Thursday, 30 December 2010

Hello, Vera

Bet you didn't know aloe vera could cure cancer.
Aloe Vera is a natural plant. The form you buy may be nearly 100 per cent natural. This natural compound was used in Egyptian times to fight skin problems and as a cancer treatment particularly for skin cancer, and one of its major benefits is its ability to soothe. It contains at least 6 natural ingredients which act as ´anti-inflammatory agents´, reducing inflammation, one of the important precursors to cancer.
Aloe vera can fight cancer.
What criteria is used for "100% natural"? What devilishe moderne practice has been used to defile the pure aloe vera, so it's not quite there? Never mind.

I wait with bated breath for the stunning evidence of aloe's amazing cancer-fighting properties, but none seem to appear. How strange. Just lots and lots of sciencey-sounding waffle.

It doesn't help, either, when the official Cancer Research site publishes stuff like  this:
Some people claim that aloe vera can balance the immune system, or even treat and cure cancer. Studies have been carried out into this and some laboratory studies and early studies on animals seem to show that extracts from aloe may be helpful in boosting the immune system to attack cancer cells.
It goes on to cite, fairly credulously, a study that claims to show aloe vera shrinking cancer cells:
One study in Italy of 240 patients reported in 2009. It tested aloe vera alongside chemotherapy for people with metastatic lung cancer, bowel cancer, and stomach cancer...
...In this study the cancer was controlled or shrank for a time in 67% of patients who had the combined aloe and chemotherapy treatment and in 50% of patients who had chemotherapy alone. In this study the researchers said that patients taking the aloe vera had a better quality of life and that they had fewer chemotherapy side effects such as numb fingers and fatigue. They also said that there were no ill effects from the aloe vera. More patients who had the aloe vera survived for 3 years than patients who just had chemotherapy.
Now, I'll give Cancer Research its due. It also points out that
Although this research seems positive the researchers said that there are some concerns about the study. The researchers knew which patients were receiving aloe vera and they may have influenced the results.  
Admittedly, they're only showing the criticisms the researchers themselves apparently brought up, and seem to have no thoughts on the study. But they also state:
But there is no evidence that aloe can treat cancer in humans. Some types of aloe can cause severe side effects when used as a cancer treatment and should only be used under medical supervision. It should never be used instead of conventional cancer treatment.
We don't recommend alternative therapies in place of conventional treatment because there is often little (if any) scientific or medical evidence to back up the claims made for these therapies. If you have cancer, using methods such as aloe vera instead of conventional medical treatment can be very harmful to your health.
The trouble is, the damage is already done by the earlier statements that show some lukewarm support for at least the idea of aloe vera as a cure for cancer. You end up with sites like able to spew up garbage like this:
So popular is the idea that Aloe Vera may be able to treat Cancer that Cancer Research UK have devoted an internet page to it in which they generally state that there is no scientific proof but that it can do no halm (sic).
This is dodging the truth by any standards, as Cancer Research make it quite plain that very serious "halm" can come from trying to treat cancer with aloe vera.

I can quite understand that the possibility of aloe vera being a miracle cure for cancer would be of great interest to Cancer Research, for very legitimate and understandable reasons. Hell, I'd probably shout it from the rooftops. But the science shows nothing of the sort. In fact, a literature review from the University of Westminster concluded that
There is no evidence from clinical trials to suggest that topical Aloe vera is effective in preventing or minimising radiation-induced skin reactions in cancer patients.
But this doesn't stop hundreds of altie sites heaving up their unfounded claims for aloe's alleged properties for treating and preventing cancer itself - and of course, selling you their crank remedies.


  1. I came across your blog by accident and to a large extent I agree with it.

    There are however, a couple of points I would like to set right as Aloe Vera is not as black and white as it seems...

    “Some types of aloe can cause severe side effects” is absolutely true in the same way that some types of apple can give you diarrhoea and stomach cramps. But it does not follow that all apples are bad. In a similar vein there are hundreds of types of Aloe Vera and not all are good for you. The one you are looking for is Aloe Barbadensis Miller.

    Literature reviews (you mention one) show inconclusive evidence of whether or not Aloe Vera is effective. This is also true but it does not mean it is or it isn't.

    Winding back the clock … when researchers first started looking at lead in humans (during the 1940s) they experimented by feeding it to people and then measuring lead levels in the patient's urine and faeces. None was found (because the body was absorbing it into the blood) and so it was concluded that lead was safe to eat. When Claire Patterson began his research it showed that lead was actually dangerous when eaten or inhaled. However literature reviews continued to show inconclusive evidence as their was contradictory research.

    We add on top of this the fact that many researchers use different types of Aloe Vera, immature Aloe Vera and oxidised Aloe Vera so it is not surprising that there is so much contradictory research out there.

    So to the core of the issue – can Aloe Vera cure cancer?

    Some claim it has but there is nothing scientifically proven (yet). Perhaps like the lead in our bloods there will be at some time in the future. For the time being Aloe Vera should be treated as a Complementary Medicine. Make your doctor aware that you want to use it and how you want to use it and do not stop your conventional treatment.

    But Aloe Vera does get wilder claims than many other 'alternative' treatments. One reason is that because it is so effective at helping or relieving such a wide range of ailments people start, or want to start, pushing the boundaries every wider. It is not a 'cure-all' but it certainly is a 'cure-alot'!

    From my prospective I believe is clear on all of the above but some of what you use in your blog is taken out of context. I hope this will persuade you that does not “spew up garbage”. The exact reason I am building the site is to sort fact from fiction because I, like you, believe there are two many pages on the web that make outrageous and unfounded claims giving false hope to sufferers – and it is not limited to Aloe Vera and Cancer.

    All the best in your future meanderings!


  2. Hi Mark. Thanks for your comment, and also for not asking me why I worship Satan, as others have done.

    Can't reply to you fully at the moment, but I will try when I get some time.