Should you drink aloe juice? A doctor weighs in
Just like the many, many other health and beauty fads to have come before it and will no doubt come after, aloe juice is having a moment on social media.
There’s a #AloeVeraJuice tag on TikTok with almost 17million views and an absolute host of videos showing people downing roughly a shot’s worth of the stuff once or twice a day in a bid to boost a wide range of things, but chiefly gut health and skin clarity.
While it’s commonly known that aloe vera can help soothe the skin when applied topically, we wanted to know whether there was any actual clinical proof to these claims.
After all, it’s not wise to believe everything you hear online, especially when what you’re hearing involves ingesting something, so we took our questions to a medical professional whether she thought
Dr Deborah Lee, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, said in no uncertain terms: ‘Although there are many claims about the health benefits of aloe juice, there is scarce evidence to support these claims in either animals or humans.’
So, right off the bat, we know there’s only anecdotal evidence on social media to support the drinking of the juice – which does not a guarantee of clear skin and improved gut health make.
‘In general,’ Dr Deborah adds, ‘these comments are overstated and don’t bear scrutiny.’
So here’s what we do know about aloe juice.
Dr Deborah says: ‘Aloe juice is a rich source of vitamins – especially vitamins A, C and E, along with folic acid, calcium, and magnesium.’
She also tells us it’s got high levels of antioxidants, which always sounds good, doesn’t it?
‘These are substances found in plants that are thought to have biological properties in humans,’ she explains.
‘Antioxidants are vital for human health as they counteract oxidative stress. Every day, as your tissues require oxygen for their daily processes, oxidation is taking place.
‘The by-products of oxidation are called reactive oxygen species (ROS). These are electrically charged particles which can damage DNA. They are thought to underpin the development of many of the chronic diseases we see today. Antioxidants are vital as they counteract these ROS and neutralise them.’
That sounds encouraging! But just because something has some good stuff in it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good to drink it, much less consume it long-term, or in place of proper food.
‘One small 2015 study found that aloe vera syrup at night has a similar effect to improve symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux as omeprazole and ranitidine, with no adverse effects,’ Dr Deborah highlights.
She also says that the juice can help regulate blood glucose levels, thus helping you feel fuller for longer.
But on the flip side, Dr Deborah also points out that studies on the use of aloe juice for those with IBS have found nothing ‘statistically significant’, and that the juice has a significant laxative effect on people thanks to a group of plant compounds called anthraquinone glycoside.
‘They prevent sodium absorption in the gut and stimulate more water to pass into the intestines to produce softer stools,’ she explains. ‘This has been demonstrated in a few, short term research studies in humans.’
This could go a long way towards explaining why people on social media are claiming to feel ‘less bloated’ and even to have experienced speedy weight loss – but having laxatives when you don’t need them is not good for you long term.
Dr Deborah added: ‘Studies in mice have not shown that the addition of aloe vera gel powder improved weight loss.
‘However, in one small, randomised, 2013 study of 136 patients with prediabetes or a new diagnosis of type -2 diabetes, the use of aloe vera gel was shown to be associated with a significantly better reduction in body weight and body fat mass, than the control group, after eight weeks.
‘But, before you draw any conclusions, the study was small, only short term, and not double-blinded. So much more research needs to be undertaken before any claims about the use of aloe vera for weight loss can be substantiated.’
She also tells us that, while topical use is effective, ‘no research exists on the use of aloe juice and the skin’ when it’s ingested, adding: ‘There is nothing I am aware of to support the notion it helps your hair to grow or become curly.’
It also does not prevent dehydration (its laxative effects actually do the opposite), and as for removing toxins, Dr Deborah says: ‘The liver’s job is to cleanse toxins from the body, so it does that without the help of aloe vera juice.
‘There are some case reports of aloe vera juice inducing hepatitis. Aloe vera juice is described as being hepatotoxic.’ – aka something that can cause damage to your liver.
She was also unable to find any studies to support any reported ‘antiviral effects’.
Dr Deborah highlights: ‘It’s only confirmed safe use for up to two months, and the safety of longer-term use, as it could cause an electrolyte imbalance, is not known.’
With all of that in mind, we’d say it might be best to give the internet trend a miss this time and stick to topical use.
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