Aloe vera is a popular plant known for its healing properties. The gel inside the leaves is widely used for sunburn, minor cuts, and skin irritation. Some people also drink aloe vera juice for its supposed health benefits. But can you safely drink the gel straight from the plant? Let’s take a closer look.
Overview of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that grows in hot, dry climates. It has thick, fleshy leaves that are filled with a clear gel. This gel contains compounds like polysaccharides, vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids.
There are over 500 species of aloe, but Aloe barbadensis miller is the most used for medicinal purposes. The outer rind of the leaves contains a bitter yellow latex that was once used as a laxative. The inner gel, however, contains no latex and is 99% water.
Benefits of Drinking Aloe Vera Gel
Drinking pure aloe gel or juices containing aloe are associated with the following health benefits:
- Hydration due to the high water content
- Potential improvement in digestion and regularity
- May lower blood sugar in diabetics
- Contains antioxidants that support immunity
- Vitamins and minerals provide nutrition
- Anti-inflammatory properties may reduce swelling and irritation
However, more research is still needed to confirm many of aloe’s proposed benefits when consumed.
Risks of Drinking Unprocessed Aloe Vera Gel
There are some risks associated with drinking aloe vera gel straight from the plant leaves:
- Contains latex – Pure aloe gel may contain traces of the bitter yellow latex found in the outer rind. This latex has laxative effects and side effects.
- Unsanitary – The raw gel extracted from leaves may contain dirt or bacteria if not cleaned properly.
- Bitter taste – The gel has a bitter, unpleasant taste due to compounds like aloin.
- Diarrhea – Large amounts may act as a laxative, causing diarrhea.
- Cramping – Some people experience abdominal cramping after ingesting aloe latex.
- Drug interactions – Aloe may strengthen the effects of medication like steroids and diabetes drugs.
For these reasons, most health professionals advise against drinking raw aloe gel, especially in large amounts. The latex content and possible contaminants make it potentially risky.
Safely Drinking Aloe Vera Juice
To enjoy aloe vera drinks more safely, look for prepared juices and beverages:
- Processed – Products made for drinking remove the aloe latex during filtration.
- Diluted – Juices mix and dilute the aloe gel with water and flavorings.
- Pasteurized – Heating the juice kills bacteria for food safety.
- Regulated – Commercial aloe juices must meet safety standards for selling.
Read the label to see if laxative components like aloin are removed. Start with small amounts like 2-4 ounces per day. This allows the body to adjust and reduces possible digestive issues.
Avoid homemade aloe vera juices, especially if raw and unfiltered. Check for added sugars and calories if drinking juice for health rather than as an occasional treat.
How to Make Your Own Aloe Vera Juice
If you do want to make your own aloe vera juice at home, follow these steps:
- Select 3-5 mature, healthy aloe leaves and wash thoroughly.
- Fillet the leaves by cutting off the base and edges. Slice the outer rind off to access the clear inner gel.
- Scoop out the gel and put in a blender. Add 1 cup of water and blend until smooth.
- Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve to remove any solids.
- Flavor with lemon, lime, honey, or other ingredients. Dilute further with water if too strong.
- Store in the refrigerator and drink within 1-2 days.
This basic method yields a lightly processed juice that still contains healthful compounds. But be cautious with drinking large quantities due to the potential laxative effects.
Can You Eat Aloe Vera Gel?
While drinking aloe vera gel may have some benefits, many people wonder if you can simply eat the gel right off the plant. Here’s what you need to know:
- Edible – Aloe gel is edible when properly prepared.
- Bitter taste – The gel has a bitter, unpleasant flavor when raw.
- Safe when cooked – Cooking or processing helps reduce the aloin and other compounds that can cause diarrhea.
- Use sparingly – Eat only a small amount at first to see how your body responds.
- Risks when raw – Eating raw aloe gel may irritate the digestive tract.
Overall, it’s safer to cook aloe vera gel rather than eating it raw. You can blend it into shakes, bake it into breads and cookies, or cook it down into a tangy syrup. This helps reduce the bitter taste and side effects of aloe latex.
Potential Side Effects of Ingesting Aloe
Along with possible digestive issues, here are some other potential side effects of consuming too much aloe vera gel:
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Drug interactions
- Kidney problems
Aloe vera juice may also lower blood sugar, so diabetics should monitor levels closely. Pregnant or nursing women should consult a doctor before use due to lack of safety research.
In rare cases, allergic reactions to aloe vera juice may occur. Discontinue use if any hypersensitivity develops. Conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or hemorrhoids may also worsen with aloe juice intake.
There is no standard recommended dosage for aloe vera gel, juice, or supplements. General guidelines suggest:
- 2-4 ounces of juice up to 3 times per day
- 50 ml taken twice daily for digestive benefits
- 30-50 mg capsules 1-2 times per day
Start with smaller amounts and gradually increase to find the dosage that works for your needs. Pay attention to any digestive discomfort as a sign to reduce intake. Consult your doctor for personalized dosage suggestions.
How to Store Aloe Vera Gel and Juice
For best quality and food safety, store aloe vera gel-based products properly:
- Refrigerate gel filleted from raw leaves and use within 1 week.
- Keep manufactured juices and drinks sealed and refrigerated after opening.
- Avoid freezing as this may degrade nutrients.
- Throw out any spoiled, fermented juice or gel with mold.
- Freeze aloe leaves whole for 3-6 months. Defrost leaves before filleting gel.
The anti-inflammatory enzymes in raw aloe gel break down quickly when exposed to air, light, and heat. Refrigeration helps slow this process to retain more active compounds.
While research on aloe vera taken internally is still developing, populations have used it for centuries as part of traditional medicine. Drinking moderate amounts of properly prepared juice may provide antioxidant, nutrient, and anti-inflammatory effects.
However, ingesting raw, unprocessed gel straight from the leaf is not recommended. The latex content acts as a laxative and may cause digestive upset. Look for certified organic, reliably sourced aloe juice and gel products made for internal use. Start slowly and watch for allergic reactions or side effects.
As more controlled human studies emerge, the health community may gain a clearer picture on aloe vera’s benefits and risks when consumed. But for now, people looking to supplement with aloe should exercise caution and self-monitor for any adverse effects.