahealth.com/book-appointment/" target="_blank" class="button spacing orange w-button">Schedule</a></div>