Aloe vera is a staple for its topical uses in healing sunburns, dermatitis, and other skin conditions. Recently, though, aloe vera juice has been trending as a healthy beverage with drinkers hoping to glean its nutrients through oral consumption in the same way they do through topical application.
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While there’s an abundance of research supporting aloe vera’s benefits on human skin, the jury’s still out on its status as a health drink. Before you pick up a bottle at your nearest health-food store, read below to learn more about the benefits aloe vera offers and how they may or may not be administered once it’s juiced.
What exactly is aloe vera?
According to research published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, aloe has 420 species, aloe vera being the most biologically active one. The plant has 75 active parts, including vitamins, minerals, saccharides, amino acids, enzymes, and salicylic acids.
One aloe vera leaf contains three layers. The innermost, clear gel layer consists of 99 percent water and 1 percent nutrients. The latex makes up the middle layer. This is the bitter and yellow sap that contains anthraquinones (more on that later). The outermost layer is the green skin of the leaf, also known as the rind. It plays a role in protecting and synthesizing carbs and proteins.
Aloe vera is a plant traditionally found in the drier areas of eastern continents, such as Asia, Africa, and Europe. But, the plant is easy to cultivate and can grow just about anywhere. So, it quickly gained steam in the U.S. for the treatment of dermatitis. Nowadays, you can find it used as a base in many cosmetic products, including moisturizers, sun lotion, shampoos, shaving creams, etc.
Is aloe vera safe to drink?
Experts agree that aloe vera is safe to drink, as long as it’s consumed properly. Melissa Eboli, certified nutritional chef and wellness counselor emphasizes moderation. “Don’t go drinking gallons of aloe vera juice a day. But if you have 8 ounces, or even throw some into a smoothie or a juice, I don’t think it would be too bad for you,” she says.
What are the benefits?
Dr. McCaffrey, D.C., I.H.S., L.D.H.S., and founder of McCaffrey Health Clinic, recommends 200-300 milligrams of aloe vera a day to his patients. He primarily uses aloe vera juice to help patients with gastrointestinal and digestive issues, such as reflux, heartburn, and gastritis. “[When] you swallow food, the mouth, from the opening to the exit, is really not considered inside the body. It’s a tube that runs through the body. That tube is just skin. If it helps the skin on the outside, then you would figure it would help the skin on the inside,” he says. Aloe vera has also been shown to support the growth of flora and good bacteria in your gut, he adds.
According to Eboli, aloe vera juice can actually help boost immunity. “It’s great for alkalizing,” she says, comparing it to the lemon water or apple cider vinegar some drink in the morning for a similar effect. “It helps reset your body from being in an acidic state to an alkalized state. An acidic environment is where you harbor disease, so a more alkalized state means a healthier, stronger immune system.”
Additionally, aloe vera has a wide variety of nutrients and minerals. Nutritionist Anna Brown says that aloe vera is full of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, folic acid, and choline, as well as the minerals calcium, copper, selenium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Aloe vera consists of 99 percent water so it’s pretty hydrating. According to Eboli, this quality may actually help individuals with skin ailments. “Because it has a very high water content, it also helps for somebody with acne or rosacea. It can help to clear skin.”
Are there negative effects of aloe vera juice?
Experts caution consumers to pay close attention to the type of aloe vera juice they buy. “The biggest key is, I think, from a safety standpoint. There is a version of [aloe vera juice] that is colored. It’s almost a raw plant of sorts,” Dr. McCaffrey says. “You want to try to not use that one as much if you can help it because some of the chemicals in it do have side effects in the body.” According to him, the decolorized version of aloe vera juice ensures that a gastrointestinal distress-causing chemical—anthraquinone—is removed, making it a safer option to consume.
Brown also warns against using the juice for its laxative effects in high doses, as it could result in an imbalance of electrolytes. Additionally, all three experts agree that the use of aloe vera juice for pregnant women can be dangerous due to the potential laxative effects.
Is there one form of aloe vera that’s better than the other?
According to Dr. McCaffrey, juices are the preferred form of aloe vera for oral consumption. “I think the juices are better because they’re already predigested. They’re already broken down. With capsules, you need to [digest] the capsules, [then] the powder. The body has to enzymatically activate the plant,” he says.
Eboli agrees, stressing that oftentimes capsules may have hidden ingredients. So, always check the ingredients list before taking aloe vera in capsule form. Brown stresses the same thing, but for aloe vera juice. “When it comes to aloe juice you want to check the label and make sure that it doesn’t have other added sugars,” she says.
Overall, despite the lack of research, experts have a consensus that aloe vera juice is safe for consumption. That is, as long as you use it properly and in moderation.