The first time I ever heard anything about aloe vera I was about 10 or 12 years old.

A friend of my sister's who lived at the end of our street was riding her bike down the hill and wiped out. She hit some sand on the shoulder, lost control and went head first over the handlebars. It was not pretty. Poor girl had road rash on almost ever piece of exposed skin, including her face. Her mom had an aloe vera plant. She broke off a few leaves, split them down the middle so that some of the wet, jelly-like substance remained on each side of the leaf, and proceeded to put it directly onto the worst spots on her daughter's face. I don't remember exactly how long it took for her face to heal up, but it wasn't long. And to this day, you wouldn't be able to tell she'd ever had so much as even a little scratch on her face.

 

Scrapes, burns, and sunburns, are usually what most people think of when it comes to medicinal uses for aloe vera. You may be surprised to know however, that this not-so-prickly cactus has been found to have even more healthful benefits when used internally. Botanicals (plants which are used alone or in combination, for flavouring, fragrance, functional health and/or medicine) are becoming increasingly popular. So popular in fact that, according to a Zion Market Research report,it is estimated the botanical market will surpass $1.4 Billion by 2025. Clearly more and more people are open to trying natural products.

 

Although aloe vera has been used both medicinally and cosmetically for 6000 years, it really seems to be showing a surge in popularity this past year. And since a 2019 study done by Brand Essence Market Research projected aloe vera gel alone to come just shy of the $1 Billion mark by 2025, I felt aloe vera was indeed worthy of some attention.

 

So why the sudden increase? What are people using aloe for and what benefits are they experiencing? Glad you asked, I did a little research. According to a study published by the International Aloe Science Council, (yep that's a thing) “... aloe vera enhances the bioavailability of vitamins B12, and C, and ORAC among mature adults...” Meaning when consuming aloe vera, the body was able to more readily absorb and use the vitamins and antioxidant levels were also increased. The study went on to say, It’s clear that consuming Aloe vera along with vitamin supplements would be beneficial especially among populations for whom B12 deficiency is an issue, such as the elderly.....the positive effects are boundless for those who take nutritional products.” Good to know, no?

 

Vitamin absorption is just one of many benefits. Aloe vera helps improve gut health, calm IBS symptoms, aids in digestion and reduces acid reflux. It also promotes regularity, helps with liver function, helps boost immune function and detoxes the skin. Definitely so many more benefits than just that cooling relief after staying out in the sun too long.

 

So I think we can all agree aloe vera is beneficial and understand perhaps why the sudden spike in sales. And while I love seeing people invest in their health, I do not love seeing people waste money. When it comes to health products, quality is of the utmost importance and you really do get what you pay for. Just as your car drives you around town, your body is really the vehicle that drives you through life. If your car was made to run on supreme over regular, you won't get near the performance you'd expect to when you cheap out at the pump. Same goes for your body.

 

Regardless of what the marketing on discount grocery store brands would have you believe, all aloe is not created equal. Labels, all labels, list ingredients in descending order according to quantity. Meaning the first item listed is the primary ingredient and the rest go down from there. If the first ingredient is not aloe vera – the inner leaf juice/gel – red flag. If it's full of sugar, fructose, artificial sugars, flavours or colours, red flag. Soy, fillers, bright colours or things you can't pronounce, also a red flag.

 

While picking up a few groceries the other day, noticed a large aloe drink product display. Advertised as a sugar-free Aloe Vera Drink, the bright green colour prompted me to check the label. A quick scan showed the first ingredient as water, “sugar free” turned out to mean it was sweetened with sucralose, and although it did contain some real aloe vera, the drink also contained artificial aloe flavour. Definitely not something that would provide much of a health benefit. Any benefit you might receive from the small amount of actual aloe vera, would quickly be negated by the inflammation caused by all the other toxic ingredients your body would have to deal with. Now I know some health products rank low on the totem tasting pole and aloe vera was one of them. Years ago I gave it to my youngest to help with digestive issues and I must admit it wasn't great – a bitter, lumpy gel. Fortunately science has come a long way and we now have quality aloe options that taste good too.

 

For more info on all things aloe vera, tune in to Facebook Live with Tania as she joins aloe vera expert and former board member of the International Aloe Vera Science Council, Chris Hardy, along with other industry leaders this Tuesday Oct 27. Join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook for details on how to watch.

Get Free FIT Tips From Tania

Kelowna Nutritionist STOP dieting, start living! Lose the Bloat, Melt your Belly, Love Your Life!! Last thing, last time, believe it! Sign up to receive my bi-weekly FIT Nutrition blog, and get started today.