Aloe vera is a traditional herb that has been used in ancient cultures and is used today both topically and orally for various therapeutic purposes.
Aloe vera is one of the herbal remedies used for interstitial cystitis. Today, I wanted to have a closer look at how and why it’s used for IC and, as usual, what evidence we have behind it. Plus, I have a giveaway for you (who doesn’t like free stuff?!) so make sure you read on till the end!
Disclosure: *I was financially compensated for this post. The opinions are completely my own based on my research. I only work with products/companies that I believe are of interest to my readers.*
Aloe Vera’s Therapeutic Properties
The aloe vera plant has many different components that could be valuable for therapeutic purposes.
Its inner gel is the substance most commonly used. It contains mucopolysacchrides, which are essentially a form of carbohydrate that is similar to mucus and can therefore be useful for soothing or protecting tissue. Moreover, it contains beneficial nutrients such as vitamin E and C, carotenoids and flavonoids .
It also contains mannose, a sugar that can attach to certain pathogens (e.g. E. coli) and help carry them out of the body. It also contains glucomannan, which is a type of fermentable fibre that some beneficial bacteria like to eat.
The gel has been used topically for burns, skin conditions, wound healing, gum problems, among others. Orally it has been used for weight loss, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, osteoarthritis and more .
The bitter yellow latex, on the other hand, contains chemicals called anthraquinones. This part has traditionally been used as a laxative for constipation .
Research has suggested that aloe vera may have antimicrobial activity (e.g. against E. Coli), anti-cancer activities, immune modulating activities, antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties . Additionally, there is evidence supporting aloe vera’s use as a skin-protective agent and moisturizer, as well as having the potential to support wound healing .
Aloe Vera for the Bladder
Unfortunately, IC remains a fairly understudied condition and therefore we don’t really have many papers looking at aloe vera for IC specifically.
However, from what we know about aloe we can come to theoretical conclusions about its potential usefulness for the bladder:
One of the characteristics of interstitial cystitis is red and inflamed bladder tissue. Aloe vera may be supportive for the tissue because of its skin-protective and wound-healing activities [3, 4].
Another characteristic of IC can be a disrupted GAG-layer. Mucus-like polysaccharides, like those found in aloe vera, may act as a temporary protective layer .
Aloe vera is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties , so again this could help support the bladder tissue.
We now also know that underlying causes of IC could be microbial imbalances or hidden infections. Again, aloe vera could be useful here because of its antimicrobial properties (including biofilm inhibition) , its mannose content and also fermentable fibre content (food for beneficial bacteria) . For example, aloe has been shown to be effective for IBS , which is also a syndrome with microbial imbalances as a possible root cause.
Unfortunately, this is mostly theoretical. Here is what we have in terms of actual scientific papers:
- One paper from 2002 entitled Complementary and alternative therapies as treatment approaches for interstitial cystitis listed mucopolysaccharides (including aloe vera) as potentially helping to replenish the GAG-layer that is often defective in IC patients .
- A phase I clinical trial of Desert Harvest super-strength aloe vera showed that of 8 patients with IC, 87% experienced relief of at least one symptom and 50% experienced significant relief from all or most symptoms, whilst only one patient showed no response . A retrospective study of 423 patients showed that 43% showed significant relief, 75% showed relief from at least one symptom and 25% saw no difference .
So we do have a foundation for the use of aloe vera for IC, but the outcomes may be individual (as with most remedies).
Side Effects of Aloe Vera
Aloe Latex is a bowel irritant. As such, taking it orally can cause side effects such as stomach pain and cramps.
Long-term high-dose intake of aloe vera latex could lead to more serious side-effects such as kidney problems, muscle weakness, blood in urine and heart disturbances. There are also concerns that the chemicals contained in the latex are carcinogenic. Topically, aloe vera is believed to be safe. 
So as you can see, the latex part (although used therapeutically in some instances) is not so great, so when buying an aloe product it should ideally have that part removed.
Introducing Desert Harvest, plus GIVEAWAY
Desert Harvest is a small company founded in 1993 that specializes in developing and supplying a wide range of nutritional supplements and skincare products made with organic aloe vera.
I was impressed with the reviews of their high-strength aloe vera capsules (both on their website and amazon) and the high-quality ingredients of their skincare products.
For their super-strength aloe vera supplements they’re using cold-processing techniques to retain the nutrients, plus they remove the aloe latex (the part that can cause adverse effects) .
They have conducted a survey of 614 IC sufferers and their experience with the concentrated oral aloe vera – 92% reported that they experienced relief from taking super-strength aloe vera capsules .
Sounds pretty good to me!
As I don’t suffer from symptoms anymore, I can’t try out their products myself. But lucky for you, they have agreed to give 2 people the chance to try their super-strength aloe vera capsules for 3 months for FREE! This is worth $204!
How to Enter
To be eligible to win you must have been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, or have had repeat UTIs but negative results for bacteria on subsequent UTIs. You also need to be someone who has tried other remedies, whether antibiotics or other over-the-counter products, with no long-lasting results and has not tried or is not currently taking Desert Harvest Aloe Vera. The giveaway is open internationally!
What you get: 3 months of Desert Harvest Super-Strength Aloe Capsules (worth $204), their study, survey, and NIH white paper. They only ask in return to provide honest feedback of your experience with the product.
For a chance to win, simply like Bladder Help on Facebook and send me a direct message there with a few sentences on why you’re eligible to win. I will then pick 2 winners on 20/12/2018.
Have you taken aloe vera before? What is your experience? Let me know in the comments!
Pin it for later:
Trc Natural Medicines Database Aloe Vera Professional Monograph 15 Aug 2018 https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=607
Yan Gao, Kit Ieng Kuok, Ying Jin & Ruibing Wang (2018): Biomedical Applications of Aloe vera Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2018.1496320
Desert Harvest Why Desert Harvest Aloe Vera vs. Liquid, Gel & other brands https://www.desertharvest.com/why_desert_harvest.html
- Trc Natural Medicines Database Aloe Vera Professional Monograph 15 Aug 2018 https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=607
- Yan Gao, Kit Ieng Kuok, Ying Jin & Ruibing Wang (2018): Biomedical Applications of Aloe vera Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2018.1496320
- Teplicki E, et al The Effects of Aloe vera on Wound Healing in Cell Proliferation, Migration, and Viability. 2018 Sep;30(9):263-268. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30256753
- Aloe vera in treatment of oral submucous fibrosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30329174
- Whitmore, K. “Complementary and alternative therapies as treatment approaches for interstitial cystitis” Reviews in urology vol. 4 Suppl 1,Suppl 1 (2002): S28-35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476005/
- Saddiq, AA et al Aloe vera extract: A novel antimicrobial and antibiofilm against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2018 Sep;31(5(Supplementary)):2123-2130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30393222
- Hong, Seung Wook et al. “Aloe vera Is Effective and Safe in Short-term Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility vol. 24,4 (2018): 528-535. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175553/
- Czarapata, B. J. (1995, October). Super-strength, freeze-dried Aloe vera capsules in interstitial cystitis, painful bladder syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, and nonbacterial prostatitis: A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial using Desert Harvest Aloe vera at the Urology Wellness Center, Rockville, Maryland. Proceedings of the NIDDK Scientific Symposium, San Diego, California http://www.desertharvest.com/physicians/documents/DH162.pdf
- Desert Harvest Concentrated Oral Aloe Vera for Alleviating IC Symptoms – A White Paper 2016 https://www.ichelp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Desert-Harvest-Survey-Analysis.pdf