This is an important question. From my studies in herbal medicine, I know that some plants and herbs should be ingested with caution. Some plants, such as arnica montana, are toxic to livestock, and can cause liver complications to humans if ingested at concentrated levels over time.
A clove can contain anywhere from 80%-90% eugenol oil. Eugenol is an amazing chemical for health and hygiene, but can be toxic to children and should be avoided if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When it comes to aloe vera, I have always been hesitant to ingest the plant. This is for several reasons. For one, I have grown many aloe plants and have experienced many different colors and "potencies" of aloe vera gel. Some that are definitely more appetizing than others. Aloe plants that I have purchased from the store or apothecary can have nutrient-heavy soil and as a result, their aloe gel is a rich yellow color and has a very potent aroma.
On the other hand, I have grown organic aloe that have also produced rich, yellow gel from the leaf.
So what makes aloe gel (or juice) yellow? The yellow hue and potent aroma look to be related to an increased presence of a chemical called aloin. Aloin, which can be found in all aloe plants, has been found in great strength in a select few species: specifically a. ferox, and hybrids of a. ferox (11).
Well, it just so happens that in 2002 the FDA declared aloe vera laxatives, aloe vera extracts and flower products, and aloin-containing products in general as not GRAS (not generally recognized as safe)(15). However, aloe and aloin continue to be allowed in supplements.
Which brings us to the question at hand: is aloe vera safe to ingest?
The FDA claims that aloe may be a carcinogen and requires further testing:
"The agency requested mutagenicity, genotoxicity, and carcinogenicity data on aloe and cascara sagrada ingredients and carcinogenicity data on bisacodyl and senna" (15). - Food and Drug Administration
If I were to ingest aloe vera, I would do it in this specific manner:
*it is not recommended that you ingest aloe vera if you are pregnant or nursing* (16)
11) Aloin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloin
12) Cyclooxygenase. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclooxygenase
13) Antiinflammatory C-glucosyl chromone from Aloe barbadensis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8778246
14) Comparison of the Effect of Aloe Vera Gel and Nitrofurazone 2% on Epithelialization and Granulation Tissue Formation Regarding Superficial Second-Degree Burns. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27516662
15) 21 CFR Part 310. Status of Certain Additional Over-the-Counter Drug Category II and III Active Ingredients. https://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/98fr/050902a.htm
16) Chapter 3Evaluation of the Nutritional and Metabolic Effects of Aloe vera. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92765/
The Alchemist's Corner
The Alchemist's Corner is where we share our discoveries in botany and medical research and explain their relationship to our mission.