(!) WARNING: ALOE VERA IS NOT RECOMMENDED AS BEVERAGE OR SUPPLEMENT. Aloe Vera is known as a topical substance for sunburn and skin care. It is included in this list of plant foods because it has been widely promoted recently as a health beverage and supplement.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. It originates from the Arabian Peninsula but grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses. The species is also used for decorative purposes and grows successfully indoors as a potted plant. It is widely used for treating sunburns, acne, and dry skin. It has been promoted as an alkaline food choice, liver tonic, remedy for constipation, treatment for dehydration, source of vitamins B, C, E, B12 and folic acid, remedy for heartburn, gastric ulcers, IBS, and ulcerative colitis.
Researchers have concluded that the side effects caused by unpurified aloe vera juice are a result of the presence of anthraquinone, which is considered a laxative. Though anthraquinone is an organic compound naturally found in the leaf of the aloe vera plant, it is considered toxic and should be avoided. Here are some facts to consider:
- One 2013 study found that aloe vera whole-leaf extract increased the risk of colon adenomas (benign) and carcinomas (cancer) in rats.
- Nondecolorized, unpurified aloe vera juice can have unpleasant side effects, including diarrhea and cramping.
- Under the guidelines of California Proposition 65, orally ingested non-decolorized aloe vera leaf extract has been listed by the OEHHA, along with goldenseal, among “chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.”
- Aloe juice has been shown to interact with certain medications. If you are taking any drug that is considered a substrate of Cytochrome P450 3A4 and CYP2D6, do not drink aloe vera juice. Aloe vera juice may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
- Aloe may also add to the effects of sevoflurane, causing excessive bleeding during surgery. If you are taking sevoflurane, check with your doctor before drinking aloe juice.
If, in spite of the risks, you decide to drink aloe vera juice or use it internally in any way, look for the following statements on the label: purified, decolorized, organic, safety tested.