Did you know? A study has recently shown that aloe vera can be beneficial for Hashimoto’s – it has been found to reduce thyroid antibodies, as well as improve TSH and free T4 levels.
This was super exciting to me! In the past, I had occasionally used aloe vera for gut healing with great results. I didn’t realize just how impactful it could be for antibodies and thyroid markers until this study came out. Aloe vera has numerous healing benefits when taken both orally and applied topically, and has been an essential healing plant for thousands of years in many cultures. Traditionally, the plant has been used as a great household remedy to treat wounds, soothe itching, and help reduce tissue scarring.
It has also been used for a variety of conditions, including constipation, blood sugar issues, infections, and inflammation.
Since such conditions are often co-occuring in people with autoimmune thyroid disease, aloe vera can be used to help reverse them. I am so excited to share with you just how this plant can benefit those with Hashimoto’s!
In this article, you’ll learn about:
- How aloe vera can help the thyroid
- How aloe vera can improve digestion, stress levels, immune health, and more
- Specific aloe vera supplement recommendations and important precautions
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is one of the oldest mentioned plants known for its medicinal properties. Originating from the Arabian peninsula, this succulent (a member of the lily family) was first recorded to be used by the ancient Egyptians as a treatment for wounds and burns.
Cleopatra was known to use aloe during her skincare sessions! This was likely due to the fact that aloe vera gel (the clear jelly-like substance found in aloe leaves) is almost 99 percent water and can be very hydrating to the skin. In fact, it can be used topically to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Aloe vera is now cultivated in many countries throughout the world.
Today, it is favored as a great houseplant. I often recommend patients to have multiple aloe vera plants in their home or office, as it is not only easy-to-care-for and requires minimal sunlight, but it can also improve and purify air quality by filtering out toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde and benzene. You can read more about this in my article on the formaldehyde and Hashimoto’s connection.
Aside from being a practical plant, aloe vera has been touted as a nutritional powerhouse, as it is packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. The leaf of aloe contains vitamins C, E and A, as well as many essential B vitamins: B12, niacin, B6, folate and biotin. Aloe vera is unique in that it is rich in vitamin B12, which very few plants are. (Typically, this energy-supporting B vitamin is only found in animal products such as fish, meat, eggs, and milk.)
Aloe vera also contains minerals and trace minerals which are vital for thyroid protection and a healthy conversion from T4 to T3 – these include chromium, zinc, selenium, copper, magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium. (Part of the reason why I love aloe vera so much is because its nutritional profile can help address nutrient deficiencies, which are very common in those with Hashimoto’s!)
Another unique feature of aloe vera is that it contains many amino acids, which are essential for the body (meaning our body cannot produce them on its own). One amino acid in aloe vera that I find particularly interesting is tyrosine, which is the precursor amino acid for thyroxine, also known as… thyroid hormone. 🙂
Aloe Vera for Thyroid Health
As I mentioned previously, aloe vera can benefit those with Hashimoto’s and thyroid conditions, in multiple ways.
I was really excited to learn about a new study from Italy, which focused specifically on the benefits of aloe vera in Hashimoto’s. Interestingly, one of the researchers who initiated the study saw that her own Hashimoto’s markers improved after she began drinking aloe vera on a daily basis, to soothe her digestion and use as a laxative for constipation.
The researcher had routine lab work done to track her Hashimoto’s markers every few months. Prior to starting daily aloe vera, her TSH was 5.14 μIU/mL, her free T4 was 8.3 pmol/L, and her TPO antibodies were 1875 IU/mL. Three months after the start of her aloe vera regimen, her TSH dropped to 3.22 μIU/mL, her free T4 improved to 5.22 pmol/L, and her thyroid antibodies dropped to 778 IU/mL. Another six months later, her labs continued to improve even further: her TSH was within optimal range at 1.83 μIU/mL, and her thyroid antibodies dropped again to 24 IU/mL, which is considered “negative” for Hashimoto’s, according to most labs! I love that Root Cause Rebels are everywhere, and that this particular rebel decided to help the Hashimoto’s community through published research based on her own experience — a woman after my own heart. 🙂
The study used 50 mL of Aloe barbadensis miller juice (or ABMJ, which is the botanical name for the aloe vera plant) twice daily, for a period of nine months, in women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and subclinical hypothyroidism. After the nine-month trial, there was a decrease in serum TSH and TPO antibodies (a 54 percent reduction!), as well as an increase in serum free T4, in those who took ABMJ daily. Interestingly, serum free T3 declined by 16 percent after 3 months, with no further decline after another six months.
