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If Aloin Is Harmful, How Can I Safely Use Aloe Vera?

aloin can cause stomach upset

Dr. Haley wrote about aloin, in a previous article, but the same sort of question keeps resurfacing — in one form or another. So, let’s have a look at the subject from another perspective.

Why does a health-promoting plant, like Aloe, contain a substance that may be unhealthy?

Shouldn’t “good plants” be good and “bad plants” bad?  Consider this possibility:

There are two components of the Aloe vera plant (sabila) of pharmaceutical interest. The first is taken from the outer leaf, or rind, of the plant. It is a brown, bitter substance with a milky consistency — and that is where the aloin is found.

Aloin

Aloin is a component of the rind, and it is a natural laxative. Like two other popular herbal bowel-enhancers, Senna and Cascara, aloin gets its purgative properties from anthraquinone glycosides — and that is troublesome, since anthraquinone glycosides have been indicated, in some scientific studies, as potentially carcinogenic.

To see what aloin looks like, take a look at this video by Dr. Haley. At about 20 seconds into the film, he presses a paper towel against freshly cut Aloe, and you can readily see the aloin get absorbed into the towel. Were you to cut a leaf of Aloe and put the end in your mouth, the aloin would be absorbed into your system, just as it is taken up by the paper towel in the video.

It is important to remember that the aloin concentration in Aloe vera is found in the outer leaf (the “rind”). Just as you do not normally consume the peel of a banana, you should not be in the habit of eating the protective cover of an Aloe leaf — whether in solid or liquid form.

The second substance of pharmaceutical interest, taken from the Aloe vera plant, is Aloe gel. This inner portion of the leaf is fleshy and moist. It is prized in herbal medicine for its abilities to augment the healing process, and is often enlisted to help with a variety of conditions: immune system disturbances, many types of burns and skin troubles, metabolic syndrome, GERD, vaginal infections (including candida albicans), shingles, severe sunburn, ulcers, and more. Many people also drink Aloe gel as a preventative measure, citing benefits to the digestive, immune, skin, and cardiovascular systems.

Aloe vera gel

If the aloin is a component of the protective cover, or rind, then the gel is the meat of the Aloe plant — it is the substance being protected. As is common practice when eating an orange, for instance, the rind is typically discarded when the plant is eaten.

The primary nutritional components of Aloe — B-sitosterol and mucopolysaccharides — are all obtained from the inner gel of the plant. Think of the Aloe structure like a fortress. The outer wall protects the inner treasure. The wall is not the treasure; it is there only to keep the treasure safe.

Without fail, the studies that raise a red flag warning against the advisability of consuming the flesh of Aloe vera fail to differentiate between rind and flesh. Rather, they consider the plant as a whole — grinding up samples of the rind mixed with the flesh for their samples.

Have you ever noticed that you can buy every nut — except the cashew — either in the shelled form or as a whole nut with the shell? That is because the cashew shell contains a potent skin irritant related to poison ivy. If you were to grind up an entire cashew and analyze the results, you might conclude that cashews should never be eaten. That same mistake is made when the entire Aloe plant is tested. Discard the rind, and you won’t be exposed to excess aloin. Eat the rind, and you may be in for an intestinal purge.

So why does the Aloe rind contain aloin?

Aloe vera StocktonNature does things nature’s way — and those ways are indeed marvelous. Some species are equipped with camouflage, some with attractive features to lure either prey or partners (or both), some can ball up into an impregnable fortress. No one knows for sure, but one possibility for why Aloe contains aloin in the first place has already been mentioned: the rind protects the flesh.

Apples are prone to worm infestations, but have you ever found an insect burrowed into an Aloe leaf? It could be that the aloin in the rind turns potential invaders away, preserving the precious flesh of the Aloe for you and me.

Aloe is a plant rich in history and tradition. King Solomon praised the Aloe, and it is rumored that Aloe was a part of Cleopatra’s daily beauty regimen. Used rightly, Aloe has consistently displayed its value as an herbal remedy.

The ancients were wise enough to remove the rind, before consuming or applying the flesh of the Aloe plant. We should do the same.

25 thoughts on “If Aloin Is Harmful, How Can I Safely Use Aloe Vera?

  1. Now that i have read this post after realising the aloevera gel I instantly filet(ed) was not rid of the aloin slow poison. I have to ask, in such a case as mine.. is there any way the aloin can be separated from the gel after having run it through a food processing grinder. I have already made the aloin rich gel into water so I’m guessing its mixed all too well. Any separation processes?

    1. Companies that manufacture aloe and remove the aloin use carbon and D.E. to remove the aloin. The problem is, you lose lots of nutrients too. So… no, you can’t effectively remove the aloin. But you can filet new leaves like this: https://youtu.be/rKXLMD2Dv8o

  2. Hello. Recently, I bought aloe vera juice and digested 8 ounces of the juice without removing the aloin. Later that night, I woke up and had rapid heartbeat for a few seconds and had some bowel movement. Now I have some muscle cramps and frequent urination. I was unaware of the laxative effect that aloin can do to your body. I drink water, eat foods with potassium, magnesium, and electrolytes to counter this. Do I need to see a doctor or will the aloin pass through eventually? Thank you in advance!

