We reach for it for dry, itchy skin, we grab the green gel for nasty sunburns because we know of its soothing and healing properties. It’s also useful for acne, psoriasis, cankers and cold sores. It has been relied on for skin care relief for a really long time.
Aloe Vera has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years and even studies have been done to determine its health benefits.
Aloe Vera is a short-stemmed plant with very thick, pointed and very fleshy green leaves where it stores water. The leaves can grow to about 12-19 inches. Aloe Vera is a plant often referred to as the plant of immortality… not human immortality but because it can survive without soil.
Unfortunately, there are 400 different species of the plant so using only the right Aloe Vera plant is essential as the other species can be poisonous.
It is very rich in nutrients containing over 75 compounds that include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino and fatty acids, and polysaccharides, all of which are required by the body to function normally as well as help to repair and maintain cells keeping the body healthy above all.
The nutrients/minerals include Calcium for strong bones and teeth, Chromium which can help lower blood sugars by increasing the power of Insulin, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Manganese, Potassium and Sodium along with Vitamins A, C, D, E, B (B1, B2, B12), Choline and Folic Acid most of which are found in multivitamins therefore requirements so why not get it from a natural source?
More recently bottles of Aloe Water, which is basically just water with tiny bits of Aloe Vera floating around, have become available for purchase.
Most health food stores have various products available for purchase including gel, juice, supplements, oil, and powder. If all of this is available it leads to the question… can it be eaten too?
Benefits of Eating Aloe Vera
No matter how you consume Aloe Vera, using the gel topically or eating the gel or using it directly on the skin, you will benefit from the strong medicinal advantages of the plant:
- Healthy skin – Both consuming and using Aloe Vera topically will help to repair the skin and also aid in treating skin acne. It can also help with skin issues such as eczema, rashes, and psoriasis. It will make the skin supple and help keep it hydrated which is why it is the main ingredient in many lotions.
- Recent studies have shown that it may also increase collagen production and reduce wrinkles.
- Aids digestion – Studies have proven that the enzyme properties of Aloe Vera are very potent for digestive tract health issues like acid reflux. It helps to reduce the body’s acidity which helps to reduce indigestion.
- Improve joint health – Consuming Aloe Vera gives overall joint support and reduces inflammation in the body, including in the joints.
- Nutrient absorption – Not only does Aloe Vera assist with digestion and reduces reflux but it aids in absorbing nutrients from food more easily.
- Muscle tissue development – Aloe Vera contains about 20 amino acids. These help in the development and enhancement of muscles.
- Detoxification – It is rich in antioxidants which detoxifies the body which can help combat damage to our bodies caused by toxins and free radicals… compounds that have been linked to many chronic diseases. This helps to boost the well-being of the body.
- Boost the immune system – The vitamins that are found in Aloe Vera helps to stimulate the cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems for the body to fight off infection and diseases.
- Heavy source of vitamins – It has been proven that the body needs vitamins daily for a multitude of reasons including the revitalization of cells, proper functioning of all the systems and to keep us healthy. Vitamins A, C, D, E, B, B1, B2, and B12 are all found in Aloe Vera.
- Reduction of blood sugar levels – Chromium helps to increase insulin sensitivity it would help decrease blood sugar levels.
- Reduce dental plaque – You can mix up some Aloe Vera juice and use it as a mouthwash that might be just as effective as a regular mouthwash in reducing dental plaque build-up. However, with anything that hasn’t been effectively researched, there is always the potential for the mouthwash side effects, allergies or interactions to occur.
Possible interactions could occur if you are taking:
- Anticoagulants or anti-platelet medications that thin the blood as the intake of Aloe can also increase blood thinning.
- Digoxin side effects can be increased due to lower potassium levels brought down by the ingestion of Aloe.
- Diabetes medication effects could be increased resulting in blood sugar levels that are lower than normal and could lead to levels that are too low.
- Any oral medication you take may not be absorbed due to the Aloe which can decrease the effectiveness of the medication.
Preparing Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera leaves are comprised of three parts… the gel that we are all aware of and mostly used in skin care gels and other products that are not meant to be consumed. However, this gel can be used in smoothies or salsas and gives a clean, refreshing taste.
The latex is a thin layer of yellow liquid between the leaf and the gel. Though it has been said to act as a laxative it can be toxic to the point that only 1 gram could lead to kidney failure and possibly death.
Pregnant women should not eat the latex as it could cause uterine contractions to start which could lead to miscarriage.
It should also be avoided by those with any kind of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s or colitis as it can worsen those conditions. The latex contains chemicals that can cause cancer, as well as abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Aside from the gel, the skin is safe and edible with a mild flavor and crunchy texture that works great in salads or eaten with salsa or hummus.
Best practices before cooking Aloe Vera
When you’re ready to prepare your own Aloe Vera to add to recipes follow these steps:
- Make sure you have edible Aloe Vera. You can purchase it from an organic store or a grocery store. You can also use a garden breed if you or someone you know grows one.
- Remove any soil and slice your Aloe Vera into sizes you can easily handle. You can also shape them if you desire.
- There is no need for the spiky side so you can scrape or slice it off. Be careful not to cut away the edible part of the plant.
- The gel inside should be scraped off since you only need to, and want to, cook the skin.
Like all plants, fruits, and vegetable, you should always wash your Aloe Vera before cooking.
- You can dip it in salt water to wash the remaining dirt and debris off and will rinse off any leftover gel which could make your dish taste bitter.
- Soak it for 10-20 minutes in water to soften skin enough for consumption.
Aloe Vera Stir Fry Recipe
Here is a great recipe of Aloe Vera stir fry:
- 350 gms Aloe Vera Leaves – (4 cups chopped)
- 3 tbsp Raisins
- 1/4 tsp Black salt
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
- 1/4 tsp Asafoetida
- 3 Whole red chilies
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1 tsp Red chili powder
- 1 tsp Coriander powder
- 3/4 tsp Mango powder
- 3 tbsp Oil
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp Curd
- Wash and peel the sides of Aloe Vera, steam to remove the thorns
- Chop into thin slices and pressure cook for 2 whistles with 1 glass of water
- Wash with cold water (the water in which you have boiled the Aloe Vera can be used for making Chappati dough)
- Heat oil in a pan, add fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin and asafoetida
- When seeds start crackling add whole red chilies
- Add turmeric and boiled Aloe Vera and sauté for one minute
- Now add curd and all the spices and stir fry for approx. 2 minutes
- Take out and serve hot or cold in a bowl (around 2-3 tbsp at a time)
Serve with Roti, Rice or as a side dish.
Pretty simple, huh?
When it comes to cooking Aloe Vera always try to use the sweet varieties to prepare your dishes.
There are many species available but some can be very bitter and others can be poisonous. The sweet leaves tend to have fewer thorns and have very shiny, transparent gels inside.
Aloe Vera, like any food, can cause an allergic reaction. You should discontinue using it if you develop any kind of sensitivity to it including a rash.
Remember to hang onto the gel you have scraped away to put on burns and wounds. Never use this on deep wounds that appear to need stitches… always seek medical attention.
Like so many plants that are being discovered as healthy and full of nutrients, Aloe Vera can be consumed in the same way and be just as beneficial which encourages us to consume it more.
Take advantage of this wonderful plant.