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Gone are the days when aloe vera was just a potted plant sitting on your windowsill, jazzing up your home décor. Conventionally used to soothe the skin of rashes and burns, aloe vera has etched its place for good reason in our daily lives.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant with thick green leaves that grows best in tropical conditions. With little or no effort involved, growing aloe vera is fairly easy as long as you don’t overwater it.
According to Egyptian folklore and stone carvings dating back to 6000 BC, aloe vera was known as the “plant of immortality” and gifted to the Pharaohs.
Keeping in mind all that it offers to benefit the human body, aloe vera is a treasure trove of properties. Aloe has been used for centuries for beauty and health to help treat inflammations, infections, burns, indigestion, and swelling, and the list goes on.
The multiplicity of benefits that aloe vera is associated with makes it an unparalleled home remedy that is trusted to include a range of ailments under its cure umbrella.
Caution: Always consult a doctor before considering aloe vera juice, gel, powder, or supplements as a remedy to treat a condition.
Nutritional Content of Aloe Vera
The markets are brimming with aloe vera products: aloe vera juice, gel, powder, and even supplements.
The slimy translucent gel in the aloe vera leaves is composed of 96% water and provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, 7 key enzymes, and 20 essential amino acids required by the human body. These are reasons enough to make it a “prized possession” of the health and beauty industry.
The presence of an organic phenol known as anthraquinone makes it a natural laxative and helps treat irregular bowel movements. (1)
Nutritional value of aloe juice per 100 grams: (2)
Ways to Consume Aloe Vera
Here are different ways in which you can consume aloe vera to reap the maximum benefits.
1. Eat it raw
You can scoop out the gel from aloe leaves and consume it directly. Alternatively, you can also blend aloe vera gel into your smoothies and juices. The mild flavor and slippery texture of aloe vera can also go well in your homemade salad dressings.
2. Drink it as aloe juice
Aloe vera is loaded with nutrients that are considered anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Drinking the juice of aloe vera alone may be a way to get the benefits of aloe vera easily.
Just cut off the spiked edges and blend the aloe gel and aloe meat with water to prepare the juice of aloe vera. After it’s blended, you can dive into a glass of aloe vera juice.
3. Stir-fry or poach the aloe gel
Stir fry the aloe vera gel sprinkled with turmeric powder and season it with salt and roasted cumin seeds. Use it as a spread in your sandwiches or as a starter in your meals.
Gently steam or poach big pieces of aloe vera gel. The delicate watery texture of the aloe vera leaf causes it to shrivel as it releases water and becomes softer when it is cooked. This preparation can be mixed with other sautéed or steamed vegetables.
Note: Always look for a safely tested organic aloe vera juice labeled as purified, decolorized, and low in anthraquinone to avoid any toxicity.
How Safe Is It to Consume Aloe Vera?
Aside from the topical application of aloe vera, it can also be consumed to tap its inherent benefits on the human body.
The yellow latex below the outer skin contains an anthraquinone, aloin, known for its laxative properties. Aloe vera gel is found in the center when you slice through a leaf. The gel is usually considered the richest part of the aloe vera leaf, but it contains less amount of aloin.
Although the presence of aloin accredits the use of aloe vera to relieve constipation, healthcare professionals have a conflicting outlook on this. Excess intake of aloe latex or its extract can result in serious side effects such as depleted levels of potassium, weakness, stomach cramps, and even diarrhea. (3)
Caution: Consult a doctor if consumption of aloe vera is having adverse effects on your health, such as allergies, increased diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
Benefits of Aloe Vera
Although lacking strong evidence, aloe vera is considered by many to have potential benefits.
1. Improves digestion
The latex of aloe contains aloin, which confers laxative properties that may help bowel regularity according to a study with rats. (4) A 2018 review corroborated the use of aloe vera as a safe and effective measure to treat patients with IBS against a placebo. (5)
2. Soothes the skin
3. Heals wounds
Aloe vera has perhaps been used the most through the ages to heal wounds for sores, including those of burns and sunburns. The application of aloe gel may help accelerate the process of healing.
A study highlighted the effectiveness of aloe vera gel and aloe extract on cell proliferation, differentiation, development, and wound healing of the predominant cells in the epidermis. (10)
4. Relieves heartburn
Aloe vera can help control acid reflux, the primary reason behind heartburn, by reducing the secretion of gastric acid. (6)
5. May lower blood sugar
Preliminary research on diabetic and prediabetic patients suggests aloe vera may help with glycemic control while also lowering blood cholesterol levels. (11)(12) However, more research is needed on aloe vera and its effects on blood sugar.
