One of the most common questions with any supplement is "how much should I take and how long can I take it?" It's always important to know the safe limits of what you're putting on or in your body, both in terms of immediate doses and long-term usage.
Aloe vera juice is one such health supplement. The gel-like internal substance in the aloe succulent leaves has been used for centuries as everything from a dietary supplement to a skin lotion. Today we're simply talking about one application: drinking the juice as a health food.
The Benefits of Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe has been around for centuries. Aloe juice beverages are a common product in both health food stores and Asian groceries, where it is a common treat. What benefits does it have in juice form?
Unfortunately, aloe vera is one of those mostly-harmless plant ingredients that has a lot of mysticism surrounding it, and not a lot of science to back up the claims. Research is ongoing into the potential benefits of the plant's gel, but until dedicated studies show what it does and does not do, you have to content with misinformation.
1: Many agree that aloe vera juice can help relieve the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Much like how the cooling sensation of the gel soothes sunburns and other burns on the skin, the juice can help soothe the heartburn associated with GERD.
2: A study from a few years ago indicates that aloe juice can be used as a substitute for mouthwash. The plant is high in certain vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, which helps block plaque from forming. This also helps soothe swollen gums and other minor, topical dental pain. It won't do much for a toothache, unfortunately.
3: Another study shows that taking daily aloe vera juice can help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. This, of course, should be used with caution, especially if you're taking another medication meant to lower blood sugar levels. Combining the two might dramatically lower blood sugar levels to a dangerously low level and cause more harm than good.
4: Aloe vera juice is known to have some minor laxative effects, which means it is often recommended as a treatment for constipation. While this is true, it's only half of the story. Some studies are showing that prolonged use as a laxative might increase the chances of intestinal cancer. This is also why the FDA banned the use of aloe vera gel as part of commercial laxatives. It's also dangerous for people with Crohn's disease and other intestinal diseases like colitis.
5: Contrary to the warning in the previous use, a new study into some chemicals in aloe indicate that it might be effective at slowing the growth of breast cancer. This does not mean that taking aloe vera juice will cure cancer, of course. Rather, it means that processing aloe and extracting that chemical may provide the basis for a future cancer treatment.
6: Aloe vera is an alkaline plant compared to the human body's natural pH balance. Consuming aloe vera as part of an alkaline diet might improve the immune system and help fight off disease. This has not yet been studied in depth, but a review of other incidental studies indicates that there may be some benefit to an alkaline diet, of which aloe can be a part.
7: Aloe vera is a very water-dense plant. Proper, adequate hydration is important for overall health and function of your internal organs and bodily processes. Aloe juice is one of the healthier ways to consume more water in your diet, both because the aloe is packed with water, and because it's often mixed with water as well. It's definitely healthier than other beverages, like soda, but perhaps not as beneficial as tea. Luckily, nothing stops you from consuming both aloe vera juice and tea in the same day.
8: As a dense, nutritious plant, aloe vera has a lot of useful vitamins and nutrients your body can process. It includes vitamins B, C, and E, as well as trace amounts of useful minerals like calcium, copper, selenium, and magnesium. This makes it relatively healthy to eat, and can give you some fringe benefits like healthier skin and hair.
Those are the primary benefits of aloe vera juice, proven or at least indicated by science. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people online will promise everything about a health product until a law tells them not to. We've seen claims that aloe can boost your lifespan by 10-15 years, that it can cure cancer, and a whole host of other benefits that have never been tested or proven. We prefer to stick to more realistic or scientific benefits for our products.
Types of Aloe Vera Juice
There are several types of aloe vera juice, and the amount you can safely take in a day or for an ongoing basis changes depending on the type of juice you take. For information on why, see the "considerations and warnings" section below.
Whole leaf aloe juice. This is the first kind of aloe vera juice and is made by processing the whole of the aloe leaf, including the latex outer part. This is typically made when you make juice yourself and either fail to peel the leaf and extract the gel, or simply put the whole thing in a blender.
This is the most dangerous kind of aloe vera juice, for two reasons. The first is because the outer part of the leaf is a kind of latex and is largely inedible. The second is because that same outer leaf contains aloin, a toxic compound. More on that in the considerations and warnings section.
Aloe juice extract. This is considered decolorized aloe vera juice. It is made by processing the inner gel of the aloe vera leaf and concentrating it into an extract, which is then added to other beverages, smoothies, or other supplements.
