Aloe Vera is a very common ingredient in a wide variety of products. Whether you visit a convenience store or beauty supply store, you are likely to see this ingredient in one form or another: aloe vera water, beverages and supplements, as well as ointments, facial cleansers, and sunscreen.
Widely known as a “miracle” plant, aloe vera can be used in a number of ways. In this guide we will see the basics of this plant, what you need to know about its versatility, as well as its benefits depending on its type and use.
We collaborate with our experts and Global Product Safety and Science teams to share the latest research and practical uses of aloe that consumers can take advantage of.
What is aloe vera and why is it so popular?
Aloe Vera is a type of plant that comprises more than 550 species of succulents. In the vernacular, aloe refers to Aloe vera , the scientific name for a specific tropical succulent plant that was born on the Arabian Peninsula thousands of years ago.
“Vera” in Latin means “truth”, and it truly has many different uses. Aloe Vera is a member of the Asphodelaceae Juss family. For centuries, people have cultivated the plant for its beauty and many benefits. Grown all over the world, aloe can be found in gardens, in the wild, or even in pots on a window sill.
For centuries, people have cultivated this plant for its beauty and many benefits. Aloe grows all over the world and you can find it in gardens, in the wild, or even near a window, planted in a pot.
Since it is a tropical succulent, this plant can survive high temperatures with little water, which is why it stores large amounts of liquid in the form of a gel in the central part of each of its leaves.
The leaves are crushed, ground and pressed to obtain the gel. This is filtered and processed to obtain different types of ingredients that are used in food or cosmetic products.
How do you use aloe vera gel?
According to our Global Product Safety and Science team, aloe vera gel can have a wide variety of uses depending on its process.
On the one hand, most companies use it to make cosmetics and skin care products for external use. Others use it to make soft drinks, juices, dietary supplements , and powders suitable for consumption. You can find aloe in drinks and teas to improve digestion and intestinal health.
Being a natural ingredient, the final composition of aloe can change depending on various factors such as cultivation, growth and manufacturing processes.
Why do companies use aloe for skin care?
- Aloe Vera is renowned for its healing and calming properties.
- When applied to the skin, it relieves burns and irritation as it moisturizes and lubricates the skin.
- Today, aloe is a common ingredient in creams, lotions, cleansers, soaps, shampoos, ointments, and other cosmetic and personal care products.
Why do companies use aloe vera in food and supplements?
- After processing the gel to remove impurities, Aloe vera is popularly marketed as tonics for the digestive system.
- Contributes to nutrient absorption and overall digestive health. In addition, it has been used traditionally to relieve an upset stomach or indigestion.
- Although the gel is mostly made up of water, aloe contains small amounts of minerals and botanical compounds.
- The gel is also a source of specialized sugars that support immune function , the body’s natural defense system against disease and injury. And like other plants, aloe is a source of antioxidants.
A brief history of the use of aloe
Aloe has a long history of use in botanical medicine throughout the world. There is evidence of its use in medicine from more than 4,000 years ago :
- The ancient Egyptians called it the “plant of immortality”; It was given as an offering to the pharaohs at funerals and used in the baths of the Egyptian queens.
- Cleopatra loved aloe vera gel and used it to beautify herself.
- Its wound-healing qualities were so well known that Aristotle convinced Alexander the Great to conquer a specific island in East Africa to obtain aloe and use it to heal soldiers.
- In Asia, aloe has a long history of uses, among which is the preparation of drinks and juices with the gel of this plant.
6 benefits of aloe vera gel for skin care
Aloe vera gel, both as a topical gel and as an ingredient in skin care products, is helpful in hydrating and cooling the skin, keeping it soft and supple.
Here are some benefits of using aloe vera gel topically:
1. It can help reduce and prevent skin breakouts.
Aloe vera is a very mild ingredient that also has natural antimicrobial properties. Using it to reduce and prevent mild to moderate breakouts in combination with traditional acne medications can be a great option for people with skin sensitivity.
2. Contributes to moisture.
The benefit of using aloe vera is that it is dense in water, making it an excellent ingredient to use in skin care products for dry and itchy skin. Keeps skin hydrated and smooth.
3. Refreshes and hydrates the skin.
Surely, you have ever had a minor burn from a sunburn, from cooking or from using a hair straightener. The first thing you want to do is apply something fresh. Aloe vera gel can help create a barrier, while hydrating and refreshing the skin. A great tip is to keep it in gel form in the fridge for that extra cool feeling.
4. It is a great ingredient for face masks that you can make yourself.
Because of its light and versatile texture, you can use aloe vera gel to create your own hair masks, as well as hydrating face masks that can cool breakouts. Aloe vera is packed with antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, enzymes, and minerals that are beneficial in maintaining skin health.
5. It is gentle for a relaxing facial.
Facial treatments can help restore dry skin and help you feel refreshed. Applying an aloe gel facial can leave your skin softer, smoother and with a radiant glow.
6. Moisturizes hair with excess treatments.
Especially during the summer months, our hair tends to get a bit dry. Aloe vera is a great ingredient to use on hair. Look for products that have a non-drying formula and contain moisturizing and softening ingredients like aloe vera. It will leave your scalp fresh and your locks looking great.
5 benefits of consuming aloe vera for health and well-being
When extracted, processed and manufactured aloe gel safely for consumption and ingestion, it can be found in products such as aloe juice drinks or concentrated capsules.
Most people consume aloe vera juice as a supplement, and here’s why:
1. Supports digestion.
When consumed as a digestive system tonic, aloe juice can ease an upset stomach. In an independent trial *, consuming aloe juice was found to help relieve intestinal discomfort and inflammation. Other independent studies * suggest that aloe may reduce gastric acid production .
