Most people are familiar with aloe vera in its topical form, where it’s used to soothe sunburn, eczema or acne. But recently, it’s ventured outside of the “vacation necessities” drugstore aisle: Aloe vera juices and waters have been filling the shelves of health food and grocery stores with claims that go way beyond relieving skin problems. A quick internet search will claim that aloe vera drinks alleviate heartburn, improve digestion and boost nutrients. But does it live up to the hype? This Men’s Health article provides the inside scoop on the facts about aloe vera juice.
Aloe is an antiseptic, meaning it contains germ fighters like salicylic acid that protect against bacteria, fungi and viruses. Various studies have found that putting a bit of aloe vera gel on a cut or burn also can speed up the healing process. Additionally, aloe vera acts as a topical moisturizer that contains anti-inflammatory properties, which is a big part of its skin-soothing capabilities.
Aloe vera juice is made by crushing an entire leaf of the plant and grinding or pressing it to produce a liquid, which is then filtered. This liquid is often combined with water, fruit juice or tea to make the flavor more desirable.
Aloe vera has many benefits when applied to our skin, but do those properties apply when we drink it? Because most research on aloe’s health benefits revolves around its topical use, we don’t know much about the effects of aloe vera beverages on our health. To date, the claims made about their benefits are unsubstantiated by science and their contribution to our diets is questionable.
According to Ali Webster, PhD, RD, associate director of nutrition communications at the IFIC Foundation, aloe vera juice in its pure form is basically water plus a small amount of carbohydrates from sugar. And even though it is praised for providing B vitamins and vitamin C, aloe vera juice actually contains a very small amount of vitamins and minerals. The vitamins that do make it into the juice are just a small amount of the daily recommended value.
Although aloe may have anti-inflammatory powers when applied to the skin, no research has been published on how ingesting aloe vera juice affects inflammation in humans. Webster also notes that some aloe juices have sugar added to them or are mixed with other fruit juices, which means they may contribute extra calories.
It’s clear that aloe vera juice isn’t a superjuice. Aloe drinks likely won’t improve your skin, reduce inflammation or contribute to your daily recommended vitamin intake, and they might increase the number of calories from sugar in your diet. Drinks containing aloe vera may be a way to add variety to your beverage intake, but it’s important to scan the nutrition label and decide if you’re making a good choice for you.
And don’t forget that it doesn’t hurt to hydrate by drinking plain old water! If you want to bump up the flavor without extra sugar or calories, try adding a few pieces of fruit, slices of cucumber, or a little bit of mint to your glass.