Does aloe vera really make you beautiful and healthy?
Aloe vera is a true “miracle plant” that is not only ideal for skin care, but can also help with various health problems. However, the healing power has so far only been proven in a few studies. Sufficient evidence is lacking, especially for the effectiveness when used internally.
An ancient natural remedy
Aloe vera is an ancient natural remedy that is used, among other things, for sunburn or as a home remedy for bloating and other gastrointestinal complaints. Although the healing effects of aloe vera have been known for centuries, the positive benefits of the desert lily have so far been scientifically proven for only a few areas of application. Health experts at Stiftung Warentest have now viewed studies and are reporting on them in a current article.
Aloe Vera is a true all-rounder in naturopathy. The plant, which is also known as the desert lily and is used both internally and externally, can be helpful, among other things, for a bloated stomach, heartburn and uncomfortable feeling of pressure in the stomach.
Above all, however, external areas of application such as pimples, injuries, light burns or sunburn are known.
The Stiftung Warentest has commissioned experts to review studies on the subject. Their balance was positive in some applications on the skin, but otherwise the plant apparently reaches its limits.
It depends on two raw materials
There are several hundred aloe species worldwide. Aloe vera is primarily used in cosmetics and medicine. It can be found in numerous products such as skin creams, yoghurts, capsules and juices.
According to the product test, the beauty and health industry relies primarily on two raw materials from the plant:
On the one hand, on aloe latex, a yellowish juice from the area under the leaf bark, which contains special natural plant substances that contain anthraquinones. The juice tastes bitter and has a strong laxative effect.
Some manufacturers still use the juice in constipation medicines. The Stiftung Warentest writes in a comment:
“The preparations have a comparatively drastic effect in the intestine. In addition, an increased risk of cancer cannot be excluded with long-term use. ”The experts recommend gentler laxatives.
The other substance that is processed industrially is the clear gel inside the leaves, which is considered to be well tolerated - it is said to have many miraculous effects.
It is about 99 percent water. The rest is made up of various sugars, but also amino acids, fats, minerals, vitamins. Some researchers assume that the substances in the overall network have a favorable effect. Others think a sugar called acemannan is particularly important.
Benefits not sufficiently proven for internal diseases
There are numerous studies on the effects of aloe vera, but these are mostly cell and animal experiments. There are hardly any clinical studies.
"In addition, they often only include a small number of participants and have methodological weaknesses," explained Judith Günther, a doctor of pharmacy with a doctorate who is jointly responsible for the pharmaceutical ratings of the Stiftung Warentest and the current aloe report.
Only for wound healing after burns and for the relief of inflammation in the mouth are there indications of a benefit from aloe gel.
"Cooling and moisturizing effects, for example in cosmetics or after sunburn, also seem conclusive," says Günther.
However, when it comes to the treatment of serious external as well as internal diseases such as cancer, the benefits are not sufficiently proven.
No serious side effects
As reported by US toxicologists in a review in 2016, the gel does not appear to cause any serious side effects - apart from rare allergic reactions.
According to the Stiftung Warentest, anyone who buys aloe vera articles should pay attention to the information provided by the provider - whether they give advice on how to take it and explain the manufacturing process.
Products made from "pure leaf gel" or "pure leaf pulp" are therefore preferable. Whole leaf extracts may also contain the potentially harmful anthraquinones, according to the US study.
Grow Aloe Vera yourself
Particular attention should be paid to health statements. Products with aloe gel for swallowing are considered food or nutritional supplements in Germany.
These may not be advertised with health-related statements unless explicitly permitted by the European Food Authority Efsa. Cosmetics have less strict rules.
Some users grow the plant themselves. To extract gel, cut a leaf and stand it upright for a while so that the yellow juice with the unwanted anthraquinones can flow out.
If the bark is then removed well with a knife, there remains a fairly firm gel that can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days.
When used internally, such as in a smoothie, caution is advisable, as it is difficult to assess whether all the harmful anthraquinones have really been removed, especially when making them yourself.
And no matter whether harvested or bought by yourself: Nobody should neglect their medical therapy in favor of aloe on their own. (ad)