Interestingly, aloe vera was as effective as selenium, one of the well known and often recommended nutrients for Hashimoto’s. In general, selenium (Selenomethionine at 200 IU a day, for six months), has been shown to reduce TPO antibodies by up to 54 percent and is one of my key go to initial recommendations for Hashimoto’s.
With respect to selenium, I often see that in terms of symptoms, people will see a reduction of anxiety and less hair loss. This particular study didn’t report the symptom benefits that aloe provided, but in clients who have used it, mostly gut related symptoms like constipation and stomach discomfort improved. Nonetheless, based on the success of this recent study, I do believe aloe vera juice may be beneficial for those with Hashimoto’s, and I will be looking out for more research being published on this topic.
The Benefits of Aloe Vera
Not only can aloe vera decrease thyroid antibody levels and affect our thyroid hormone levels positively, it can also benefit multiple factors and conditions that often co-occur with Hashimoto’s. I often say that Hashimoto’s is a combination of food sensitivities, nutrient depletions, an impaired ability to handle stress (including blood sugar imbalances), an impaired ability to handle toxins, gut issues, and infections. Let’s explore how aloe vera can help.
Gut Health and Digestion
Aloe vera has been known to balance the digestive system, as well as reduce inflammation within the colon and small intestine. This is an incredibly helpful mechanism, as Intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut) is one of the three factors that must be present in order for an autoimmune condition to occur. In other words, most people with Hashimoto’s will present will gut issues – and many of us with autoimmune thyroiditis may be able to reverse symptoms and the condition itself, by healing intestinal inflammation and improving their gut health.
One way that aloe vera can help address gut health is by improving one’s digestion. Aloe vera is full of enzymes (alliinase, alkaline phosphatase, amylase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, catalase, cellulase, lipase, and peroxidase). Since many people with Hashimoto’s are deficient in digestive enzymes, aloe vera’s high enzyme content can actually support digestion by breaking down carbohydrates and fats from foods.
Containing 75 active constituents, aloe vera is also abundant in saccharides (sugars). These sugars are an excellent source of fiber and prebiotics (a form of dietary fiber that acts as a fertilizer for probiotics – AKA good gut bacteria), which support the digestive tract in absorbing toxins and excess hormones.
Interestingly, a study completed in 2012 showed the effects of aloe vera juice on the growth of the probiotic, Lactobacilli. The results showed an improvement in the growth of L. Acidophilus, L. Plantarum and L. Casei in the lab. This is helpful because increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in one’s gut can put gut-related symptoms into remission! I particularly like anything that helps with the growth of L. Casei, as this probiotic can help with breaking down casein, a common reactive protein present in dairy that many with Hashimoto’s and autoimmune conditions may find triggering. You can read more about why probiotics are beneficial for Hashimoto’s here.
Aloe vera also can help with acid reflux, which is a common symptom of Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. Aloe vera contains natural alkaline properties which can help balance the pH in the colon. Though many people with Hashimoto’s have a lack of stomach acid that will cause symptoms of acid reflux, those who have an overabundance of stomach acid and are at risk for ulcers may benefit from the alkalizing propertie of aloe. Studies have shown aloe vera to be well tolerated and as effective in reducing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease as common reflux medications such as omeprazole or ranitidine.
Liver Health – Impaired Ability to Handle Toxins
Aloe vera has been shown to protect the liver from oxidative stress-induced damage (that is, damage caused by an imbalance between the production of harmful free radicals, and the body’s ability to counteract them with antioxidants) in animal studies. This may be due to the plant’s high amino acid content. A 2013 animal study that used aloe vera gel daily, for a period of 21 days, found that aloe vera gel helped with normalizing elevated liver enzymes (a marker of liver disease), with markers returning to the normal or near normal range for most.
I have previously discussed how a liver “backlog” can lead to poor detoxification and multiple symptoms, as well as impair the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone present in most thyroid medications to the biologically active T3 hormone.
