June 22, 2015

324 Aloe Vera Uses & Safety [22 June 2015]

Aloe vera juice is a popular supplement available at most health food stores (including mine). People drink the juice for a variety of reasons: to improve digestion, relieve constipation, heal stomach and duodenal ulcers, improve diverticulitis, heartburn, IBS and Crohn’s, lower blood sugar, and many others. Aloe was used as a medicinal plant in ancient Egypt, China and India, and is a member of the lily family.

There are two parts of the aloe leaf that are used medicinally: the latex and the inner gel. The latex is a thin layer of yellow sap under the skin which contains aloin, an anthraquinone compound which has a strong laxative effect. Aloin is also believed to be the factor responsible for promoting intestinal tumors in a 2011 two-year rat study by the US National Toxicology Program which added unpurified whole leaf aloe extract to the animals' drinking water. Compounds in the latex are also believed to be hard on the kidneys. Aloe latex should not be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The inner gel is clear and jelly-like. It contains over 200 beneficial compounds including polysaccharides (chains of sugar molecules), antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids and vitamins.

There are three main types of ingestible aloe juice:

1. Whole leaf aloe juice contains elements from both the latex and the inner gel. Most are purified to filter out the aloin content to less than 1ppm. It has superior therapeutic effects but the strongest taste.

2. Inner fillet juice is made from the inner gel only. Juice that has been thickened with carrageenan is sometimes called “Aloe Gel”. This juice has a milder taste.

3. Aloe Distillate uses fractional distillation to remove all the unwanted elements while keeping most of the beneficial compounds. It tastes like spring water.

Two other aloe vera products are available in Canada:

• Topical gels for skin conditions to relieve dryness and promote healing of burns, sunburns, cold sores, and minor wounds. Generally considered safe.

• Laxative capsules containing aloe latex. Use with caution.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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