Aloe Vera is a member of the lily family. It is a succulent plant with short stems and fills its triangular leaves with water and nutrients. Aloe vera has vibrant flowers that bloom in yellow or red colors.
Aloe vera has a long and rich history, with evidence of both internal and external usage by humans dating back at least 3,000 years to ancient Egypt. Indeed, the word Aloe is the Latin form of the Arabic word “Alloeh” meaning “shiny, bitter substance.”
For thousands of years many cultures spanning the globe have found a sundry of uses for the Aloe vera plant, ranging from cosmetic… to medicinal… to nourishment and health maintenance.
Over 400 species of Aloe exist, with Aloe barbadensis miller widely considered the best for topical and internal use by those who have studied Aloe vera. The vast majority of published Aloe vera research has used the Aloe barbadensis miller variety, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the “true Aloe.”
Aloe Vera is indigenous to the regions of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula … even Madagascar. It thrives anywhere in the world where the climate is tropical. In North America, Aloe vera is grown and harvested in Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California as well as in the Caribbean.
There are three distinctive parts of the Aloe vera plant that are used to manufacture a range of products. They are:
Aloe latex or “sap” refers to a yellow gel-like layer, bitter in palate, which resides between the inner and outer parts of the leaf.
The Aloe latex contains a high concentration of anthraquinones such as aloin or emodin, These compounds are undesirable because they have a strong laxative effect and can cause unwanted effects with regular use.
High quality Aloe vera supplements and drinks in the United States do not include the Aloe latex. According to standards set by the independent International Aloe Science Council (IASC), ingestible Aloe vera products should contain less than 10ppm (parts per million) of anthraquinones.
Products with Aloe latex should be used only when prescribed by and under the guidance of medical professionals.
The inner leaf or Aloe gel fillet is estimated to be 99.5% water, with the rest being nutrients or “Aloe solids”.
Typically “Aloe juice” is made from rehydrated Aloe solids from the inner leaf of the plant, also called the gel fillet. The liquid drink may or may not contain pulp. One ounce of 100% Aloe Juice should contain 150mg of Aloe solids (beware of added sugar).
One of the premier methods for dehydrating Aloe gel is the Qmatrix process, which maintains the integrity of Aloe nutrients, color and flavor using a low temperature/short time process.
Aloe solids are made up of over 200 biologically active compounds including many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and plant sterols. Many of these are present in very small quantities, with the major component of Aloe solids being polysaccharides. One of the better known Aloe polysaccharides is acemannan, which is believed to support immune system health.
Aloe polysaccharides are essentially complex carbohydrates – “strings” or “chains” of mannose or glucose “beads” that are not broken down by enzymes during digestion. The Aloe polysaccharide chains range in size from small to large, and the various lengths can offer different beneficial actions in the body.
One method patented by Dr. Ivan E. Danhof and Ramiro Estrada Avalos fortifies the nutritional content of the inner Aloe leaf with certain nutritional components found in the outer leaf (but not the Aloe latex).
Dr. Danhof studied the Aloe plan for over 40 years and was a well regarded expert in the science of Aloe vera. In his extensive work, he was one of the first to pinpoint the nutritional elements that make up Aloe vera.
Aloe is used in various forms in food and beverage, flavorings, cosmetics and skincare, and in several delivery systems for dietary supplements. Common formats for supplements are aloe vera capsules, aloe vera drink mixes, and ready to drink or eat products. For topical use, aloe vera topical gel products are available.
Aloe vera is used topically to soothe and moisturize skin. It is one of the most popular ingredients in skin care products.
Less well known are the potential benefits of taking Aloe vera internally – either through a supplement or by consuming fresh Aloe gel. As mentioned, you should avoid ingesting the Aloe latex part of the plant.
Here’s a summary of some of the ways science found Aloe vera may help you internally:
Aloe vera may help balance stomach acid levels, have a soothing and protective effect on the stomach, and promote better digestion. Aloe vera also may help you better absorb key nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B12. (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)
Aloe vera may help support joint comfort and function by promoting a healthy inflammation response. Compounds naturally found in Aloe vera that help support its anti-inflammatory activity include polysaccharides, salicylate compounds, bradykinase, aloesin and glycoproteins, plant sterols, and magnesium lactate.(14)(15)(16)(17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)
The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) is a non-profit association that was founded in 1980, and is headquartered in the United States (Maryland).
The IASC Certification Program applies strict standards to Aloe growers, Aloe processors, and Aloe manufacturers. Before any company can display the IASC Seal of Certification on its Aloe products, it must pass arduous tests and quality standards that are established and conducted independently by the International Aloe Science Council.
The International Aloe Science Council specifies its requirements and standards for the following areas:
Any Aloe vera products that have the IASC Seal of Approval have been verified to contain real aloe vera in the potency and amount that is on the label of the product.
The Council strongly encourages growers to cultivate their Aloe crops organically according to the USDA organic certification. When purchasing an Aloe product, seek out those made with USDA certified organic Aloe vera.
The IASC recommends a total of 2-8 ounces of Aloe vera (approximately 300mg to 1,200mg of Aloe powder) in a single day.
Aloe vera comes in many different forms (such as liquid, capsules, powder, and gel), and strengths with benefits for a wide array of applications. As with all dietary supplements, it's best to consult with your health care provider to ensure it's suitable for you.
In conclusion, Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and is now widely available in supplement form. As with any supplement, it is important to research and choose a reputable brand that uses high-quality ingredients. While there is still much research to be done on the potential health benefits of Aloe vera supplements, preliminary studies suggest that they may have digestive, joint, and skin health benefits. However, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before adding any new supplement to your routine. Overall, incorporating Aloe vera supplements into a healthy lifestyle may be a beneficial addition for those seeking natural remedies for various health concerns.