Stress and Adrenal Support
Aloe vera is an adaptogen, which is a substance that can increase the body’s resilience to different types of stress, including physical and emotional stress. Often, ongoing stress, or even an acutely stressful situation, opens the door to autoimmune disorders. Many of my clients have noticed that their thyroid symptoms began after experiencing a particularly stressful period in their life.
An existing or recent diagnosis of Hashimoto’s can further the stress response, leading to a decrease in sleep quality, blood sugar imbalances, and added emotional stress – all of which are factors that can wreak havoc on our adrenals, which help us respond to stress, yet often take the biggest hit when we are overwhelmed. In order to fully heal, we must turn down our stress response (also known as our fight-or-flight response).
For this reason, adaptogens such as aloe, which improve our resilience to stressful situations, are great to add when one’s adrenals are feeling overwhelmed – and addressing adrenal issues can, in turn, help reverse many symptoms of Hashimoto’s! (Read more about adaptogens and adrenal health.)
Blood Sugar Balance
Aloe vera has been used as a remedy for elevated blood sugar levels. In one study, aloe vera was found to improve insulin sensitivity and fasting blood sugar levels in adults, when taken twice daily for 14 days. Not only did fasting blood sugar levels drop, but triglyceride levels (levels of fat in the blood, which are associated with type 2 diabetes) did as well.
This study suggests that aloe vera may help lower blood sugar levels, which are often found to be elevated in those with Hashimoto’s.
Studies have found that aloe vera is antibacterial and can prevent fungus and bacteria from multiplying within the colon.
Many antiseptic agents, such as salicylic acid, sulfur, and phenols, are found in aloe vera. These antiseptic agents target bacteria, mold, viruses and fungus – all of which can be root causes of autoimmunity. Aloe vera’s strong anti-viral properties have made it a particularly great option for various herpes viruses, including the Epstein-Barr virus, which are often triggers of Hashimoto’s.
Additionally, aloe vera contains numerous enzymes. These enzymes can help break up biofilms, which are densely-packed colonies of pathogens that make their eradication difficult, even when using antimicrobial medications or herbs. The polysaccharide content from aloe vera has been shown to break up these biofilms as well as inhibit the binding of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (often found in those with Hashimoto’s) to gastric cells.
While I feel there needs to be more research done on this plant and its biofilm busting power, we do know that several pathogens can be triggering to Hashimoto’s, and often a biofilm agent is necessary, so aloe vera may help in this regard. You can read more about treating underlying infections to reverse Hashimoto’s here. When working with clients, I often see patients thyroid antibodies reduce when we treat underlying infections and pathogens.
The active compounds found in aloe vera have been found to have immune-modulating benefits.
An animal study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics evaluated extracted glycoproteins from aloe and found that it blocked antigen-antibody reactions (including the inhibition of histamine and leukotriene from mast cells), which are reactions that are produced when the immune system encounters foreign substances in the body.
Aloe’s anthraquinone compounds (specifically, aloe-emodin) have also been shown to help inhibit the production of several proinflammatory cytokines (involved in inflammatory reactions) by white blood cells when encountering pathogenic materials.
Polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates made of simple sugars), which make up 55 percent of the aloe vera the plant, are also very beneficial to immune health. The polysaccharides acemannan and glucomannan, which are considered to be the two main active components of the plant, have strong antiviral and antibacterial components, as they stimulate white blood cells (which target infections).
Thus, the use of aloe vera can stimulate the immune system and be supportive to many people who have an underlying virus that is suppressing their immune system (and is at the root of their Hashimoto’s condition).
Oxidative Stress Reduction
One interesting study to note was published in the International Journal of Immunopharmacology in 1990. The study found that constituents found in aloe gel extracts can inhibit the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
ROS can have multiple effects within the body, including oxidative damage to our mitochondria and DNA, as well as opening the gate for autoimmunity. Oxidative stress results when there is an imbalance between ROS and antioxidants, as antioxidants counteract the harmful effects of ROS.
In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, there is often an increased production of free radicals (toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism), which may include ROS. Antioxidant capacity is also significantly lowered when one is in a state of autoimmunity. So, this study suggests that aloe vera may potentially help reduce oxidative stress and improve one’s autoimmune condition.
Read more about the importance of antioxidants in Hashimoto’s here.