6. Reduces joint pain
Aloe vera may help reduce the pain and swelling in your joints from arthritic pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Maintains oral hygiene
The antibacterial properties of aloe vera make it a healthy alternative to treat dental and gum infections and injuries.
Soothe your gums by using aloe vera powder to brush your teeth and ward off any infections, mouth ulcers, and even dental plaque. To keep up the health of your gums, gargle your mouth with aloe vera juice before swallowing. (15)
8. Reduces dandruff
Aloe vera has antifungal and moisturizing properties that make it a feasible solution to lessen dandruff. Clinical trials indicate that the regular application of aloe twice daily for 4–6 weeks can minimize dandruff. (16)
Scooping Out the Aloe Vera Gel
- Choose the aloe vera leaves from the produce aisle of a supermarket or your home plant. Look for thick, green leaves.
- Wash the leaves to remove all the dirt and oozed-out gel from the leaves.
- Using a sharp knife, strike off horizontal sections of about 3–4 inches. If you have a small to medium-sized leaf, you may skip this step.
- Cut off the spiky ends from each section.
- Take to the flat side of the aloe leaf and start scraping the greenish peel of the aloe leaf until you see the translucent slimy gel layer.
- Scoop out the gel using a spoon.
Precautions and Side Effects of Consuming Aloe Vera
The imperative to evaluate the side effects of aloe vera is mandatory especially because there is not much scientific evidence to back its use as a treatment.
Moderation and precaution are the keys to reaping the benefits of aloe vera in every sense of the word. In general, speak with your doctor before adding aloe vera to your diet.
- Avoid the use of aloe latex or whole-leaf aloe products if you suffer from a digestive ailment like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis as it can irritate your bowels. (17)
- Consuming aloe juice in hemorrhoid patients can worsen their condition.
- Excessive use of aloe vera juice can cause constipation. (17)
- An inappropriate dosage of aloe vera latex can result in kidney and liver problems. (18)
- The presence of anthraquinone in aloe vera can cause diarrhea in lactating women and children below 12 years of age. (17)
- The purgative and irritant quality of aloe vera can stimulate uterine contractions in pregnant women and lead to miscarriage and even birth defects. (17)
- Drinking aloe vera juice is related to an increased production of adrenaline, which can be harmful to people suffering from heart ailments. (1)
- Intake of unprocessed aloe vera juice is known to cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in the body. It also changes the color of urine to pink or red. (18)(17)
- Aloe latex is not recommended for children and elderly people as it can deplete the potassium levels in the body, particularly the cells of the intestinal lining. This can cause weakness, soft muscles, and irregular heartbeat. (17)
- Aloe vera juice consumption for more than a year can cause pseudomelanosis coli, a likely cause of colorectal cancer. Consuming high doses of aloe vera or other similar laxatives has been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. (19)
- Restrict the use of aloe vera about 2 weeks before surgery as aloe vera can alter the blood sugar levels during or after surgery.
Drug Interactions With Aloe Vera
Consumption of aloe vera can cause serious implications for people taking certain medications. Consult your doctor if you wish to consume aloe vera while being on medication for:
- Diabetes: Aloe vera juice can have interactions with drugs prescribed for diabetes.
- Hypoglycemia: Aloe vera juice is known to bring down the levels of blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: The copious amounts of laxatives in aloe vera juice may further worsen IBS in some people.
- Oral medicines: Aloe vera can interact with oral medicines and affect their efficiency.
- Digoxin (lanolin): Aloe vera juice when consumed with lanolin can enhance its side effects. (17)
- Sevoflurane: Aloe vera juice can prevent blood clotting, and when it interacts with sevoflurane (an anesthetic), it can cause increased bleeding during surgery. (1)
The gel of aloe vera can be used topically as a soothing relaxant, and its juice can be used for multiple purposes due to its nutrient-dense supply of anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
The unprecedented use of aloe vera to address various health issues including rashes, blood sugar, constipation, and dental plaque makes it a top brass of home remedies.
Despite the manifold benefits it offers, you should be vigilant when consuming aloe vera as it is riddled with potential side effects and drug interactions. It is best to consult a doctor before you include aloe vera in your regime, especially if you fall in any of the risk groups or take medications.