Uses for Aloe Vera
There are hundreds of aloe plants, but aloe vera is unique in its ability to help you inside and out. Aloe vera is the only edible form of aloe. The aloe vera plant is native to the Arabian peninsula, but it grows throughout the world. This shrubby, pointy plant has been cultivated for its soothing gel for thousands of years.
Aloe vera gel isn’t just good for skin issues. It can be blended with water to create aloe vera juice, which is full of nutrients.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is gel from the leaves of aloe plants. People have used it for thousands of years for healing and softening the skin. Aloe has also long been a folk treatment for many maladies, including constipation and skin disorders. Modern-day research into aloe vera's benefits is mixed, with some evidence showing it can cause cancer in lab animals.
There are no foods that contain aloe vera, so it must be taken in supplement or gel form.
Some forms of aloe vera are safer to take than others, and chronic use is discouraged.
Aloe Vera Benefits
The nutrients found in aloe vera juice can provide some health benefits. Beta-carotene is a yellow-red pigment that's found in aloe vera plants. It acts as an antioxidant that can help support eye health, including retinal and corneal function.
Relieves heartburn. Heartburn is a painful condition that involves acid leaving the stomach and traveling up the esophagus. A recent study has shown that aloe vera juice can reduce the symptoms of heartburn without any uncomfortable side effects.
Treats constipation. Aloe vera juice contains several compounds known to act as laxatives. While drinking aloe vera juice is unlikely to cause digestive issues in people with normal bowel movements, it has shown promise as a way to relieve constipation.
May improve IBS symptoms. Aloe vera juice may be a potential treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This condition involves the inflammation of the intestine, leading to pain and other issues. Aloe has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In one trial, people with IBS who drank aloe vera juice said some of their symptoms improved. However, scientists need to do more research.
Aloe Vera Nutrition
Aloe vera juice is a rich source of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals. This lowers oxidative stress on your body and reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Aloe vera juice is also an excellent source of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
Nutrients per serving
One 8-ounce serving of pure aloe vera juice includes:
- Calories: 8
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: Less than 1 gram
Aloe vera juice contains high levels of magnesium, which is a vital nutrient for nerve and muscle use. Magnesium helps your body with more than 300 different enzyme reactions, including those that regulate your blood pressure. It also helps regulate heart rhythm.
Aloe Vera Uses
Research backs up the ancient use of topical aloe vera as a skin treatment, at least for specific conditions. Studies have shown that aloe gel might be effective in treating skin conditions including:
There’s also strong evidence that aloe vera juice, which contains latex, taken by mouth is a powerful laxative. In fact, aloe juice was once sold in over-the-counter constipation drugs. But because aloe vera’s safety was not well-established, the FDA ordered in 2002 that over-the-counter laxatives containing aloe vera either be reformulated or removed from store shelves.
Aloe vera gel taken by mouth seems to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It may also help to lower cholesterol. The results of aloe vera studies for other medical conditions have been less clear.
How much aloe vera should you use?
Creams and gels with aloe vera vary in dosage. Some creams for minor burns have just 0.5% aloe vera. Others used for psoriasis may contain as much as 70% aloe vera. As an oral supplement, it has no set dose.
For constipation, some use 100-200 milligrams of aloe vera juice -- or 50 milligrams of aloe vera extract -- daily as needed. For diabetes, 1 tablespoon of the gel has been used daily. High oral doses of aloe vera or aloe vera latex are dangerous. Ask your doctor for advice on how to use aloe vera.
How to Prepare Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe vera juice can be found in supermarkets around the country. It typically comes in bottles, mixed with water to make it less thick.
It’s also possible to make aloe vera juice yourself. Take an aloe vera spike from a plant and trim the pointed edges off of the sides. Then, carefully slice off the skin on the flat side of the leaf and remove the gel from inside. This gel is the edible part of the plant.
Make sure you remove all traces of the skin from the plant. The skin adds a bitter, unpleasant flavor. You can rinse the gel under running water to help remove all traces of it.
Once you have the gel, you can toss it in a blender. Blend until smooth, then add water until it reaches the thickness you like. The result is a fresh, clean-tasting beverage.
Here are some ways to add aloe vera juice to your diet:
- Drink the juice on its own.
- Add aloe vera juice to smoothies.
- Use aloe vera juice in cocktails.
- Mix aloe vera juice into lemonade.
- Use aloe vera juice in gelatin.
Aloe Vera Risks
Talk to your doctor before using it. Researchers warn against the chronic use of aloe vera. But if the aloe vera product is free of aloin -- an extract of the plant that has been found to cause colorectal cancer in rats -- it may be OK as a topical remedy for sunburn. Aloin is found between the outer leaf of the aloe plant and the gel inside.
- Side effects. Topical aloe vera might irritate your skin. Oral aloe vera, which has a laxative effect, can cause cramping and diarrhea. This may cause electrolyte imbalances in the blood of people who ingest aloe vera for more than a few days. It can also stain the colon, making it hard to get a good look at the colon during a colonoscopy. So avoid it for a month before having a colonoscopy. Aloe vera gel, for topical or oral use, should be free of aloin, which can irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
- Risks. Do not apply topical aloe vera to deep cuts or severe burns. People allergic to garlic, onions, or tulips are more likely to be allergic to aloe. High doses of oral aloe vera are dangerous. Don’t take oral aloe vera if you have intestinal problems, heart disease, hemorrhoids, kidney problems, diabetes, or electrolyte imbalances.
- Interactions. If you take any drugs regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using aloe vera supplements. They could interact with medicines and supplements like diabetes drugs, heart drugs, laxatives, steroids, and licorice root. The oral use of aloe vera gel may also block the absorption of medicines taken at the same time.
Given the lack of evidence about its safety, aloe vera supplements should not be used orally by children and by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.