Aloe vera: Is it safe for use during pregnancy?
There’s been a lot of talk and speculation recently around whether or not aloe vera is safe for use by pregnant women, with many choosing to forego certain skin care products completely. I must admit, I hadn’t heard this concern before now and it certainly had me intrigued, so I decided to investigate further. Here is what I found.
First of all, let’s take a look at the plant in question. Aloe vera is an evergreen perennial succulent that originates from the Arabian Peninsula and has over 300 species and hybrids. It has long been used as a natural healing remedy for wounds and burns. There is evidence that it was used by the ancient Greeks, Chinese and Egyptians as a laxative. The most widely used Aloe species is Aloe Barbadensis. Aloe grows wild in the tropical and arid regions of Australia and is also cultivated here for medical and agricultural uses.
In addition to soothing burns and healing wounds, aloe has been used to treat acne, psoriasis, sunburn, frostbite, inflammation, osteoarthritis, stretchmarks, and cold sores, as well as being used as an antiseptic and as a moisturiser. You’ve probably used aloe gel on your sunburn at some point and felt it’s soothing, cooling properties. It can also be taken internally, either as a drink or medicinal tincture, or used as an ingredient in foodstuff. Taken internally in small doses, it is touted to lower blood sugar levels and soothe inflammatory conditions such as IBS. It can also be used as a laxative in some whole leaf preparations.
When the leaf is broken open, there are two main components, the gel and the latex (also known as juice, but not to be confused with store bought Aloe Juice which may or may not contain the latex of the plant). The gel is the most commonly utilised substance within the plant and is generally thought to be safe, whereas the latex contains phenolic compounds called anthraquinones, which not only have laxative properties when ingested but may cause health complications (including liver damage) if taken too frequently in too high a dose.
When used in skin care, however, they are not in high enough concentrations to be of negative consequence. In fact, certain anthraquinones can be beneficial to health and contain emollient, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-itching and even anti-tumour properties. They even have the ability to absorb the sun’s rays, giving you a little extra protection against UV. There are a variety of different anthraquinones out there, each with varying properties and implications. Many are used commercially in the manufacture of dyes, in the textile and pulp industries, as a mould resistant and as a bird repellent. Mmmm…dat’s nice!
But back to the plant as a whole. According to the website Firstcry Parenting, “Aloe vera is known to increase the risk of uterine contractions which can be dangerous during pregnancy. Aloe vera juice also affects the blood glucose level by lowering it. This could increase the chances of light-headedness and loss of balance.”
They go on to say, “the aloe latex found in the plant is a powerful laxative and can create an electrolyte imbalance in the intestines. Breastfeeding mothers should also be cautious as these compounds pass through breast milk and may severely upset the baby’s immature digestive system. However, small doses of aloe vera can be safely consumed during pregnancy. Further research is needed to confirm the facts. Therefore, unless your doctor or health care provider recommends drinking aloe vera juice, it is safer to stay away from it.”
In short, don’t drink the stuff if you’re pregnant! The NCIB also advise against it’s use internally when pregnant. But is it safe to absorb small amounts through your skincare?
I was unable to find any scientific evidence that suggests using topical aloe has any potential to cause harmful or negative effects or is unsafe for use during pregnancy. In fact, many parenting websites promote it’s use for combatting pregnancy stretchmarks and belly itch.
My conclusion is that it is definitely best to avoid drinking aloe juice or taking it internally during pregnancy. However, It is deemed as safe to apply it externally. Therefore, I don’t see that using a skin care product containing aloe, whilst pregnant, could be considered unsafe, and can actually be helpful in relieving and soothing the skin. That said, it is always best to check with your doctor first if concerned. Always conduct a patch test when using a new product and discontinue use if any rash or irritation occurs.
Disclaimer: I am not a botanist, health professional or expert on the above subject matter. The article contains my research and opinions and is provided for entertainment purposes only. Always consult with your GP on any medical matter and don’t take health advice from the internet.
About the author: Mary Mildreen, black thumbs, hails from Sydney, Australia and may or may not be using a pseudonym. She is the daughter of Australian author John Kernow, who inspired her love of writing. Mary resides in the tropical far north with her partner and their menagerie of deranged animals. Mary is a vegan and gets plenty of protein.