The smell of aloe may bring back childhood memories: spending summer days at the pool or beach, soaking up the sun, frolicking with friends. As you play around without a care in the world, your parent or guardian snaps you back into reality in a panic. Why? Because you resemble a cooked lobster and your skin is starting to heat up to the surface of the sun! Time to slather some of that cooling and gooey aloe vera onto that sunburnt skin.
Aloe vera-fied benefits throughout history
Aloe vera juice benefits more than just sunburns. This succulent plant keeps cool by storing water in a gel form — a clear, jelly-like substance found inside the leaf. This waterlogged gel can be taken orally to aid weight loss and diabetes or treat inflammatory diseases. It can also be used topically to ease skin irritations such as sunburn, stings, acne, or dry skin.
For hundreds of years, aloe vera was used as a traditional remedy in many countries, including China, India, South Africa, and Japan. In the western world, it’s one of the few herbal treatments that found its way into everyday health and medicinal products. You can find it in cosmetics and skin products like lotions, soaps, shampoos, sunscreen, perfumes, shaving creams, and much more. The food industry touts its health benefits and includes its health drinks, oral capsules, and gels.
Aloe vera extraction and production
Aloe vera gel is obtained from the lower leaves of the plant by slicing it open. The gel is clear, odorless, and flavorless. The useful parts of aloe are the gel and latex. The gel comes from the cells on the inside of the plant leaves, while the latex is from the cells just beneath the skin of the leaf skin. The aloe latex is known for its powerful laxative properties.
The commercial production of aloe vera usually involves crushing, pressing, and grinding the plant to produce juice. This is followed by filtration to extract the useful properties. Unfortunately, often the refinement process means that the final aloe product contains little to no active beneficial ingredients. Another health concern with processed aloe is what may be added to it (e.g., fillers, additives, sugar, malic acid, maltodextrin, glucose). The International Aloe Science Council has developed a certification program that guarantees the quality and quantity of aloe vera in products. So if you want to enjoy aloe vera juice benefits, look for the council’s seal of approval to make sure you’re selecting a trusted product.
Aloe vera juice benefits
From lotions to juice, aloe vera products claim to hold a host of health benefits. Strong scientific evidence underscores its laxative effects, while credible research shows that using aloe topically may improve the symptoms of genital herpes, psoriasis, and dermatitis. However, other claims such as cancer prevention or weight loss have not yet been substantiated by clinical research.
Aloe aids the following:
- Skin irritation: Relieves the effects of sunburn, itching, general burns, bites or stings, and alleviates symptoms of psoriasis.
- Wound healing: Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Laxative: The latex in aloe helps ease constipation. Be careful not to take too much at once or else you may induce diarrhea.
- Diabetes: Aloe has shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol in those with diabetes.
- Gut health: Aloe can be used to treat disorders such as ulcers and irritable bowel disorder (IBD); however, research into its efficacy is inconsistent.
- Vitamin bioavailability: Aloe vera gel may enhance vitamin C and E absorption.
Aloe vera is teeming with antioxidants and phytonutrients such as carotenoids that lend this plant its medicinal properties. It’s rich in polysaccharides (long carbohydrate chains) that supports digestive wellness. All of these work together to increase the biological benefits of the plant, which is why it’s best to choose natural aloe whenever possible.
Aloe vera side effects
Determining the safety of aloe vera is difficult as there are so many different products and preparations available. According to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (NSRC), topical application of aloe vera gel or extract is safe for mild to moderate skin conditions, burns, wounds, and inflammation.
The NSRC also concluded that consuming aloe vera gel to decrease blood sugar levels and aloe latex as a laxative is safe. However, as with any laxative, prolonged use can be dangerous. Don’t use aloe vera if you have any allergies to the Liliaceae family (garlic, onions, and tulips), are pregnant, have a renal or cardiac disease, low blood sugar, or are taking medication — always check with your physician first.
Best results: Usage and dosage
Limited studies are available regarding dosage so consider the following recommendations a general guideline rather than a strict prescription. As the active component in each product is not clearly defined, the amounts and types are based on those most commonly used in trials or previous medical practice. Aim for natural options of aloe as frequent as possible, such as 100% pure aloe gel.
- Constipation: 100-200 mg of aloe, 50mg aloe extract, or 500mg capsule containing aloe in the evening
- Diabetes or blood sugar: 5-15 ml aloe juice daily
- Burns: Apply gel topically 3-4 times per day on the affected area until it heals
- Rash, itchy skin, wounds: Apply gel topically 2-3 times daily
You had me at “aloe”
Although aloe vera has been used by many cultures for hundreds of years, the scientific jury is still out when it comes to aloe vera juice benefits and side effects. As we touched on earlier, the strongest evidence is the aloe latex’s laxative effects and the topical application of aloe vera gel for skin conditions.
If you want to give aloe a go and reap the aloe vera juice benefits, why not try adding it to one of our delicious and nutritious 8fit smoothies? You can peruse through over 700 recipes in our nutritionist-approved recipe when you sign up for 8fit Pro.