Medically reviewed by Karina Tolentino, RD, CHWC
aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is a cactus-like plant that grows in subtropical regions of the world, including the southwestern United States. It has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of conditions, including hair loss, minor cuts and burns.
Today, many people drink aloe vera juice to aid digestion, regulate blood sugar, improve oral health, and more. However, research supporting these benefits is limited, and ingesting aloe vera can have some potential side effects.
Rich in Antioxidants
Aloe vera is full of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that the body forms during normal metabolic processes. At high concentrations, they can cause cell damage, leading to the development of cancer and other chronic diseases.
However, more research is needed to determine the antioxidant content of aloe vera juice and whether it may protect against chronic disease.
Good source of vitamin C
One cup of aloe vera juice provides about 10% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that helps the body absorb iron. It also supports the immune system and the production of collagen, a protein vital for wound healing and skin health.
It can help treat gastrointestinal disorders
The outer pulp of aloe leaves, called latex, contains aloin. Aloin is an organic compound which gives the plant laxative properties. It can treat constipation by stimulating bowel movements.
A review of studies found that oral administration of aloe vera can help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including constipation and diarrhea.
Another study showed that consuming aloe vera syrup effectively reduced symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), including heartburn, belching, food regurgitation, and nausea. The effects were similar to those produced by conventional medicine.
Another small study of 44 patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis (UC), a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, found that daily consumption of 200 milliliters of aloe vera gel was more effective than placebo in reduce disease activity.
Although aloe vera has laxative properties, it is important to note that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling in 2002 requiring manufacturers of over-the-counter laxative products to remove aloe as an ingredient due to lack of evidence confirming its safety.
It can help control blood sugar
Aloe vera has been used for years in traditional medicine to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Current research on the plant’s benefits for diabetics is limited but looks promising.
A review of studies highlighted aloe vera’s potential to reduce blood sugar levels, increase insulin levels and improve the health of pancreatic cells, including the cells responsible for producing insulin.
Another study in people with prediabetes found that taking 300 mg of aloe vera extract twice a day for four weeks led to significant improvements in fasting blood sugar.
Many of the studies on aloe vera and blood sugar have been done in rats. There isn’t enough human-based research to confirm whether the same benefit would apply to humans.
May support oral health
Aloe vera has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can potentially benefit oral health. It is sold in several forms for oral use, including toothpaste, mouthwash or gel.
According to a review including six randomized control trials involving 1,358 people, aloe vera mouthwash was as effective as the traditional treatment, chlorhexidine, at reducing gum inflammation. However, it wasn’t as effective at reducing plaque buildup.
Another small study found that aloe vera toothpaste was as effective as traditional fluoride toothpaste at improving periodontal index and gum scores in people with gingivitis.
Aloe vera mouthwash can also reduce the severity of radiation-induced mucositis, a condition that causes swelling and irritation in the mouth.
One study found that aloe vera mouthwash was as effective as benzydamine mouthwash, a common anti-inflammatory agent for managing oral mucositis in patients with head and neck cancer.
Aloe vera juice nutrition
The nutrient content of aloe vera juice can vary depending on the brand. Some products may contain added sugars to enhance flavor or added nutrients to improve their nutritional profile.
However, an 8-ounce (1 cup) serving of plain aloe vera juice typically includes:
- Calories: 37
- Fat: 0 grams (g)
- Protein:0 gr
- Carbohydrates: 9.3 g
- Sugar: 9.3 g
- Fiber: 0 gr
- Sodium: 20 milligrams (mg)
- C vitamin: 9.4 mg or 10% of the DV
Aloe vera juice is a low-calorie drink that can be a hydrating alternative to sugary drinks and fruit juices. It also contains antioxidants, various polysaccharides and small amounts of iron and calcium.
Animal and human studies have shown that the polysaccharide type of carbohydrate in aloe vera can help improve the immune system’s response to disease and illness response.
Risks of aloe vera juice
While topical application of aloe vera is generally considered safe, oral consumption of aloe can cause side effects.
Animal studies have found that consuming aloe vera leaf extract can cause gastrointestinal cancer in rats and mice. This is believed to be due to the aloin compound found in whole leaf aloe vera extract.
The International Aloe Science Council recommends that oral aloe vera products contain less than 10 parts per million (PPM) of aloin. As a result, many commercial aloe vera juice products have been filtered using a process called decolorization to remove or reduce aloin levels.
However, there are no labeling requirements in place that mandate the disclosure of aloin levels in aloe vera juice products. Also, the FDA doesn’t regulate aloe vera juice, so its potency, purity, or safety isn’t guaranteed.
Consuming aloe vera has been linked to the following side effects in human and animal studies:
However, larger human studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Oral consumption of aloe in the form of a gel and latex is not recommended during pregnancy and while breastfeeding as its safety has not been established.
Talk to your doctor to check if it’s safe for your health and determine how much you can safely consume.
Tips for consuming aloe vera juice
If you decide to drink aloe vera juice, here are some useful tips to keep in mind.
- Purchase aloe vera juice from reputable brands
- Look for aloe vera juice that is USDA certified organic and free from additives, preservatives, and added sugars
- Choose aloe vera juice products with less than 10 PPM of aloin
- Start with a small amount to see how your body responds
- Consume aloe vera juice as directed on the product label or as directed by your doctor to avoid potential side effects
- Drink aloe vera juice plain or incorporate it into fruit smoothies for a nutritional boost
- After opening, store aloe vera juice in the refrigerator to maintain its potency and extend its shelf life
A quick review
Aloe vera juice has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that can help improve digestion, support healthy blood sugar levels, and improve oral health. However, some compounds in aloe vera juice, especially aloin, can cause digestive upset and other side effects.
More research in humans is needed to determine the potential benefits and harms associated with consuming aloe vera juice.
Talk to a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns about incorporating aloe vera juice into your diet.
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Read the original article in Salute.
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