Aloe Vera is a cactus used by humanity for thousands of years. People tend to use aloe for its alleged medicinal properties. These properties range from healing burns to moisturizing skin. Many people also use aloe for weight loss.
Recently, aloe vera drinks are very popular. But are these drinks effective at delivering the alleged benefits of aloe? Are these drinks safe for you at all? In this article, we’ll investigate aloe vera drinks and evaluate their benefits or lack thereof.
Applied topically, aloe vera is a powerful moisturizer. When consumed as a drink, the benefits are far less clear. These drinks aren’t as understood as topically administered aloe vera, so you should not try to compare the safety or efficacy of the two directly.
Regardless of the benefits or detriments, when consumed orally, aloe vera has a number of proven effects.
These effects include modulation of the immune system, alteration of the gastrointestinal tract, and regulation of the gut microbiome. Before we get into whether these effects are beneficial, it’s important to understand what they are.
Aloe vera impacts the immune system by changing the conditions under which white blood cells become activated. This means that after consuming aloe vera, white blood cells cannot generate inflammation as effectively as they could before. There could be benefits to this effect, but there could also be drawbacks.
For instance, if you are struggling with a lot of inflammation as part of an illness, there’s a chance an aloe vera drink could help you. Especially if your inflammation tends to spiral wildly out of control and bother you for hours or days, aloe vera could provide the brake pedal that you’re looking for.
But if you are struggling with an infection, an aloe vera drink could deprive your immune system of the rallying call that it needs to fight effectively.
When you clamp down on inflammation, you clamp down on the immune system’s ability to call in backup from nearby white blood cells.
If your immune system could use a radio to call its buddies before, it might be more like shouting for help after taking a aloe vera drink. In some situations, that’s appropriate. In others, it’s detrimental.
The impacts of aloe vera on the gastrointestinal system are similarly varied. Aloe vera might harm the gut microbiome by “disinfecting” it with its antimicrobial compounds. This could be either good or bad. If the normal gut bacteria are killed, it’ll be a problem. Digestion will be impaired, as will nutrient absorption.
Importantly, even though aloe vera itself is packed with nutrients, there is some evidence which suggests that it does impair nutrient absorption. This might counteract the effects of it being nutritious.
On the other hand, if the aloe vera kills the undesirable gut microbiota more effectively than it kills the normal microbiota, it could be beneficial in restoring balance. The research data isn’t detailed enough to conclude which population aloe vera drinks are killing yet.
Likewise, aloe vera’s impact on the human cells of the large intestine may be mixed. Aloe vera appears to massively and acutely increase the motility and activity of the gut cells responsible for moving and forming feces. If you’re having trouble forming stools, this could be the kick that they need.
The ability to increase gut motility is also what causes some people to attribute stimulant effects to aloe vera, even though it doesn’t behave that way for most of your cells. If you’re regularly passing stools already, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you take a “stimulant” for your gut cells.
There’s no real way to know how vera drinks will affect you until you try one. Everyone’s body is different, and there aren’t any established standards for the amount of vera or vera compounds that make it into a drink. One drink might help whereas another might hurt.
Breaking down these scientific facts into concrete health advisories requires a bit more consideration of the individual applications, however. What effects would be bad for one person could easily be helpful for another – you’ll need to use your best judgment when evaluating the evidence regarding aloe drinks.
Many people claim that aloe vera is a good way to treat psoriasis owing to its moisturizing properties. For those who don’t know, psoriasis is a type of pathological skin condition which manifests as extreme dryness, redness, and peeling.
The thought is that because aloe vera can moisturize skin very effectively when applied topically, it can moisturize it enough to prevent psoriasis from occurring. When drank, the good moisturizing properties of the aloe can permeate through the tissues and eventually prevent psoriasis from recurring.
Unfortunately, this line of thinking is 100% incorrect. It’s true that aloe vera is a great moisturizer when applied topically – but psoriasis isn’t caused by dryness. Nor can an aloe vera drink provide moisturization of any kind.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, not a problem caused by dry skin. This means that aloe vera applied topically is categorically incapable of addressing the problem.
There is no evidence to suggest that aloe vera drinks are helpful to treat psoriasis either.
The door is not entirely closed on the use of aloe vera drinks for psoriasis, however. There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that aloe’s impact on the immune system could potentially slightly reduce the severity of psoriasis in a limited number of niche cases.
Aloe vera’s ability to regulate the immune system leaves some promise for it to regulate a dysfunctional immune system which is causing psoriasis. Unfortunately, the clinical information required to make a sane treatment strategy is lacking.
If you’re having a severe bout of psoriasis and nothing else is helping, you may derive some benefit from aloe vera. Make sure that you take your medicines before taking aloe vera drinks to treat psoriasis, however. Aloe vera can interfere with nutrient uptake and drug metabolism when administered simultaneously.
