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There are some lively and interesting comments here, and I thought I'd weigh in as a formulator of herbal products and the author of one book about aloe vera. I've been using for longer than I really want to admit, over 50 years.

Aloe vera is great for what it does, but, yes, it is possible to be allergic to it. Allergies to aloe vera typicall occurr when it's used "as is," that is, you take a leaf of aloe vera and press the sap directly on your skin. It's more unusual, although it's not unheard of, to get an allergic reaction to a packaged aloe vera gel or aloe vera juice. When aloe vera does cause allergies, as a couple posters here have pointed out, the reactions tend to be pretty nasty. You aren't likely just to get an itch or a little redness.

You are more likely to break out in hives or the oozy, itchy, painful condition known as contact dermatitis.

What makes aloe vera allergenic for some people and not for others? Well, in at least one case, it was actually the nickel plating on a knife used to cut off the aloe vera leaf that caused the allergy. There are also reasons to believe that if you are allergic to other plants in the lily family, you may be allergic to aloe. But the main reason aloe causes allergies is that it is a selective immune stimulant.

We all know that aloe stops inflammation after minor burns and minor skin infections. That is because it actually makes white blood cells less active. It turns off the production of inflammation-causing compounds by cells.

On the other hand, aloe vera makes the body more responsive to immunoglobulins. These are proteins that float around in the bloodstream and lock onto to germs or occasionally onto healthy tissues if they get the wrong signal. Basically, if you already have certain kinds of allergies (like to nickel plating on a knife, mentioned above), then aloe can make them a lot worse. But this doesn't happen very often.

If you ever have a bad reaction to aloe, you shouldn't use it again. But to keep from having that first bad reaction to aloe:

  • Don't use aloe vera gel on your skin 24/7. Give it a break between bandages.
  • Don't take aloe vera juice more than once a day. Reactions to the juice are very rare, but they can be especially unpleasant. It's naturally laxative--a "bad" reaction to aloe juice is hives.
  • Don't put aloe vera gel on hives.
  • And never combine aloe and onions. If you happen to be "just a little allergic" to onions or garlic and you combine them with aloe (in a compress, or in Indian cuisine), the combination could prove to be just too much.

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