Gut Health Woes? Aloe Vera Juice Is a Superstar Drink for Easing Digestion

Photo: Getty Images/ carlosgaw
When I was a kid, any time I got a bad sunburn—aka literally every family vacation—my mom would march to the drugstore and buy a lotion with "aloe vera" slapped in big letters on the front of the bottle. Ever since, I've always known that any time I had red, angry skin, I just needed to look for some kind of product with aloe vera—specifically, the thick, clear liquid inside the leaves of the aloe vera plant—in order to find some relief.

The aloe vera planet is, indeed, one of the most versatile (read: useful) houseplants out there, especially for those of us with fair skin. Believe it or not, there are over 300 species of aloe vera, but the most commonly grown as a houseplant is known as aloe barbadensis miller. This succulent grows thick, flexible leaves from its base that tout jagged edges on the outside and are plumped up with watery gel on the inside.

Experts In This Article
  • Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, I’m a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University.

And while the gel of the aloe vera plant is excellent for topical treatments such as soothing a sunburn, I have recently noticed it in a different aisle at the grocery store: the beverage section. Because apparently, drinking aloe vera juice can have its own benefits, too.

Wondering why someone would want to drink this stuff in the first place? Keep reading for eight reasons why it's beneficial, possible side effects, and a quick recipe so you can try it at home.

What are the actual aloe vera juice benefits I should know about?

1. Aloe vera juice is great for digestion.

This is the major reason why someone might start incorporating aloe vera juice into their diet, says registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD. "Aloe vera juice helps to maintain the 'good' bacteria in your gut to keep your gut flora balanced," she says. "Having balanced gut bacteria can improve overall digestion and feeling bloated or gassy." She says it can also be helpful for people who struggle with constipation, since it's high in fiber and boosts the water content in your intestines—pushing everything through more effectively. But she says that it should be consumed in small portions because in excess, it could cause diarrhea.

2. It can help relieve heartburn.

"Those with heartburn can also benefit from aloe vera juice due to its alkaline properties," Rifkin says. "It can help neutralize acid in the stomach." If heartburn is something you suffer from regularly, talk to your doctor to see if it's something you should incorporate into your routine.

3. Aloe vera juice can help prevent ulcers.

Rifkin says there's also evidence that aloe vera can help precent reoccurring ulcers. "It can prevent gastric ulcers from getting worse, as seen in a study done in 2014, due to its vitamin C content," she says. (More research is needed on this front, though.)

4. Aloe vera is super nutrient dense.

Besides its beneficial digestive properties, Rifkin says that aloe vera juice is also full of nutrients. "Aloe vera juice contains several important vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins B, C, E, and folic acid," she says. Vitamin B is crucial for brain health, vitamin C keeps the immune system running properly, vitamin E is linked to protecting against cancer, and folic acid lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. Quite the resume of health benefits, right?

5. It could stabilize blood sugar.

"Studies have shown that those with type 2 diabetes can benefit from drinking aloe vera juice to help control their fasting blood sugar levels," Rifkin says. It's been shown to be beneficial to people with pre-diabetes for this same reason, too.

6. Aloe vera juice is good for gum health.

Drinking aloe vera juice is doing your body good even before you swallow it. Studies have shown that it's good for your gums because of its antiviral properties.

7. It helps increase collagen production.

You might have heard that collagen is the key to looking like you never age. Well, consider pairing your collagen with aloe vera juice. It's been found to support collagen production, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. This is because certain compounds found in aloe vera have been shown to neutralize the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

8. Aloe vera juice is packed with antioxidants that are great for skin.

Aloe vera is a rich source of antioxidants, especially those that benefit your skin. In fact, it may help reduce the appearance of acne and ease skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. Antioxidants also help fight the effects of inflammation in the body—one more skin benefit.

Are there any risks or side effects of aloe vera juice?

Decolorized (meaning purified, low anthraquinone) whole leaf aloe vera is considered completely safe. However, nondecolorized, unpurified aloe vera juice may have unpleasant side effects when consumed larger quantities. Remember the whole "too much aloe vera could give you diarrhea" thing? Yeah, that's definitely a side effect everyone should keep in mind—which again, is why Rifkin says it's important to stick to the four-ounce serving size, max, no matter what form of aloe vera juice you're sipping. Rifkin also recommends looking for aloe vera juice that is purified, decolorized, and organic.

There are a few more items in the fine print of aloe vera juice side effects. Rifkin says that it could cause drug interactions, so people should talk to their doctor first if they're on prescription meds before dosing themselves. This is especially important for type 2 diabetics; per the NIH, people who are on glucose-lowering meds should avoid taking aloe vera orally (since it could further lower blood sugar levels). Rifkin also says it should be avoided by anyone about to have surgery, because aloe vera could interact with anesthesia medicine.

How do I eat this stuff if I want to try it?

Now remember, you only need a small amount of aloe vera juice to benefit from it. That means, you can put a teaspoon or two in your smoothie and be good to go. *Or* get fancy and do what Lisa Hayim, RD, the blogger behind The Well Necessities does, using an aloe vera powder and putting in into her morning elixir. Here's how to make it:

2 cups coconut milk (1 can)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp aloe vera powder
1 to 2 drops of vanilla extract

1. Combine in a saucepan.

2. Enjoy!

This article was originally publish on April 17, 2019 with additional reporting by Betty Gold.

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