The primary Aloe vera varieties we know are a desert succulent native to Africa which is now grown all over the world. A member of the lily family, Aloe vera is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet. Each leaf of fresh Aloe vera contains a mucilaginous gel, which is a potent source of long chain sugars known as polysaccharides. The thick Aloe vera leaves must be ‘filleted’ to remove the gel.
The gel of raw Aloe vera contains vitamins A, C and E; the minerals sulphur, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and chromium; as well as antioxidants; fibre; amino acids; enzymes; sterols; lignins; and, most importantly; polysaccharides.
Aloe’s polysaccharides have a particular lubricating effect on the joints, brain, nervous system and the skin. These polysaccharides are long-burning carbohydrates and provide steady energy over time.
Aloe vera polysaccharides have immuno-modulating effects. They allow the human immune system to fight against chronic viral infections, nanobacteria, and fungal infections.
Aloe vera is a crucial part of any weight loss and fitness programme as it has been shown that when you ingest it you can lose weight and also gain lean muscle mass.
Aloe vera is helpful for all types of digestive problems and can aid in the recovery from digestive illnesses such as colitis, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. Research suggests that Aloe vera polysaccharides are responsible for the calming effect on digestion. In addition, Aloe’s ability to support the replication of healthy epithelial cells that line our inner digestive environment is well known.
Aloe vera cuts and dissolves mucus in the intestines, which helps increase nutrient absorption.
Aloe’s mannose polysaccharide is effective in killing yeast (candida). In clinical human research, acemannan (mannose chains) from Aloe improved food digestion and absorption and enhanced the presence of friendly bacteria (probiotics such as acidophilus) in the digestive tract by reducing yeast and normalising pH levels. Aloe acts as a prebiotic – this means it potentiates the effectiveness of probiotics.
Fresh Aloe vera gel is superior to all other forms of Aloe. It is more potent, its antifungal enzymes are still intact, and it has better flavour. Aloe vera also comes in:
- bottled Aloe vera gel
- dried Aloe vera powder
- alcohol tinctures
- lotions (some exceptional formulas also contain MSM)
Aloe ferox is similar to Aloe vera and is the Aloe species native to South Africa. Interestingly, scientific tests performed at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town showed that the amino acid content of Aloe ferox is almost double that of Aloe vera.
ALOE VERA LEMONADE
To prepare (fillet) Aloe vera
Starting from the thickest part (base) to the thinnest (top), choose the amount of Aloe you want to use. Cut off a chunk, cut the sharp edges off the sides, then fillet the skin off the top and bottom. Use the slimy, clear parts for your recipes. This is the precious Aloe gel.
Fill a 1 1⁄2 litre blender with spring water. Add:
1⁄2 prepared Aloe leaf (remove skin, keep the gel)
1 whole lemon, with the outer rind removed (keep the white pith)
1 whole lime, with the outer rind removed (keep the white pith)
5 pinches of sea salt
3 to 5 droppers of wild goji berry extract (or 3 to 5 pinches of goji berry powder)
2 tbs agave syrup
Blend and strain. Serve on ice.
Wolfe D. Superfoods – The Food and Medicine of the Future. 2009. North Atlantic Books. California.
Caution: Due to its strong effects in cleansing the liver, pregnant women and young children should not take Aloe vera internally.
Editor's note: Here is an article on The Therapeutic Properties of Aloe Ferox
Du Preez FM. Aloe ferox, die bittersoet geneser. Port Elizabeth; The Office Publishers, 2008.