AIM: To perform a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the efficacy and safety of oral aloe vera gel for the treatment of mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis.
The herbal preparation, aloe vera, has been claimed to have anti-inflammatory effects and, despite a lack of evidence of its therapeutic efficacy, is widely used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Forty-four evaluable hospital out-patients were randomly given oral aloe vera gel or placebo, 100 mL twice daily for 4 weeks, in a 2 : 1 ratio. The primary outcome measures were clinical remission (Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index </= 2), sigmoidoscopic remission (Baron score </= 1) and histological remission (Saverymuttu score </= 1). Secondary outcome measures included changes in the Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index (improvement was defined as a decrease of >/= 3 points; response was defined as remission or improvement), Baron score, histology score, haemoglobin, platelet count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein and albumin.
Clinical remission, improvement and response occurred in nine (30%), 11 (37%) and 14 (47%), respectively, of 30 patients given aloe vera, compared with one (7%) [P = 0.09; odds ratio, 5.6 (0.6-49)], one (7%) [P = 0.06; odds ratio, 7.5 (0.9-66)] and two (14%) [P < 0.05; odds ratio, 5.3 (1.0-27)], respectively, of 14 patients taking placebo. The Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index and histological scores decreased significantly during treatment with aloe vera (P = 0.01 and P = 0.03, respectively), but not with placebo. Sigmoidoscopic scores and laboratory variables showed no significant differences between aloe vera and placebo. Adverse events were minor and similar in both groups of patients.
Oral aloe vera taken for 4 weeks produced a clinical response more often than placebo; it also reduced the histological disease activity and appeared to be safe. Further evaluation of the therapeutic potential of aloe vera gel in inflammatory bowel disease is needed.