Consuming Aloe Vera has been recognized as both a popular and safe way to reap the many benefits of this versatile plant. Over the centuries, Aloe Vera was used everywhere from the Americas to Egypt and Asia, gaining a reputation as a “plant of immortality” and “wand of the heavens”. Sure, eating Aloe Vera is safe, but only so long as you eat the right part of the plant!
What is Aloin?
Aloin is a natural chemical found in the skin of the Aloe Vera plant that has laxative effects when orally consumed by humans. Not to be confused with Acemannan (a beneficial compound in Aloe Vera), aloin has long been a point of controversy, as some found it to be a useful as a stimulant-laxative to treat constipation by inducing bowel movements. However, the negative side effects of aloin far outweigh any benefits and even make consumption of the chemical potentially dangerous.
Aloin Side Effects:
- Overstimulation of the bowels
- Severe diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
- Dramatic weight loss
- Electrolyte imbalance
The good news is that aloin has been banned from commercial Aloe products for consumption for some time. In May 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling that aloin laxatives are no longer ‘generally recognized as safe’ and effective, meaning that aloin-containing products are no longer available in over-the-counter drug products in the United States.
How to Avoid Aloin
How can Aloe Vera be referred to as a superfood if it has been known to cause such harm to the intestinal tract? It may sound like an oversimplification but the answer is in knowing which part of the plant is safe to consume versus which part is not—that which contains aloin and that which does not. Aloe vera gel found in the center of the leaf is the nutrient rich part of the plant. The latex coating found on interior part of the leaf’s rind is not. That latex coating is the part of the plant which contains aloin. The latex is a yellowish sap or juice in the layer below the outer skin, i.e., the inner rind of the plant’s leaves.
Aloe Vera Preparation
Because of its negative side effects, the part of the Aloe Vera plant that contains aloin should not be consumed so you cannot just eat a raw Aloe leaf! Instead, it’s the Aloe Vera gel within the center of the plant’s leaves that fit for eating or drinking. The gel contains trace amounts or no aloin at all. In the case of Aloe vera, like many fruits and vegetables, the protective layer must be peeled away before accessing the nutritional substance found on the inside.
- Fillet aloe leaves lengthwise into halves
- Carefully slice off outer layer of skin with a sharp knife
- Thoroughly rinse resulting inner gel
- Consume inner gel immediately or refrigerate
Can Aloin be Used Safely?
Because aloin is a type of anthraquinone glycoside, a natural chemical, it has powerful laxative properties. Even though it’s banned commercially for consumption, some people still ingest the latex juice to relieve constipation. Health professionals do not consider it a safe laxative. There are no ‘safe’ dosages in relieving constipation. Concentrations of aloin vary throughout the plant and results may be unpredictable when consuming even a single portion.
Get all the benefits of Aloe, without the dangerous aloin
Aloe Vera is a nutrient-dense plant, and it is increasingly being referred to by many as a superfood. That’s mainly because of the overall health benefits it provides like boosting the immune system and aiding the digestive system. It also provides a source of antioxidants and healthy levels of vitamins A, C, D, E, B, B-1, B-2, B12, and folic acid which in total have their own unique benefits. The gel is loaded with minerals such as calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc, which are necessary to support one’s overall health. Add the 20 amino acids that aid in building muscle tissue, and the 7 key enzymes that assist in breaking down food and boost nutrient absorption, and it’s no wonder that Aloe Vera is considered a superfood.