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Soothing inside and out: Aloe vera

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Soothing inside and out: Aloe vera

If you’ve ever had a sunburn or been burned in the kitchen, you may have experienced the relief of applying fresh aloe vera — just cut off a leaf, split it open, and rub the gel on the burn. But the juice of an aloe plant is good for your insides too: It helps heal the mucosal lining of your digestive tract, relieves constipation and colitis — and that’s just the start.

 

Here’s one of the most surprising things about the extract from an aloe leaf: Laboratory studies show it can protect mice from the damaging effects of radiation  — so it may be able to protect you, too.

Most of aloe juice’s other benefits are pretty well-established. It promotes healthy intestinal flora, supports wound healing, fights infection, and also shows fungicidal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

Last but certainly not least, aloe juice has been repeatedly shown to lower both triglycerides and blood sugar. That makes it useful for treating diabetes — but it also means that if you’re diabetic, you should discuss taking aloe juice with your doctor so she can adjust the rest of your regimen as needed.

Choosing and using aloe vera

You’ll find aloe juice in most health food stores and the natural foods section of many supermarkets. The term aloe gel actually refers to the jelly-like inner leaf of the plant, but many supplement companies use that term interchangeably with aloe juice, which is usually made from the whole leaf.

As long as you’re buying a liquid, you’re usually getting aloe juice — but what you really need to look for is a product that’s been filtered to remove anthraquinones. (Anthraquinones come from aloe latex (the yellowish juice between the gel and the rind of the leaf), and they’re a powerful and potentially toxic laxative.)

How to take it

Blending aloe juice into your morning smoothie is easy as pie — or, if you’re not a smoothie fan, mix it in a bit of water. Or you can eat the solid gel from inside an aloe leaf; cut it from the plant with sharp scissors or a knife, carefully slice away the green rind and the yellowy latex inside it, and lift out the gel heart of the leaf. That’s the part you eat.

If you are on the Fast Metabolism Diet, save aloe vera juice for after the diet; it does have some natural sugar and carbohydrates.

Cautions

While aloe juice is good for you, overdoses can be toxic. So practice moderation if you use the gel straight from the leaves, and follow the manufacturer’s directions (and your doctor’s advice) if you’re using a supplement.

And just as a reminder: if you’re diabetic, taking aloe juice can lower your blood sugar — so be sure to first discuss with your doctor.