My Aloe Vera Misadventure

by Claudius J West

aloe-vera-juiceA few months ago, Ms. Immortal ordered a bottle of aloe vera juice.

This was the special kind of juice that had the bad taste of the aloe vera taken out to make it so you wouldn’t want to throw up after drinking it.

He Likes It

I tried it. It perfectly lived up to its manufacturer’s claims of being flavor-free.

“But what’s it good for?” I wanted to know.

Digestion, Ms. Immortal said.

That sounded good enough for me. Bottoms up.

These days, aloe vera is found in facial tissues, moisturizers, shampoos, soaps, shaving cream, and—my favorite—is even used to dilute sheep semen for better artificial insemination.

(Rubbed on the skin, aloe vera is supposed to be protection from sunburns. Scientific evidence, however, doesn’t support that belief.)

Some studies show that A. vera speeds rates of wound healing, but other studies show that it significantly slows healing when contrasted to regular medical preparations.

A few weeks ago, I watch the documentary Hungry For Change, where I saw people skinning up large chunks of slimy A. vera, telling me aloe vera was good to eat because it is sticky and gelatinous, and will help detoxify my body similar to the way mucus does.

Detoxify my body? That sounded awesome. If there are toxins to be gotten rid of, I say: so long, uncared for and unwanted toxins.

Call of cthulhuThe Magic Happens, Sort Of

The next day, by magical coincidence, we were in the farm market store picking out vegetables to juice when we came across a bin of giant aloe vera leaves. They looked like a monster’s tentacles (or, if you please, the beard stubble of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu), barbed and vicious to the unwary handler.

And the price? A mere $1.49. Kismet never cost so little.

At home, I skinned myself a fair-sized chunk. It was slippery and dripped snotty slime same as the movie alien’s retractible jaws did. My boys nearly retched as they watched me pop it in my mouth.

I learned why the bottled stuff took pains to remove all of the flavor, because natural aloe vera is as BITTER as it gets.

I’ve had decongestant medication that I thought was the ultimate in bitterness. If you’ve had the same, I’m sure you’ll agree with me. Aloe vera is like that: every bit as bitter.

I surprised myself by continuing to eat a daily dose for a few days, even though bitterness is nearly intolerable to me. That’s why dark chocolate is a no-go, for me.

Eventually, I got the idea that if I mashed the A. vera up and swallowed it like a pill (in the sense that I poured it in my mouth and quickly knocked it back with a jerk of my head), then I wouldn’t have to have it sitting in my mouth for so long as I chewed it.

Mashing it up worked a treat.  In that state, it was also handy for spreading around my skin after a shower.

Uh-oh baby expressionUh-Oh

Then, I had a day of weird intestinal distress. Not overly distressing, but some achy-ness in my guts and odd pressures. Something was going on down there, and whatever it was didn’t seem like a good thing.

After a check of the Internet, I discovered these unsettling facts:

Side Effects

Although using aloe vera gel topically does not normally cause harmful side effects, taking the herbal supplement orally may cause serious harm, causing symptoms such as bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramping. The increased movement in the intestines may also cause a decrease in the absorption of medications, thereby reducing the effectiveness of other drugs. Additional adverse reactions from aloe vera include loss of vision, muscle weakness, vomiting and swelling in the throat.

Organ Damage

Taking aloe vera orally may cause serious damage to your internal organs. One report of acute hepatitis with liver damage occurred following the ingestion of aloe vera. Ingesting large amounts of aloe, such as 1 g per day, for long periods may cause kidney infections, bleeding in the stomach and kidney failure.

(Copied from Livestrong.com. Original article here.)

Yikes 

“Serious damage to your internal organs”?  That’s a de-motivator.

I learned from other sources that oral use of aloe vera can give rise to that funnest of cancers, colorectal cancer.

And it can deplete potassium and other vital electrolytes.

Longterm use can result in hepatitis, that is, liver inflammation.

On the positive side of the ledger, aloe vera can:

Promote Gastro-intestinal Function

In a research paper published in Prevention Magazine, Dr. Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. reports that the results of his clinical studies on the effect of drinking aloe vera juice confirmed that it helps to improve gastro-intestinal function. This herbal juice also promotes colonic bacterial function, which in turn reduces flatulence as well as bloating after meals.

Stool Softener

The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that aloe vera juice is a potent laxative that has traditionally been used to alleviate constipation. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine attributes this benefit to powerful laxative compounds in this juice, namely aloin, barbaloin and aloe-emodin.

Control Blood Sugar Levels

Aloe vera juice can be taken by diabetics to control their blood sugar levels, which tend to be abnormally high.

Detoxification

The American Chronicle lists detoxification as one of the benefits of drinking aloe vera juice. In an online monograph on aloe vera, it notes that this juice contains amino acids, serine threonine, molybdenum and methionine, which work together to detoxify the body of heavy metals. They also promote the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Immune System Stimulant

Jacqueline L. Longe, in her book “The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine,” notes that aloe vera juice contains a bioactive chemical compound called acetylated mannose that studies have shown to be an effective immune system stimulant.

Treat and Prevent Viral Infections

According to Jacqueline L. Longe, the acetylated mannose compound has also been shown to have anti-viral properties that are beneficial in fighting the viruses that cause measles, the flu and the earliest stages of AIDS.

Cancer Management

The International Journal of Toxicology reports that aloe-emodin, a chemical component in aloe vera juice, has anticarcinogenic properties that inhibit the growth of tumors.

(Copied from  Livestrong.com. Read original article here.)

thumbs up and downYea Or Nay?

Softer stools so that the colorectal cancer doesn’t hurt as much?

After considering the info above, I’ve decided to give ingestion of aloe vera a pass, until such time as stronger evidence argues for its use.

I suspect that my intestinal distress came from the accidental inclusion of the inside of the aloe leaf, called the latex, a substance which once was used as a laxative. Although I did not experience laxative effects, the slight cramping in my guts matched the usual symptoms of latex ingestion gone wrong.

Although I tell myself that, in future, I could avoid the negative effects of the latex by being more meticulous during my preparation, after considering the paucity of outstanding benefits and contrasting them to the raft of possible bad outcomes of ingesting aloe vera, I feel fortunate to have concluded my aloe vera misadventure so early in the game.

 

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