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Mature Aloe Vera Market Needs Fresh Standards


by Sandy Almendarez -

Top Aloe Issues
  • Aloe is so prevalent that many people may think they know the plant well, but the 400 different species and the different parts of the aloe vera plant offer disparate health effects from laxative to wound healing, so using the correct formulation is critical.
  • A joint study from FDA and the National Toxicology Program found a non-decolorized, whole-leaf extract of Aloe babadensis Miller bestowed carcinogenic effects; however, its important to let consumers know this form is hardly used in finished goods.
  • Creating a standard for the aloe vera that's used in products can help industry, governments and consumers differentiate between the hundreds of aloe species.


Aloe vera, a botanical most consumers would say they know very well, is actually quite complicated. For starters, “aloe" can refer to more than 400 species. Some, especially vera, offer a slew of health benefits, while others are related to cancer and other ill effects. Because of its health properties and low toxicity levels, aloe vera, aka aloe vera (L.) Burm. f., Aloe barbadensis, barbadensis (Mill.) or Miller, is the most commonly used aloe in consumer products.

Product manufacturers are therefore most likely to seek aloe vera for their beverages, lotions, tissues, etc., but it’s important they use the correct part of the aloe vera plant, as the components can offer varying effects; a consumer would become quite unhappy if he felt laxative effects instead of the antioxidant result he was expecting. The bitter, yellow-brownish, sap-like material found in between the inner leaf and the rind is known as aloe latex and is used primarily in crude drugs. Aloe latex contains anthraquinones, which cause a laxative effect in humans. The anthraquinone aloin is particularly known for its strong laxative properties.

To get to the inner leaf juice (aka aloe gel) without the latex and thus without the laxative effect, the plant is stripped of the outer rind either by hand or by machine (known as “filleting," because the inner leaf without its outer plant shell looks like a fish), and the latex is rinsed away. The remaining material is then ground or crushed into juice. The fibrous pulp is usually discarded. This process leads to aloe that is “decolorized" because removing the yellow latex leaves the juice clear.

Whole-leaf aloe is obtained by grinding the entire aloe leaf, then removing the rind material (usually using an enzyme treatment such as cellulose) and aloe latex via filtration (charcoal is a popular filtration form). A good filtration process removes the aloe latex down to 10 ppm or less in orally administered finished products and 50 ppm or less in cosmetic applications.

As ubiquitous as aloe vera products are, many confuse and combine the properties of the different species of aloe and components of aloe vera. It doesn’t help that most pharmacopeias refer to aloe latex simply as “aloe" or “aloe juice."

Next: Government Study Finds Toxic Effect

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