Waiting at least 45 minutes between medication and aloe vera is a good rule of thumb. If you’re older, you should wait 15 or 20 minutes longer to compensate for your slightly slower metabolism.
Aloe vera is commonly thought to be effective in treating acid reflux. Acid reflux, also known as GERD, occurs when residual stomach acids burn the lower parts of the esophagus. This results in a painful irritation and burning sensation often called heartburn.
Because aloe is supposedly an anti-inflammatory which can help the digestive tract, the thinking is that it can help keep the stomach’s acid at bay. Does this pan out in reality?
There is a small amount of evidence which suggests that aloe vera drinks are helpful in treating acid reflux. Some of this evidence is derived from unlikely populations, such as people who have survived chemical weapons attacks.
Nonetheless, it is at least plausible that aloe vera could treat acid reflux. In the context of the survivors of chemical weapons who suffered from acid reflux, an aloe drink was just as effective as a prescription anti-acid medication, pantoprazole.
The broader scientific evidence is lacking, but there is at least enough to start with here. If you think your acid reflux is so bad that you’re willing to try something which might not work, aloe vera drinks could help.
There isn’t any single mechanism of aloe vera drinks which “should” help with acid reflux. Aloe vera drinks have no impact on the stomach’s ability to produce excess acid. But there is probably a mechanism researchers don’t know about which causes the beneficial effects which were seen.
Aloe vera has been shown scientifically to affect a number of the body’s pro-inflammatory metabolic pathways. While the evidence that aloe’s impact on these pathways can be derived from drinks is absent, there is a reason to believe that drinks could work. Aloe vera from drinks is just as bioavailable as from an oral supplement.
Aloe impacts white blood cells responsible for generating inflammation. This impact has been proven in animal models. Interestingly, the way that aloe vera inhibits inflammation in these cells is via a pathway typically associated with stress, the prostaglandin pathway.
Critically, the evidence in favor of aloe vera’s efficacy at reducing inflammation is not derived from healthy humans. The animal models used to find the beneficial results were not healthy, either. Instead, in one study, the animals were subject to traumatic hemorrhaging.
The results derived from humans were from people with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the intestinal tract in which inflammation causes a lot of pain. Some people were helped by consuming vera drinks over a six-week period.
But it’s important to remember that these people were not normal and healthy people, so the results may not carry over.
An aloe vera compound was effective at reducing inflammation in this context – but that probably won’t be the context that you are using it in. In closing, there is preliminary evidence that aloe vera could help reduce inflammation in some cases, but more evidence is needed before aloe drinks get a full endorsement.
The FDA had banned aloe compounds in over the counter laxative products since 2002 when serious questions about their safety were raised. While topical vera products are still considered safe, aloe drinks are still a wild card when it comes to the digestive system.
There is an abundance of evidence which suggests aloe vera is effective at inducing diarrhea. If diarrhea is taken to be the opposite of constipation, it would seem that aloe vera drinks are very effective. Nonetheless, the induction of diarrhea is accompanied by painful stomach cramping.
There’s also some evidence that orally consumed aloe vera causes bowel cancer in healthy people. This negative effect was attenuated when the aloe vera was filtered to remove one of the compounds, aloin, beforehand. Aloe vera drinks marked as “decolorized” do not include aloin, which makes them safer.
Assuming that your aloe vera drink is decolorized and you drink it in moderation – which is to say, infrequently – it will probably help you have a bowel movement. If you are not constipated to begin with, this bowel movement may be unpleasant.
Aloe vera itself was marketed as a weight loss supplement until relatively recently when one such supplement was linked to liver failure. While there’s no guarantee that an aloe vera drink will contain the same compounds which caused liver failure, there is also no guarantee that it will help with weight loss.
There is no evidence to suggest aloe vera drinks are helpful in impacting weight in any capacity. This is true of both humans and also of animal models. Using an aloe vera drink to help with weight loss is probably fruitless.
The exception is if you believe that a proportion of your weight is stored in your bowels. Once again, as aloe vera is proven to be effective at inducing bowel movements – even if they are unpleasant – you can probably shed a few pounds temporarily by using it in that capacity.
There is some evidence which suggests aloe vera drinks might be helpful with joint pain. This evidence is mostly low quality. The evidence is also not taken from humans. In one study, researchers who induced arthritis in a mouse were able to prevent the mouse’s paw from swelling using crude aloe vera gel applied orally.
This means that they did not use an aloe vera drink, but that there is still a chance for an aloe vera drink to inhibit inflammation enough to reduce the severity of arthritis. Potentially, more research will show that aloe vera drinks can help with joint pain specifically.
In the meantime, you should only take an aloe vera drink for joint pain if you are willing to take a risk that it does not work. You should probably have another way of dealing with your joint pain as a primary method.