The aloe vera plant is packed with phytochemicals and nutrients. When applied topically, aloe vera gel helps heal cuts and burns. Aloe vera juice may help lower blood sugar, and it shows promise for fighting cancer, notes "Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects." But the active ingredients degrade quickly, making proper storage essential. Be aware that some of the bioactive components can interact with medications or worsen health problems, so talk to your doctor before consuming aloe vera juice.
Ingredients in Aloe Vera
The center of an aloe vera leaf is filled with a clear, gel-like liquid that is used to make aloe vera juice. A bitter-tasting yellow sap lies just beneath the green rind of the leaf. This sap, called aloe latex, is such a strong laxative that it should be avoided unless you take it under the supervision of a physician.
Fresh aloe vera gel is a source of many beneficial phytochemicals, as well as carbohydrates, amino acids, 11 minerals and six vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin C. However, a significant amount of nutrients and bioactive compounds are lost during commercial processing, according to studies cited in "Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects."
Once an aloe vera leaf is cut from the plant, natural enzymes and bacteria begin to break down the active ingredients. As they degrade, their ability to deliver health benefits diminishes. Proper processing and storage helps slow this activity down.
Whether your aloe vera juice is fresh or purchased from the store, it should be refrigerated immediately. Keeping it cold is one of the most important ways to extend shelf life and keep the ingredients active.
Commercial products usually contain preservatives, so they may keep in the refrigerator for several months. Quality products have storage information on the label, so follow those instructions. If you harvest aloe vera gel at home, make only the amount of juice you'll consume right away. If you have leftovers, don't store them for more than a few days.
Processing Tips for Homemade Juice
When you make aloe vera juice, use mature leaves that are three to four years old because they'll have the maximum amount of nutrients and phytochemicals. Try to separate the outer rind, remove all the yellow sap and get all the gel you need out of the leaves within 10 minutes. After that, the gel oxidizes and turns brown, indicating that you're losing active ingredients.
Blend the gel together with your favorite citrus juice. This adds flavor, but more importantly, citric acid from citrus fruits acts as a natural preservative. Put the juice in an opaque container because exposure to light also degrades bioactive ingredients.
Small, solid particles from the gel may settle on the bottom if you have leftover juice, so shake or stir it before serving it later.
Women who are pregnant should not use aloe vera gel or latex because they may increase the risk of birth defects or induce a miscarriage, warns MedlinePlus.
Aloe vera gel is safe for most people, but since it has the potential to lower blood sugar, consume aloe vera juice cautiously if you have diabetes.
If it's not processed carefully, aloe vera juice may contain some of the yellow latex. Aloe latex is a stimulant laxative that can cause cramps and diarrhea, and it may irritate the colon. The latex component also interacts with some medications, especially blood thinners and digoxin. If you take any medications, you have kidney disease or intestinal problems such as Crohn's disease or hemorrhoids, don't take aloe vera latex without first talking to your doctor.