Most of us (myself included) when we think of aloe vera, we think of this cooling clear gel that we slather on our hot skin after we’ve been sun-kissed to cool off our burns, or that ingredient used in commercial body lotions. The aloe vera plant is a super-hydrating ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties, but also; it has many other health boosting properties, and that is why some people drink aloe vera juice.
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe is a cactus-like plant that grows in hot conditions. If you’re looking to grow your own, the good news is that they’re easy to take care of as long as there’s ample sunlight and it’s kept dry. You can often find aloe as a gel form, which is a clear gel that typically comes from the inner part of the long aloe leaf. There is also a latex portion of the aloe plant, which comes from right under the leaf’s skin and it’s more yellow in color.
Nutrients in Aloe?
Aloe vera contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A (beta-carotene), C, E, folic acid, and choline along with antioxidants. It also contains minerals like calcium, chromium, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc to support your body’s everyday metabolic functions. Enzymes like alkaline phosphatase, amylase, catalase, peroxidase, and more in aloe help you break down sugars and fats. As a matter of fact, Aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents; there is a laxative effect of aloe vera comes from phenolic compounds known as Anthraquinones. It increases intestinal water content, stimulates mucus secretion, sometimes it is taken orally for constipation. Moreover, aloe contains seven of the eight essential amino acids needed to help your body maintain its tissue and cell health!
Aloe vera on its own can taste a little bitter, so many brands will add flavor or sweeteners to the bottle. Take a look at the bottle’s ingredients list to make sure it’s not packed with loads of added sugars.
Potential Health Benefits of Aloe Vera:
1 || Soothing Skin Conditions with Aloe Vera
Some people swear by aloe to calm a sunburn. You might have experienced the gel’s cooling effect yourself. Aloe gel may help expedite the healing process of burns or cuts on the skin. Also, Some people use aloe vera gel for skin conditions like psoriasis or cold sores, it’s likely the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of the aloe that contribute to these advantages.
2 || Disease Prevention from Aloe Vera
In addition to soothing sunburn, studies show that aloe vera may have additional benefits including anti-cancer and anti-diabetic effects, an antioxidant boost (to help neutralize free radicals), anti-microbial, anti- fungal, anti-allergic properties, and it may act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Some studies also showed aloe may be particularly helpful with diabetes, as it can potentially help control and lower blood glucose levels, keeping blood sugar in check. This is also a potential side effect though for those who need to monitor their blood sugars closely since preliminary research has shown aloe can lower blood sugar.
3 || Alleviating Digestive Problems with Aloe Vera
When ingested, aloe can also help with digestion problems, particularly gastro-esophageal reflux disease (or GERD). Although the latex portion has also been used as a laxative (and in many laxative medicines) to help relieve constipation, this isn’t recommended and is potentially unsafe due to the unmeasurable amount if latex in the plant.
4 || Alkalinity
A body with an acidic pH is a breeding ground for disease. It’s an atmosphere where illness thrives. Help keep your body balanced by eating and drinking alkaline foods and beverages such as aloe vera juice. Other smart alkaline food choices include leafy greens, root vegetables, citrus, raw nuts and seeds and coconut vinegar.
The Side Effects of Aloe Vera
The biggest thing you’ll want to look out for when eating aloe vera or putting it your next smoothie is the latex portion of the plant (again, that yellowish substance right below the surface), but this can also cause serious stomach cramping and pain in some people. I recommend other ways to improve digestion or relieve constipation such as making sure your diet is rich in fiber, you’re hydrated, and your diet contains plenty of minerals like magnesium.
If you have Crohn’s disease, colitis, or hemorrhoids you shouldn’t consume aloe vera. It can cause severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. You should stop taking aloe vera if you’re taking other medications. It may decrease your body’s ability to absorb the drugs. Also, consuming aloe latex might make kidney disorders worse, since some studies show this has been linked to renal failure.
You’ll find aloe juice and gels at many health foods stores or you can order them online. Look for labels that say 100% aloe, and for juice, you can often decide if you want the pulp in or not (just like orange juice). You can easily just sip on the juice, or you can use the gel portion only in addition to smoothies and smoothie bowls. As for the gel, you can put it directly on the skin, letting it cool sunburn or help alleviate dry patches. I personally use it on my face to remove make up, I mix it with high quality organic oil and keep it in a jar, and wipe my face with a cotton and then rinse my face!
Zein Nimri is an AFPA certified sports nutritionist, NESTA kids nutritionist, long distance runner, cyclist and traveller with big dreams. Follow her on Instagram @Zeinutritionist she is currently an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach.