Q. Is it dangerous to take aloe for a long time? My 84-year-old mother read about the benefits of aloe for detoxification and thought she should try it. She took it faithfully and over a period of time got a very bad case of diarrhea. She didn’t tell her doctor about this condition until she was hospitalized with dehydration.
Could the aloe have caused the diarrhea? She stopped taking it and the diarrhea stopped.
A. There are two different constituents derived from the Aloe vera plant. One is a gel from the inner tissue of the plant. It is often used topically to ease pain and speed healing from burns. The other is a bitter latex from just beneath the skin. This powerful laxative is probably the main ingredient in the product your mother was taking.
Whenever people use cathartics they risk diarrhea, dehydration and a depletion of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. An older person like your mother could have experienced heart rhythm disturbances as a consequence of electrolyte imbalance. She should avoid aloe and other strong laxatives.
Our Guide to Constipation should help her avoid this problem going forward.