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Does Aloe Vera Really Work? [ Breaking the Myths ]

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What is Aloe Vera?

Is Aloe Vera juice good for you?

What are the benefits of Aloe Vera gel?

Should you use Aloe Vera?

Aloe Vera has become a popular ingredient for both skincare and holistic health support. In the store, you can find this plant in two common forms: Gel and Juice. But what is the difference between them and how those can be used?

This article will look at the evidence-based properties of Aloe Vera and its health and beauty related potential! And it will answer one key question: Is the hype around this plant worth it?

If you are already curious, continue reading!

What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe Vera is a succulent plant, or said in another way, it retains high volumes of water. It grows mainly in a tropical climate and it’s primarily used in the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries because of its potential medicinal properties (we will see about that). [1]

The pant looks like a cactus, but it has long, thick leaves without thorns. From the outside, the leaves are green, but in the center you can find the water-rich, gel-like, transparent substance that is used for the preparation of Aloe Vera based products.

If you have decided to use natural Aloe Vera, you can find it in two versions: juice (latex) or gel. Both of those forms you can make at home from the leaves of the plant (juice is extracted from the whole leaf and gel is extracted from the flesh), or directly buy at the store.

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Is Aloe Vera juice good for you?

Even though Aloe Vera is considered to be a plant with strong medicinal properties, there is no strong scientific evidence to support all the popular benefits that are associated with consumption of Aloe Vera juice. [2]

For example, some of the most common beliefs about the health-promoting properties of this plant relate to increased metabolic rate, supported immune system, digestive health, and cancer prevention.

Various studies have looked into the internal effects of Aloe Vera consumption but there was only weak evidence in terms of [3] :

  • Lowering blood sugar
  • Prevention of type 2 diabetes
  • Antioxidant effect
  • Immune response stimulation
  • IBD

In fact, studies suggest that the only potential health effect of this plant might be related to its laxative effect (due to the so called “latex” substance that is extracted from the leaf) [4]

Nonetheless, the consumption of non-decolorized Aloe Vera juice may be associated with various adverse effects [5] :

  • Cramping and diarrhea
  • Depletion of potassium
  • Cancer development
  • Reduced absorption of medicines and supplements
  • Lowered blood sugar levels

When the juice is decolorized the above-mentioned effects may not be relevant. This is because in the decolorization process the latex is removed from the Aloe Vera leaf.

For that reason, if you decide to start drinking Aloe Vera juice, it’s important to buy a certified product, which complies with the FDA guidelines. This way, you may prevent the adverse effects of homemade Aloe Vera juice (which you cannot decolorize). [6]

What are the benefits of Aloe Vera gel?

Aloe Vera gel is mainly used for topical (external) application and is not consumed internally. For that reason, this gel is widely used in skincare, hair care, and cosmetics. But what are its effects?

According to various evidence pieces, topical application of Aloe Vera gel on skin can be associated with various benefits [7] [8] :

  • Sunburn relief: reduced inflammation and stimulated healing process
  • Retain skin moisture
  • Ulcers prevention
  • Boost wound and eczema healing process (when used together with other therapeutic methods)

Another interesting skin benefit of Aloe Vera comes from the so called “aloe sterol”, which is a compound extracted from Aloe Vera gel. Evidence suggests that when taken orally, this supplement can be positively associated with [9] :

  • Reduced wrinkles
  • Improved collagen and hyaluronic acid production
  • Improved skin elasticity
  • Improved hydration

On the other hand, Aloe Vera gel can act as an allergen to specific individuals, and may cause contact dermatitis symptoms. In such case, it’s important to stop the application of the gel. [10]

Learn how to improve the symptoms of skin allergies and contact dermatitis!

You can actually make Aloe Vera  gel at home:  

Take an Aloe Vera leaf and let it sit in water for 30 minutes. Wash it well and peel it. Take only the inner (transparent) part of the leaf. Put it in a container and whisk it with a fork, or put in in a kitchen blender and blend it well until the gel becomes homogenous. If you want to extend the “shelf life” of your gel, you may add 1 capsule (or a few drops) of Vitamin E.

If you want to buy Aloe Vera gel, keep in mind that the pure gel is NOT green, but transparent. Many brands put color additives to deceive their customers. Also, search for a product, which does not contain benzoic acid (or other strong preservatives), because they may cause further allergies and irritations.

Keep in mind that specialists recommend to use pure Aloe Vera gel only in combination with other cosmetic ingredients or products. This way you will reduce the risk of developing sensitivity to this plant.

Should you use Aloe Vera?

Aloe Vera is not necessarily beneficial to every individual. In that sense, the NCCIH suggest that the following groups of people should avoid the usage of Aloe Vera topically and orally [10] :

  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You take any diuretics, corticosteroids or any other medication of this type. Ask your doctors for advice.
  • You suffer from liver inflammations or other liver issues.
  • You have very sensitive skin. Aloe Vera may cause irritation or allergic reaction to very reactive skin types. To identify if you are allergic to Aloe, make a patch test on your wrist.

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