It's aloe season, y'all, which means many of us are cutting our aloe plants to eek out a few drops to soothe our sunburn, or running to the drugstore to buy another bottle that will sit in our cabinet until winter. In your hunt for aloe vera, you may have also come across aloe vera drinks that claim they'll keep you hydrated, clear up your skin, help your liver function, and so on. Aloe is powerful stuff, and it might work great for healing burns — but there are a few things you should know before you start ingesting it, too.
For starters, what even is aloe vera juice? Most aloe vera drinks you'll come across at health food stores are made by crushing or pressing the leaf of an aloe vera plant until it turns into a liquid, which is then filtered and mixed with water to make it more drinkable. Some companies also add vitamins and flavouring to the aloe vera juice before it's bottled up and sold.
While some people drink aloe vera simply for the taste and perceived health perks, aloe vera juice is also often consumed as a laxative to "cleanse the digestive system," according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The outer leaf of an aloe plant contains a compound called aloin, which gives it its laxative qualities. It's tough to say how much aloin ends up in aloe juice that's sold, and companies aren't required to list it on labels. But according to the NIEHS, a tiny amount could especially if there are "semi-solid" aloe parts inside of the juice. Besides the fact that drinking aloe juice can cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, it has been linked to intestinal tumours in mice.
This all makes aloe juice sound kind of scary, but a review of recent studies suggests that it could be helpful for people with pre-diabetes because it lowers blood glucose levels. But for people with diabetes who take glucose-lowering medication, this is not a good thing, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Basically, there really hasn't been enough research to definitively say that aloe juice is good for your health.
Give all this, why are people still drinking aloe juice? Well, it often comes packaged in a colourful bottle, and it certainly looks like it would quench your thirst. But in terms of nutritional content, the amount of nutrients and vitamins that make it into aloe juice are also negligible. And considering the fact that it's basically a laxative, it's probably not going to hydrate you.
TL;DR Aloe juice is not a miracle elixir, because nothing is, and drinking it could be somewhat dangerous or at least lead to uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. Aloe vera is probably best left on the outside of your body.