#FitFoodFacts – Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is a natural plant in the same family as the cactus plant. It has many purported health benefits. It is an ingredient in commercially available drinks, The manufacturers of these drinks make many claims about its benefits but how true are these? Let’s explore the anecdotal claims versus the scientific evidence.
1. Aloe Vera plants survive in environments with low water, making it an ideal decoration for rock gardens.
2. The first recorded reference to any healing qualities was from Mesopotamia in 2100BCE. But, the first documented depiction of its medicinal usage was in Egypt in 1550BCE.
3. In India, it has been used for many years to relieve constipation (this is significant). In Central America, it has been used to treat diabetes mellites and in the Caribbean it is sometimes used to treat hypertension.
4. In the west, it is widely used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical foods. But also, more recently, as a dubious weight loss aid.
5. There is mixed scientific evidence for many of its health claims. However, clinical trials have been conducted on its effects as a topical application of burns and skin irritations.
6. Nutritionally, aloe vera is a source of B1, B2, B6, C, E, and folic acid, albeit in relatively small doses.
7. Aloe contains polysaccharide Acemannan, a long chain sugar which may have some positive benefits for gastrointestinal integrity and immune function. However, the availability of this compound varies greatly depending on the processing of commercial aloe vera products.
8. There is some clinical evidence in favour of aloe vera for treating burns and increasing wound healing. However, it appears ineffective for the topical treatment of psoriasis and dermatitis.
9. There is promising evidence that clinical doses of aloe vera extract can improve markers of blood glucose and cholesterol. This supports its usefulness for treating diabetes and hypertension under controlled conditions. Claims of its efficacy to treat other ailments including cancer are unfounded.
10. Research shows that aloe vera is a very effective laxative which may explain some of the claims that aloe vera juice aids weight loss.
In short, aloe vera is safe as a base for cosmetics to use and for topical application which may relieve itching. It is not a proven replacement for conventional medicine and if you drink it in high amounts you run the risk of having an ‘accident’ in your underpants.