  3. Hello!

    I have recently purchased some ” Aloe Pura unfiltered 100%” juice. It’s made up of the whole leaf and inner gel. The only reason I purchased it was because it states “Aloin removed.”
    Is it still safe to consume? To my understanding Aloin is what possibly makes Aloe Vera unsafe? Would be very thankful for your response.

    1. Unfortunately it appears the research used an outer leaf extract (the irritant) without the gel (soothing healing parts). So we don’t know if the whole plant is safe for regular continued use. My concern is that, when aloin is removed, what else is missing? Filtering aloe also removes beneficial nutrients, not just the aloin. That is why the liquid is so much thinner… unless they added thickeners back in.

      1. thinner -> limper; thickeners -> stiffeners

  4. Which is better to take for high blood pressure if I use aloe Vera, the whole leaf or the inert filet

    1. I don’t believe research has ever been done related to this.

  5. Hi. Very interesting about Aloin. But a very well known Naturopathic Practitioner’s only brand in Australia always leaves the Aloin in. So there are obviously two different schools of thought on Aloin.

    1. When the aloin is left in the product, you are much more limited on serving size.

  6. I accidentally forgot to drain the yellow substance after cutting the leaf open. This is my first attempt extracting aloe. I made the aloe after blending it into ice cubes and they are yellowish in color. Can I remove the aloe latex at this juncture or am I too late?

  7. if I scoop out the gel from the aloe vera, can I take it like that? Why I ask is that I have fears that the scooped gel could contain Aloin.

    1. The scooped gel probably will have aloin in it… unless the leaf was properly prepared / bled or the gel rinsed after scooping it. A little aloin won’t hurt you… but it won’t taste good.

  8. Can I eat any kind of alovera plant

    1. No. “Aloe Vera” is Barbadensis Miller and they are good. Make sure there are no Pesticides, Herbicides, Fungicides, etc. being used.

  9. Hi Dr Michael Haley,
    Thanks for the informative content.
    I’ve got a question that I could not fin an answer to.
    There is the flashy gel – that’s the part we want.
    But what about that clear slime that is left on the fleshy gel? What is it, and is there a reason to keep it?
    Thanks,
    Faran

    1. If the slime came out of the leaf, is clean / fresh… yes, that is part of the good stuff… “mucopolysaccharides”.

  10. Hi,
    Can the flesh of the aloe plant be removed just using ordinary house hold tools such a knife and spoon to scoop.
    Thank
    Jo

  11. Gee, I just watched the referenced video. I wasted my time! He addressed everything I said! Oh, well, how did I know? I thought it was a legit question!

  12. Hello,
    I raised a baby goat. When it started eating everything that grew in my yard, I was not happy. The goat eventually ate some aloe in my garden. The purging began the same day. I thought she would need to go to the vet. Within two days the purging ended and she was as healthy, if not more so, then before. I never had to worry about my precious aloe plants being consumed by my goat again. She would bypass the aloe everyday after that.
    Thank you for letting me share.
    Mary

    1. Hahaha… Thank you, Mary. You tell a good story, and one that is meaningful to this page. Your goat had “whole leaf aloe vera”, which, yes, can cause quite the purge. It is sometimes difficult to “dose” when using it as a laxative and probably not the best choice when a laxative is needed. We, of course, prefer “inner filet only”. At the same time, I wonder if the goat needed a laxative at the time or if it was just a mere accident and educational experience.

      1. The best answer, if one wants to eat fresh aloe, is try to buy or make a filet tool (kinda like a cheese cutter that will separate the gel from the outer leaf in the largest single piece of gel one can possibly get while leaving all of the outer leaf (rind). A good tool and enough practice and one’ll [that’s an abbreviation for ‘one will’ ;-)] be an expert. Then immediately rinse the solid piece of gel under running water. That’ll remove the bitterness and the laxative effect. Of course, that’ll also remove a bit of the dripping gel that’s sticking to the filet (that was crushed in the cutting), but it’ll be free of the bitterness and laxative effect of the aloin.

        Immediately freeze what you’re not planning on eating by the next day because I would expect (I don’t know everything–geez) that the aloin would work on destroying the functional component of what’s left of the filet because I doubt that 100% of the aloin was removed by the rinse. However, it’s my understanding that the frozen gel will not lose efficacy as long as it’s frozen. However, we know how freezers defrost and that defrost cycle thaws and refreezes creating freezer burn and deteriorating whatever is frozen so I’d suggest that you not filet more than you’re going to eat in a few days to a week. I think that will tend to always give you the equivalent of fresh aloe without the negative aspects of the aloin.

        If you’re interested, Natural Aloe washes the filets in a pharmaceutical grade alcohol bath and then freeze dries the aloe vera, which they’ve trademarked as “Verapol®” (but you’re not equipped to do that!).

        1. You are right that you won’t ever really get rid of all of the aloin… unless you get rid of all of the aloe to, such as filtering it down to water. We have tested our aloe after only rinsing and grinding at 1 to 4 ppm aloin content – which is very low; so this technique definitely works well.

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