2. It favors the absorption of nutrients.
As food moves through the more than 20 feet (or 6 meters) of the digestive tract, the intestines absorb nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates – and water into the bloodstream so that the body can use them. These nutrients provide structure to the body by generating and repairing tissues, and energy for daily activities.
An independent study * revealed that aloe vera liquid preparations contribute to this absorption process, so more nutrients may be available to the body, specifically vitamins C and E.
The trial found that aloe gel, which acts as a time-release agent, slows down the rate of absorption of vitamin C, keeping plasma levels elevated for a longer period of time compared to controls. Both forms of aloe have a similar effect with regard to vitamin E.
3. Can promote gut health and immunomodulatory support
Prebiotics are compounds in food that support the growth of “good” bacteria (probiotics) in the digestive tract. Some foods rich in probiotics are apples, bananas, garlic, and soybeans.
Recent scientific data propose that aloe vera may be a prebiotic ingredient with various benefits. According to an independent study *, the polysaccharides present in this plant can support good bacteria.
This change in the composition of the microbiota is usually accompanied by an improvement in the immune system, by modulating the immune response. The authors of the book New Perspectives on Aloe * associate this positive prebiotic effect with the polysaccharides present in aloe vera gel.
4. It can stimulate the body’s antioxidant defense system.
The antioxidants in aloe vera help support the body’s antioxidant defense system. Oxidation, which is a natural process as part of daily metabolism, must be kept under control as it can damage cells and tissues in the body.
Antioxidants abound in plant foods such as aloe vera and balance oxidation and oxidation prevention processes. Polysaccharides and other compounds in aloe vera can also protect us against oxidative stress. In another independent study *, participants who drank aloe extract daily saw an improvement in their total antioxidant capacity without any clinical side effects.
5. It is hydrating and may contain fewer calories than highly sweetened beverages.
Apart from being a dietary supplement that provides digestive benefits, aloe juice is also a drink that can support your hydration needs. Hydration is essential for the body and organs to function properly.
Although most fluid intake should come from water, many people look to other beverages for a bit of variety. For that reason, high-calorie sodas and drinks often fill the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores. Aloe juice is a good alternative, but be sure to review the nutrition information to verify that it does not contain added sugars.
Why shouldn’t you consume raw aloe vera?
While raw aloe can be safely used as a topical application, it should not be consumed.
The word “aloe” comes from the Greek and means “bitter”. This is because just under the bark of the aloe vera there is a latex substance, which consists of a dense, yellowish liquid that resides between the outer layer of the leaf and the inner gel.
This latex also contains components known as aloins, which are very bitter, act as laxatives, and should not be ingested.
To use aloe safely, scientists developed a purification process to remove aloin from the juice. In this process known as “whitening”, the juice of the whole leaf or the inner part is pressed and passes through an activated carbon filter to eliminate or reduce these compounds to minimum levels.
Most companies that make aloe vera-based drinks and supplements use these processes to offer their digestive benefits to their consumers. At Herbalife Nutrition, we use a complete whitening process and strict quality control measures to produce a premium quality purified juice, compared to industry standards.
All the ways you can use aloe vera: quick guide to do it yourself
Today, consumers around the world can reap the benefits of aloe in a variety of ways.
How to use aloe vera in your skincare routine
When looking for aloe-based skincare or cosmetics, look for ones that are dermatologist-tested and sulfate-free. Look for an aloe gel product that is fragrance free. If possible, request a sample or test kit, so you can test the product before purchasing. The desired effect should leave the skin plump, soft and with an improved appearance.
Here are aloe-based recipes that you can make yourself:
Moisturizing face mask
This hydrating face mask feels good on the skin and only needs three simple ingredients:
- 3 tablespoons oatmeal
- 2 tablespoons aloe gel
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- Cook the oatmeal in 3 tablespoons of water for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Add the aloe gel and honey to the hot oatmeal. Let cool before applying it to your face.
- Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes. Oatmeal and honey are known for their hydrating properties, and aloe gel has skin conditioning ingredients.
- Rinse with lukewarm water and a mild sulfate-free cleanser.
Homemade mask for oily hair
This mask is great for oily hair and has three simple ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons aloe gel
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Mix all the ingredients and apply to damp hair, adding the mask from top to bottom. Make sure most of the mask is on your scalp. If you have long or thick hair, you can double the recipe.
- Wrap your hair in a bun or cap for 30 to 40 minutes. Honey has moisturizing properties, while aloe gel has skin-conditioning botanicals. Lemon juice acts as a natural astringent to help reduce oil secretion.
- Rinse with lukewarm water followed by sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.
Homemade mask for skin breakouts
This facial mask is relaxing and the ingredients are great at preventing bacteria. All you need are three simple ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (unflavored)
- 1 tablespoon of aloe gel
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- Mix the three ingredients and apply them to your face, preferably with a facial brush. Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Aloe gel and honey are known for their hydrating properties and yogurt is known as a natural antibacterial ingredient.
- To finish, wash thoroughly with lukewarm water and a mild sulfate-free cleanser.
How to use aloe vera juice
As for edible aloe, you can buy juices, concentrates, powdered extracts, or capsules.
Here are some tips and reminders when incorporating aloe vera into your diet:
- Before purchasing aloe vera juice, be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label for added sugars and high calorie ingredients.
- Mix aloe vera juice with sparkling water for a refreshing alternative to soda.
- Mix aloe vera juice with hot or cold tea.
- Add aloe vera juice to your favorite protein shake or shake.
And as with any nutritional supplement, it is important to research the brand and compare your options to verify that you are getting premium quality aloe vera juice. Adding it to your favorite drink can help keep you more hydrated, in addition to promoting digestion.