Aloe vera is a succulent cactus plant species of the genus aloe, belonging to the family Liliaceae. It is widely known as “the Miracle plant” for its various medical, cosmetic and nutraceutical purposes. Aloe vera gel is a slick substance that is extracted from the interior of the aloe vera leaf, while latex refers to the yellow part which lies beneath the leaf skin. It grows in wild tropical climates around the world and it is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal use.
Aloe vera is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves.
It is widely used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries, and has an estimated annual market value of $13bn globally. It is well recognised by its thick, pointed and fleshy green leaves, which can grow to about 12-19 inches (30-50 cm) in length.
Each leaf is full of a slimy tissue that stores water, which makes the leaves thick. This slimy, water-filled tissue is the “gel” we associate with aloe vera products.
The gel contains most of the bioactive compounds in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.
Bottom line: Aloe vera is a popular medicinal plant that is used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. Its leaves are full of a gel-like substance that contains numerous beneficial compounds.
It is a good product for external use. If consumed orally over a long time, it has far-reaching medical consequences.
Benefits of external use of aloe vera
Applying aloe vera gel is considered safe. It has been employed for use on the skin because of its healing properties.
It can be used on burns, skin abrasions, psoriasis and bug bites. Medical attention should be sought for severe burns, wounds, or frostbite. It can also be used in Human Papiloma Virus infection and for wound healing in people who are not allergic or sensitive to aloe.
The plant as analgesic for wound pains; it prevents itching and serves as astringents-causes contraction of body tissues.
Its higher water content makes it a good moisturiser for the skin.
Skin elasticity is increased via its ability to cause collagen and elastin repair.
It acts as an emollient which helps to soften and sooth the skin.
However, there are some benefits to ingestion of aloe vera and manufacturers now make oral products such as juice and all sorts of liquid vitamins, energy boost drinks, and other health supplements.
Aloe vera juice side effects
Consuming unprocessed juice extracted from the latex can cause several side effects leading to major health risks. Some of the side effects of aloe vera juice are:
Its juice contains a substance called anthraquinone, which is a laxative that can cause diarrhoea if taken in large amounts. Severe diarrhoea can cause pain, cramps and dehydration.
Consult your doctor before consuming aloe vera juice, especially if you are undergoing medical treatment or taking prescribed drugs. The juice may cause adverse reactions when consumed alongside a few medicines. The laxative in aloe vera may even inhibit the absorption of some drugs in the body. Aloe vera juice also reacts to herbs like jalap roots, castor oil, rhubarb root and bark root, causing dehydration and diarrhoea. Fenugreek and garlic do not digest well with aloe juice; it can lower blood sugar and potassium levels in the body.
Drinking aloe vera juice can result in allergic reactions, such as skin rash or hives, itchy or swollen skin, difficulty in breathing, chest pain and throat irritation
Aloe vera juice contains latex, an ingredient which has many health risks associated with it. It can aggravate health problems like colitis, Crohn’s disease, appendicitis, diverticulosis, intestinal obstruction, hemorrhoid, stomach pains and ulcers. There are also reports which suggest of hepatitis caused by consumption of aloe vera juice, becoming a cause of concern for people with liver problems.
Pregnant and lactating women are strictly forbidden from consuming aloe vera juice, due to its purgative and irritant qualities. It may stimulate uterine contractions in pregnant women, leading to miscarriage and birth defects. Lactating women should also refrain from consuming the juice, as it contains anthraquinone which may lead to diarrhoea. It is also considered unsafe for children below 12 years of age.
Drinking aloe vera juice side effects are most commonly experienced by people who consume excessive amounts, exceeding the recommended dosage.
When taken internally, it may cause some unwanted health issues. The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that side effects can range from mild issues, such as diarrhoea and stomach cramps, to more severe problems that include low-blood sugar and possible hepatitis. The National Toxicology Programme reports that aloe vera consumption produced cancer in rat models, although no such studies to that effect have been performed on humans. The United States National Library of Medicine reports that taking internal aloe vera may lead to liver injury, often between three and 24 weeks after consumption.
As a part of the Food and Drug Administration over-the-counter drug product review, a final rule was issued suggesting that the stimulant laxative ingredient of aloe (including aloe extract and aloe flower extract) in OTC products generally lack safety and effectiveness or may be misbranded.