Not only is it edible, it’s also great for treating a variety of ailments that I will discuss in this article. I’ll also address some of the safety concerns related to aloe vera both for pets and humans.
Aloe Vera Parts You Can Eat
The aloe vera parts that are consumed most commonly include the clear inner gel of the aloe vera stalk and the green outer layer.
To get to the clear gel, simply take a sharp knife and peel away the green portion until you reach the transparent meat inside. You can crush this meat and put in smoothies or eat it as it is.
Depending on the size of the aloe, the green outer layer can be often tough, so it may not be as palatable. It can also have a bitter taste just like the gel inside, so eating it will not be pleasant. That said, it’s often added to salads or drinks for texture.
Aloe Vera Parts You Should Avoid Eating
So far, I discussed the green skin of the aloe and the gelatinous meat inside, both of which are edible, though not always readily palatable.
But aloe vera also has another component, which may have side effects that don’t recommend it as an edible part of this succulent. This is the aloe latex, which is a thin liquid in between the skin and the aloe meat.
In small quantities, the aloe latex can help with constipation as it has a laxative effect. If you take too much of it, however, it can have serious side-effects including kidney problems, irregular heartbeat, and can worsen side-effects of diabetes, kidney or heart medication.
Because of these safety concerns, the US FDA banned the sale of OTC medication containing aloe vera latex.
Benefits of Eating Aloe Vera
Including aloe vera in your diet can have many health benefits including:
- Reducing blood sugar levels
- Raises blood antioxidant levels
- Helpful in easing constipation
- Can help reduce dental plaque
- Can help in healing ulcers
- Reduces symptoms of oral lichen planus
Besides the benefits derived from consuming aloe vera internally, using the gel in topically can help ease symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, reduces acne, helps treat wounds and burns.
If taken orally, it’s important to follow dosage recommendations as eating too much aloe vera can lead to unpleasant side effects.
Risks of Eating Aloe Vera
Eaten in small doses for short periods of time, aloe vera gel is generally safe. Problems appear when whole-leaf extracts are consumed that include the aloe vera latex. Consumed over a long period, it can even be fatal.
Here are some of the symptoms associated with aloe latex from the less severe to the life-threatening:
- Diarrhea, abdominal cramps
- Worsening symptoms of IBS, IBD and Crohn’s disease
- Irregular heartbeat
- Drug interactions (e.g., with anticoagulants and diuretics)
- Kidney failure
It’s important to know which parts of the aloe are safe to eat and in what quantity to avoid exposing yourself to any dangerous side-effects.
While applying the product topically is generally considered safe, oral consumption should take into account the dangerous effects of aloe vera latex.
Is Aloe Vera Safe to Pets?
According to the ASPCA website, aloe vera is toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Only the gel inside the aloe is considered edible.
The compounds in aloe that are considered toxic to pets are saponins, anthraquinones. Signs of aloe vera toxicity in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy.
Therefore, if you’re growing this succulent inside or outside your home, make sure your pets don’t have access to it.
Discourage your pets from playing with houseplants, since aloe vera is not the only houseplant that can have toxic effects if ingested.
If you suspect your pet has eaten aloe vera, make sure to monitor for symptoms and call your vet if your cat or pooch is feeling unwell.
Don’t give your pets any aloe vera products, supplements, or extracts either, unless prescribed by your vet.
How to Remove Poison from Aloe Vera?
If you want to consume some of your home-grown aloe vera, you first need to determine whether it’s the edible kind or not.
Aloe vera barbadensis miller is the only edible Aloe vera, but it can be easy to mistake it for the Aloe vera var. Chinensis, which isn’t edible.
The edible one has thick, wide leaves that grow upright and are a silvery green color. It produces yellow flowers.
The non-edible version, the Aloe vera var. Chinensis is used mostly for treating burns and skin ulcers and has narrow leaves that aren’t as thick. Its leaves also feature yellow spots and have a yellowish green color. The non-edible aloe variety produces orange flowers.
Even if you’re growing Aloe vera barbadensis, you need to keep in mind that not all parts of the aloe vera are edible.
You still need to watch out for the poisonous aloe latex in its composition. You need to remove as much of it as possible to prevent any harmful effects.
You can wash this yellow liquid away when peeling the skin off, or soak the skin in water for 10 to 20 minutes, which not only will wash away the latex, it will also soften the skin should it be too tough.
Aloe vera has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The gel inside the aloe vera stalk has a multitude of benefits whether applied topically or orally.
The skin and meat of your aloe vera are edible, though not necessary palatable unless you really love bitter foods.
Keep your aloe away from pets and children. Children under 12 years of age should not be given aloe vera.
If you’re applying aloe vera on burns and other skin conditions, you shouldn’t encounter any harmful effects. If you’re eating aloe, you should watch out for aloe latex and dosage.