By Julie-Ann Sherlock And Ari Liakeas
These days, TikTok is full of information and advice on everything from running a business to finding love. It is an excellent source for recipes and life hacks, but some health suggestions should be taken with a pinch of salt. (Himalayan rock salt, naturally!)
One of the latest crazes on TikTok, which many of the platform’s creators swear by, is the health benefits of drinking Aloe Vera juice. There are numerous videos proclaiming that this wonder drink can promote gut health, help clear up skin ailments, and has a plethora of other health-enhancing capabilities.
This succulent plant, looking a lot like a member of the cactus family, grows in hot or tropical climates. It has green, fleshy tough leaves with small pointy teeth on their edges—so what is it about this little spiky, tropical plant that has everyone so excited?
Is it a new health fad or health bad? Is Aloe Vera really as amazing as everyone is making it out to be? Let’s find out!
A Skin Soothing Gel
When travelling in countries where the Aloe plant grows, such as the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Africa, you probably have encountered a kind local who has given you some fresh Aloe from their garden to soothe your skin after a day on the beach. Smoothing on this cooling gel that takes the sting out of too much sunbathing feels awesome—unless you are allergic to it like someone I know! (Yup, me!)
Many sunscreens and after-sun products contain Aloe Vera gel for this very reason. It can soothe and help speed up healing for all kinds of painful burns. Many skincare companies have product ranges that tap into its gentle youth-promoting properties and ability to help give the skin a fresh glow.
It has even been known to help those with skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, such are its soothing powers.
Aloe Vera Juice: Magic or Myth
Used in medicine and beauty for over 5000 years, the Egyptians called Aloe the “plant of Immortality” because of its alleged health-giving properties. Now, with rising numbers of people globally drinking the juice as part of their wellness routines, it is a good time to look and see if it really is as beneficial to health as proclaimed. Here are a few of the most popular claims:
Eases symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease: Magic (sometimes!)
One European study found that taking oral Aloe eased constipation and the associated cramping for some participants with ulcerative colitis. While other studies were inconclusive, it appears it can help reduce bowel issues for some people and is a good laxative.
Controls blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes: Myth
Reduces indigestion: Magic
Aloe Vera juice can ease the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. Studies showed that the juice can have a similar effect on our digestive tract as when applied to burns. Good news for those who love spicy foods!
It’s a nutrient-rich superfood: Myth
While it does contain antioxidants and vitamins such as C, A & E, it is not a magic elixir or a superfood. It has small amounts of these nutrients, which can be found in much larger, more beneficial sources that also taste better.
Helps weight loss: Myth(ish)
Further research is needed, but some scientists believe that Aloe Vera may have properties that can help speed up metabolism and therefore help with weight loss. Combined with the possibility that it helps regulate blood sugar somewhat, there may be some truth that it can help those who wish to shed some pounds, as part of a sensible diet, of course!
As with most fads and health crazes, you should not expect Aloe Vera to be a cure-all, wonder drink that will help you get a supermodel body.
Indeed, there are potentially some serious side effects of taking it as a supplement. The World Health Organisation, among other governing bodies, recommends short-term usage for laxative purposes to avoid cramping and diarrhoea. Overuse of Aloe may lead to dehydration and damage your body’s electrolyte balance.
America’s FDA has banned the use of latex from Aloe due to potentially cancer-causing issues, and it is never recommended that you eat any of the gels or creams.
One last word of advice: be careful who you listen to on TikTok. It is not a substitute for medical advice, so before taking any trendy or highly recommended dietary or health supplement, consult your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that it won’t negatively impact any medications you are taking or any medical conditions you may have.