Due to the plant’s high polyphenol content, aloe vera is effective at relieving occasional constipation, which is a common symptom of low thyroid function. Aloe vera contains anthraquinones, which are compounds that induce muscle contractions in the large intestine and have a laxative effect. Other plants also contain this organic compound, but aloe vera contains an especially large amount, with over 12 different anthraquinones.
Aloin, a type of anthraquinone derived from the yellow brown sap in the outer leaf (also referred to as aloe latex, or Cape Aloes), increases muscular contractions and motility within the colon, resulting in softer stools. When taking aloe latex as a standalone for constipation relief, it is important to know the side effects and how long one should take this as a supplement. Anthraquinones found in aloe latex increase fluid and electrolyte secretion into the GI tract, resulting in a bowel movement within ten hours. While I don’t recommend using it as a “laxative,” per say, some people do find that it helps with relieving constipation.
Again, since constipation is a common symptom experienced by those with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, aloe vera may help be beneficial for some individuals.
It is also important to find the root cause of less frequent bowel movements, and I encourage you to do so. I’ll be coming out with an article on constipation in the future, but in the meantime, you may wish to consider testing for gut infections like H. pylori, SIBO, and Candida overgrowth, which are often underlying culprits behind constipation.
Supplementing with Aloe
There are various ways one can supplement with aloe, including juice, gel, powder, or capsule form.
In the study, participants drank aloe vera leaf juice, at a dose of 50 mL, two times daily. It should be noted, however, that the juice form will contain the highest levels of anthraquinone compounds that will increase bowel motility and can cause a laxative effect, which can be a concern for some individuals, especially those who already tend to have looser bowels (of note, the Mayo clinic doesn’t recommend using aloe as a laxative).
Aloe can also be taken in powder or capsule form, where the aloe vera gel is rinsed to remove remnants of aloin (the laxative ingredient in the latex). I recommend one capsule per day of Aloe by Rootcology, which is highly concentrated. In fact, it takes 200 pounds of aloe vera gel to make one pound of this nourishing aloe extract! It is also prepared using a low-heat dehydration method with no filtering, which ensures that the plant’s beneficial components (long polysaccharide chains) and its natural makeup, remain intact as much as possible.
It’s important to note that some individuals may be sensitive to anthraquinone compounds, which are present in aloe latex (taken from the outer skin of the plant) and aloe whole leaf extracts. (Rootcology’s Aloe is tested for anthraquinone, and the content is below a detection limit of 0.1 ppm.) Due to its laxative effect, aloe latex may also cause a loss of minerals, such as potassium and sodium.
It is also important to note that one study reported the component aloin (found in aloe vera latex) to have carcinogenic activity. In this study, aloe vera (whole-leaf extract) caused intestinal irritation and acted as a carcinogen within the large intestine of rats. However, the concentration, as well as the strength, was over ten times the amount that someone would take in a daily dose, equaling a very high dose of 14.4 grams. Additionally, this study used whole-leaf extract (which contains the aloe latex from the outer rim, as well as the gel from the inside of the plant), which is different than the aloe vera juice or gel that I recommend.
Aloe vera may also interact with certain medications. For example, it should not be taken in combination with, or alongside, cardiac glycoside drugs, as it can increase potassium depletion and increase the risk of toxicity. Aloe should also not be taken with corticosteroids, including prednisone and prednisolone. There may be other medications that may interact with aloe, so please consult with your practitioner to review your current list of medications, before starting supplementation.
Furthermore, aloe vera is not recommended to be taken orally during pregnancy, as it can potentially act as a uterine stimulant during pregnancy. It also should not be used orally when breastfeeding, as some of the active compounds can be secreted through breast milk.
As always, it is important to consult with a practitioner before starting this, to ensure the dosage and supplement is right for you.
In summary, aloe vera provides a number of essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. For some, the use of aloe vera may be beneficial for digestive symptoms such as reflux, a lack of digestive enzymes, and constipation. It can also support liver and adrenal health, protect the body from infections, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce oxidative stress. If you have Hashimoto’s, aloe vera may be beneficial in eliminating symptoms, and supplementing with Rootcology’s Aloe and/or organic aloe vera juice could be a very helpful addition to your daily routine.
I hope this helps you on your health journey. Let me know if aloe vera has worked for you!
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