If among the random people carry out a questionnaire on the “healthiest plants known to a man”, aloe vera and the resulting products would have a chance to be in the top five. However, if the fashion for various plant superfoods passes with time (who remembers the juice of noni fruits today, even Goji berries go into remembrance …), the aloe vera still holds the palm of unflagging popularity. At the same time, a number of miraculous properties are attributed to him, the most frequently mentioned are: cleansing, antioxidant, digestive, and recently – due to the fact that the term gained popularity – adaptogenic. But is not aloe fame the result of intense marketing efforts?
Aloe has many names
At the outset, it is worth noting that there are over 360 aloe species, of which about 20 are attributed with health-promoting properties. As a popular herbal raw material, A. arborescens and A. vera are usually used. This is due to the high content of bioactive components that can affect the functioning of the human body. Aloe-rich substances that are valuable to us include, among others: amino acids, anthraquinones, saponins, vitamins, minerals, sterols. Aloe juice and extracts from this plant are used both in food and externally as ingredients of topical agents on the skin.
Is there any evidence that aloe vera has pro-health properties?
The source literature indicates that aloe consumed by the alimentary tract may have a beneficial effect on our body. There are studies indicating that taking preparations containing the above-mentioned raw material may include:
– counteract constipation, (laxative effect is associated mainly with the presence of anthraquinone glycosides), [2; 3] – lowering of glycaemia (the hypoglycaemic effect is probably due to the synergistic action of many plant components) [4; 5] – lower elevated levels of low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides .
Aloe vera is also a source of numerous antioxidants, but this fact does not really distinguish it too much on other vegetable raw materials. Antioxidants are also popular with vegetables and fruits and herbs, and even plants that we do not eat every day, and which abundantly grow on numerous meadows and fields such as clover or dandelion [7; 8]. So to say about a plant, that it provides antioxidants it is like nothing to say. What matters is the real impact on health parameters.
And what about the “cleansing” action?
Although the aloe vera and products obtained from it are usually said to have a “cleansing” effect, the professional literature is rather silent on the subject. In fact, it is not quite clear what this action would mean. One can only assume that the “cleansing” effect is probably related to the “laxative” action. Practice teaches that often products that accelerate the intestinal passage are often perceived as a means of “getting rid of toxins”. Unfortunately, this way of thinking results from a total misunderstanding of the principles of human physiology … What is within our digestive tract from the point of view of the adopted terminology is not (contrary to what the current logic suggests) inside our body as long as it is not absorbed (e.g. vein to the liver or lymphatic circulation). Thus, “cleansing” the intestines by laxative action in no way removes toxins from within our body, enough – in the long run it can simply be harmful, increasing the risk of dehydration and loss of electrolytes . It is worth remembering that in 2002, the FDA prohibited the use of preparations from this plant in laxatives, due to the lack of convincing data on the safety of use .