This kind of juice has the worst parts of the aloe removed, and is thus much more safe to drink. It may still have some laxative properties, however, in its concentrated form. Therefore, you should limit how much of it you drink each day, but there is likely not much limitation to how long you can drink it day after day.
Aloe vera water. This is essentially just pure aloe inner gel, added to water or other juices to form a beverage. It is typically diluted with water and is mostly used as a flavoring rather than any form of health additive. Added to grape juice, this form of aloe vera juice can have a wide variety of flavors, or it can be added to smoothies and other beverages.
Since it is much less concentrated, while still being decolorized, this form of aloe vera juice is much safer for ongoing consumption. However, it's also possible that this kind of aloe vera does not have many of the health benefits of more concentrated forms of aloe. It remains to be seen in long-term studies.
Considerations and Warnings
There are a few major considerations to keep in mind when consuming aloe vera juice.
First of all, aloe vera juice is not inert. It has an effect on the body, and as such, can interact with certain medications in a negative way.
- Since aloe vera juice can reduce blood sugar, taking aloe with any other medication that reduces blood sugar can lead to dangerous hypoglycemia.
- Aloe vera is also known to interact with medications that are related to Cytochrome P450 3A4 and CYP2D6. The mechanism by which this happens is very similar to that of grapefruit, so this list of drugs can be a good list to be aware of. If you're taking one of these drugs, aloe vera juice may increase the risk of side effects or increase their severity.
Daily and ongoing dosage information for aloe juice assumes you are a person in more or less normal health. If you have a major health concern, such as diabetes, cancer, an autoimmune disease, Crohn's disease, or other such disorders, consult your doctor before consuming aloe juice.
The second major consideration with aloe vera is that it may be toxic. Specifically, the green outer part of the leaves contains aloin, which is a bitter compound that provides much of aloe's laxative effects.
A small amount of aloin has a laxative effect, but larger amounts of it can cause intestinal cramping and abdominal pain. Large amounts of aloin or prolonged use of aloin have led to anemia, hypoproteinaemia, and a potential link to cancer.
That is not to say that aloe vera juice will cause cancer. In fact, as mentioned above, there are different kinds of aloe juice. Whole-leaf aloe vera juice is potentially dangerous. However, decolorized aloe vera juice, where it uses only the gel and none of the green outer leaf, has not shown any of these side effects, laxative or otherwise. California proposition 65 labels non-decolorized aloe vera as a product that is known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
Aloe Vera Juice Dosage Guidelines
Note that the below guidelines are just that: guidelines. The total amount you can take may depend on other factors, including your age, weight, and consumption of other supplements.
For whole leaf aloe vera juice, you should only take a few milligrams of aloe per day. A dosage used to relieve constipation is somewhere in the range of 100-200 milligrams per day. Pure gel has also been used, in about one tablespoon per day. Higher dosages of whole leaf aloe can be dangerous, as mentioned above.
In addition to limiting how much you take each day, you should also limit how long you take whole leaf aloe vera juice over time. Because the effects can add up in the body, it's not recommended to take aloe vera juice for more than a few days or a week. If constipation lasts longer than that, you should consult a doctor to address the underlying cause.
For aloe vera juice extract, the concentrated but decolorized aloe vera juice, you can take around 2-4 oz. per day. The concentrated form of aloe imparts a lot of flavor and a lot of nutrients in a small package, and its laxative effects may be more pronounced. Start small, with 2 oz. doses, and see how your body reacts. If you don't experience adverse effects, you may be able to take more per day, though we do not recommend taking more than 6 oz. per day for most people.
Since decolorized aloe extract does not contain much if any aloin, it is safer to take over the long term.
For dilute aloe vera juice, where aloe is largely used for flavoring, you can drink as much of it as you want so long as you don't experience negative side effects. A typically beverage is 16 to 20 oz. in size, and drinking 1-2 of those per day is usually fine. There's also no limitation to the length of time you can take this aloe juice daily, so long as you don't experience negative side effects.
As always, simply pay attention to your body and look for the symptoms of aloe toxicity. Minor laxative effects are to be expected, but extreme diarrhea or intestinal cramping indicate you should reduce or discontinue aloe consumption and see a doctor.