The truth about aloe

The truth about aloe

In the wake of the recent flak from CSPI and Consumer Affairs, IASC lays out the facts about aloe vera.

The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) is comprised of businesses that sell aloe products. One could say that means we have an agenda—and we do. The IASC agenda is to promote the responsible manufacture and sale of aloe vera products, and wants consumers to have ready access to purchase aloe vera in a variety of forms for a variety of uses. As an organization and individual businesses, we also want consumers to be able to make informed choices about aloe vera products and have the necessary facts to make those decisions.

In the wake of the recent press release from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on aloe vera, another consumer news outlet, Consumer Affairs, has added its misleading voice to the mix. "These sensational articles on aloe vera are confusing consumers. In order to provide people with accurate information—we continue to point out some simple facts", said Devon Powell, IASC executive director:

  • Understanding aloe vera—There are two primary types of processed raw ingredients used in commercially available aloe vera products:
    • Decolorized or purified aloe vera leaf juice (sometimes also referred to as "whole leaf").  
    • Aloe vera inner leaf juice (sometimes referred to as "inner filet" or "gel"), and;  
  • Stimulant laxatives or "Drug Aloe"
    • Aloe latex (the bitter, yellow sap found between the rind and the inner leaf material)  
    • Unpurified leaf juice containing high levels of the latex

A complete description, including flow charts of how aloe vera raw materials are processed, can be found in the Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, 2ndEditionchapter on aloe vera. 

  • The FDA banned several stimulant laxatives in 2002—The "aloe" referenced in the Consumer Affairs and CSPI articles that was banned in 2002 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in over the counter (OTC) drug products refers to the aloe latex or unpurified (nondecolorized) aloe vera, which contains the constituent aloin, a powerful laxative. At the same time it banned aloe latex, the FDA also banned several other stimulant laxatives use in OTC drugs—including cascara sagrada.
  • Misrepresented and misapplied science—The test article used in the referenced study was nondecolorized aloe vera, which means it was not purified or filtered, and contained 10,000 to 13,000 parts per million (ppm) aloin. That is 2,000 times higher content than most all commercially available aloe products. As mentioned prior, aloin is a powerful laxative, thereby having a significant effect on the colon health, and, is known to cause dehydration, mineral and nutrient loss with extended usage. "If you put any animal in a diarrhea state for its entire lifetime, as was the case with the NTP study, it's likely to cause some health issues," said Powell. The IASC recommends consumers avoid consuming high aloin aloe vera products of any kind. All IASC certified aloe products must meet standards that include an aloin content of no more than 10ppm. Safety standards for food and beverage products include limits for known contaminants; it should be no surprise that such standards apply to aloe vera as well. "It's a good reason to always look for the IASC seal on aloe vera products," said Powell.
  • The process of decolorization or purification—The vast majority of aloe vera products available in marketplace beverages are purified or filtered to remove the aloin. The IASC has produced a video on the process of decolorization. This process uses an activated charcoal filtration step to ensure that aloe vera juice finished products are virtually free of the toxic constituents found in aloe latex.
  • The science of safety—There are several recently published studies on some of the more widely available aloe beverages and ingredients found in the marketplace, which are decolorized or purified, and which showed no carcinogenic effects in mice or rats.
    • Sehgal I, Winters WD, Scott M, Kousoulas K. An in vitro and in vivo toxicologic evaluation of a stabilized aloe vera gel supplement drink in mice. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013 May,55:363-370.  
    • Sehgal I, Winters WD, Scott M, David A, Gillis G, Stoufflet T, Nair A, Kousoulas K. Toxicologic assessment of a commercial decolorized whole leaf aloe vera juice, Lily of the Desert filtered whole leaf juice with aloesorb. Journal of Toxicology 2013. Doi: 10.115/2013/802453. Epub 2013 Mar 11 
    • Shao A, Broadmeadow A, Godard G, Bejar E, Frankos V. Safety of purified decolorized (low anthraquinone) whole leaf Aloe vera (L.) Burm. f. juice in a 3-month drinking water toxicity study in F44 rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2013 Mar 14;57C:21-31  
    • Williams LD, Burdock GA, Shin E, Kim S, Jo TH, Jones KN, MatulkaRA. Safety studies conducted on a proprietary high-purity aloe vera inner leaf fillet preparation, Qmatrix. Regulatory Toxicology Pharmacology 2010 Jun;57(1):90-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2010.01.002. Epub 2010 Jan 22.
  • Health benefits: Ignoring traditional use—Aloe vera has been used as a traditional remedy for centuries for many ailments. The most common being constipation, with recent times seeing it used for sunburns, moisturizing, wound care, etc. Beyond the traditional uses and topical applications - aloe vera has been studied more recently for bioavailability, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS), and many other reasons. As with many scientific studies, and in particular those on botanicals vs. single-constituent drugs, these studies may not absolutely conclude efficacy or potency for a given ailment, and may require additional study.
  • "Fanciful health claims"—there are plenty of products in the marketplace - including products like Cheerios, POM Wonderful, etc.—that have found themselves in trouble with regulators with regards to product claims. The IASC recommends consumers consider this when purchasing aloe vera beverages: if the claims are too good to be true, they probably are. Products certified by the IASC must comply with all applicable laws with regards to claims, and are checked prior to issuing certification as well as randomly to ensure compliance.


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