Can You Eat Aloe Vera?
There are many health products on the market that contain aloe vera. From sunburn-fighting lotions and creams to dental care products that fight plaque, these products rely on the different compounds present in aloe vera. This also brings up the question, is aloe vera edible?
Parts of the Aloe Vera Leaf
The edible parts of the aloe vera plant are the leaves. These are the thick, green parts that have spiky edges and white spots on the surface. Unlike the leaves of trees and other plants, aloe vera leaves are very thick. It consists of three parts.
The outermost layer of the leaf is very tough. People call it the cuticle. It serves as a natural protection for the other two components of the aloe vera leaf. This part of the plant is safe to eat. However, it can be tough and can bring you stomach upset and indigestion. It has a crunchy texture and a mild flavor. It can be a great addition to summer salads. There are some cultures that dip the aloe vera skin in either hummus or salsa.
Underneath the cuticle is the outer leaf pulp. This has an almost liquid consistency compared to the cuticle. It also contains anthraquinones and latex. It is the latex component that one should be wary about. This contains aloin and other substances that can induce diarrhea. As much as possible, you should not eat the outer pulp. Besides, it has quite a bitter taste.
In the center of the aloe vera leaf is the gel. This is the most important part of the plant. It is also the component that people always associate with aloe vera products. You can also eat this part of the plant.
Preparing the Aloe Vera
In learning how to prepare aloe vera to eat, it is best to start with the right aloe vera leaves. They should be healthy. You should not see any form of damage or the presence of mold.
Wash the leaves to remove dirt and other potential contaminants. Place a leaf on a cutting board with its flat side on the board. Cut the spikes along the edge of the leaf. Get a sharp knife and cut the leaf near the root end. This will help you visualize the cuticle, the pulp, and the gel. Position your knife between the gel and the pulp layer. Slice off the leaf as if you are filleting a fish.
Flip the leaf to expose the gel. Remove any of latex that may be present. Remove the gel by scooping it out with a spoon. An alternative method will be to cut the gel into squares, without cutting through the opposite side of the leaf. You can then scoop it out.
Scrape the leaf to remove the anthraquinone- and latex-containing pulp. Set the leaf aside for you to cook later on. You can also soak the leaf in water for about 30 minutes to help soften it a bit. If you have problems digesting fibrous plant materials, you can discard the cuticle right away.
Cooking the Aloe Vera
Once you’ve prepared the aloe vera leaves, you will need to learn how to cook aloe vera the correct way. Many people like to simmer it with their favorite spices for about 30 minutes. This will help infuse the aloe vera gels with the different flavors of the spices.
Another way you can cook aloe vera is by adding the gels to your favorite stew or soup. You can add the gels about half an hour before you finish cooking the dish. This can thicken the soup or stew and give it a mild refreshing flavor.
There are also those who boil aloe vera gel cubes. They then add lime or lemon juice and a cup of sugar. The sugar will coat the gel cubes and give you a sweet treat.
Benefits of Eating Aloe Vera
We already know the different health benefits of aloe vera products. This leaves us the question, what are the benefits of eating aloe vera? There are not many studies that focus on the benefits of eating aloe vera. Among those studies that do, there are a few benefits that are worth noting.
- Improves Sensitivity to Insulin
One of the most important risk factors of diabetes is insulin resistance. This occurs when insulin is no longer responding to the usual chemical triggers that should allow it to carry and transport glucose across the blood-cell barrier. Aloe vera can help improve the sensitivity of insulin. This can lead to the more efficient transport of glucose into the cells.
- Suppresses Certain Pro-inflammatory Substances
There are studies that show aloe vera can help suppress the inflammatory activities of certain substances. These can include the Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Interleukin-6, and Interleukin-1. Suppression of these substances can help reduce the incidence of inflammatory disorders.
- Supports the Body’s Ability to Neutralize Free Radicals
Everyone knows that aloe vera contains antioxidants. These can help support the body’s ability to neutralize free radicals. This can translate to healthier cells and tissues. It can also improve the overall function of the different body organs.
- Aids in Improving Cognitive Function
The antioxidant properties of aloe vera can help improve cognitive function. Improving blood flow to the brain can lead to better nervous system functions. This can improve memory and learning. It can also reduce some of the manifestations of depression.
Potential Side Effects of Eating Aloe Vera
There are a few eating aloe vera side effects that you have to know. We already mentioned the leaf to be especially tough. It is not wise for some individuals to eat the cuticle of the aloe vera as it can lead to indigestion and stomach upset.
We also mentioned the pulp component of aloe vera. This contains anthraquinones and latex. There are studies that show consuming aloe vera latex can lead to muscle weakness, stomach cramps, irregular heartbeat, kidney problems, and diarrhea. It can also lead to miscarriage in pregnant women.
People who are taking medications for diabetes, kidney problems, or heart diseases should also refrain from eating aloe vera. There can be food-drug interactions that can worsen the side effects from these medications.
Is aloe vera edible? Prepared and cooked in the right way, yes, it is safe to eat. However, there are certain precautions that one should always keep in mind whenever eating aloe vera.