YOU WANT ALOE VERA PRODUCTS with the most effective, health-promoting benefits you can find, and Stockton Aloe is in the business of cultivating and processing the most beneficial variety of Aloe vera known—barbadensis miller-stockton.
One might reason, then, that Stockton Aloe’s owner, Dr. Michael Haley, knows the answer to one of the most frequently asked questions about Aloe vera … so, we asked him.
Here is the question and Doctor Haley’s response:
Why is raw Aloe vera gel sometimes pink, or even red, in color?
First, let’s talk about something that definitely does not cause the color difference: Pathogenic Bacteria.
When you buy fresh organic vegetables, you not only get the plants, but also the naturally occurring bacteria from the soil in which they were grown. Many people would say that is not a problem at all. In fact, it is a primary benefit of consuming raw, living foods.
The most important questions to ask about raw foods are:
How much bacteria is present? There are certain levels of bacteria that are acceptable, and there are levels that are not acceptable. If you purchase salad and leave it in your refrigerator too long, eventually your sight, smell, and taste will let you know the bacteria levels have become too high. Rotting occurs due to bacteria, and you don’t need a scientist to tell you when that process has become too advanced.
What strains are present? Some bacteria are beneficial, some are harmful (pathogenic), and some have no real effect on the human body, being destroyed quickly in the gut and turned into waste. It is the pathogenic bacteria you want to avoid—certain strains of E. coli for instance. E. coli does not occur naturally in vegetation, but can be transferred to the plants from animal feces. The beneficial bacteria are called “probiotic.” They are healthy for you. L. acidophilus is a well-known strain of probiotic bacteria. Sometimes in vegetables, the bacteria are nurtured and cultured to naturally preserve and increase many health benefits. Making Sauerkraut is an example.
Should I play it safe and only eat pasteurized or irradiated foods? Some bacteria are good for you and some are not. Pasteurization (elevated temperatures) and irradiation (exposure to radiation) kill both kinds indiscriminately; moreover those processes can change the internal structure of the food and render it far less valuable for your health. As a general rule, the closer you can get to the natural state of foods, the better they are for you. At Stockton Aloe, we test every batch of Aloe gel for harmful bacteria—and livestock is not allowed on the plantation. One of the ways nature protects Aloe is by furnishing the plants with pointed, cactus-like spurs that tell animals to “Stay back!”
Viscosity: Mucopolysaccharides are super-long-chain sugar molecules that help stabilize blood sugar levels, lubricate joints, and manage arthritis. As the mucopolysaccharides get consumed by bacteria the viscosity of Aloe vera gel decreases. Raw Aloe starts out rather viscous. However, after 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, the bacteria counts increase and the mucopolysaccharides decrease. Red or pink Aloe tends to be more viscous. WARNING: Some Aloe drinks have thickeners added to simulate viscosity.
So why does Aloe vera turn pink?
This has been the question that has plagued us for quite some time. We have cut into fresh Aloe leaves and watched portions turn pink right before our eyes. We have also seen pink Aloe turn translucent again, right before our eyes. Swirling the Aloe as it is turning clear seems to quicken the process. But reproducing color changes in Aloe, is difficult, and nearly an impossible, feat. However we did capture on video aloe returning from red back to white again:
Most people experienced with raw Aloe say the color change is related to a rapid change in temperature. However, this too is something we have been unable to duplicate, even by subjecting fresh filleted leaves to rapid chilling.
We have also observed color changes in the leaves of Aloe plants themselves. The leaves are usually green, but they often appear quite red. This seems to be the case when they are getting abundant sunshine. Light can certainly be a catalyst in chemistry. Our bodies use sunlight to convert 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D.
An interesting observation from the laboratory is that certain nutrients change color as they convert from one form to another, and vitamin B12 is associated with the colors pink and red. If our Aloe was shown to provide significant levels of B12, that would be great news for vegans. B12 is most normally associated with animal foods and can be difficult to obtain in a vegan diet. We don’t know whether B12 is a factor, and we are certainly not making the claim—yet it is an interesting possibility, one that needs more study.
In summary, many customers prefer the pink or red Aloe because it tends to smell and taste better, it tends to have a thicker viscosity, and they believe it may possess even more health benefits than translucent Aloe. This is not a request that we can always fulfill, however, since we only have a small percentage of Aloe that is pink or red. We ship our Aloe as soon as possible after the order is received, and we do not differentiate by color. We send the freshest Aloe available, not the most colorful.
We know only a little, but we have not given up on trying to solve the mystery. One of the marvelous things about Aloe vera is that it refuses to yield its secrets to scientists. In one way, that is a good thing: if the pharmaceutical giants could figure out how to duplicate the many healing potentialities of Aloe, they would create a synthetic form of the plant and find a way to market it at hyper-inflated prices on a prescription basis. Even if that were to happen, though, the wisest consumers would still prefer the whole plant—Aloe barbadensis Stockton-miller—over the Madison Avenue variety.