Aloe Vera Latex Contains Carcinogenic Anthraquinones; Using Aloe Vera Based Laxatives And Eating The Plant Directly Can Be Dangerous
Aloe Vera is undoubtedly a miraculous and useful plant, and this article does not aim to demonize Aloe Vera. Indeed, Aloe Vera can be used to treat sunburns as well as 1st or 2nd degree burns in general, which is why Aloe Vera is found in numerous medical ointments. Also, Aloe Vera is considered a superfood, and is a popular component of many health drinks.
However, a study found that when Aloe Vera whole leaf extract was fed to rats it caused intestinal cancer, and in general was an intestinal irritant. Another study confirmed that the carcinogenic chemical in Aloe Vera is likely aloin, which is an anthriquinone concentrated in Aloe Vera latex.
Aloe Vera can be used as a laxative, and aloin is what gives Aloe Vera its laxative properties. However, orally ingesting Aloe Vera products which contain significant amounts of aloin can cause diarrhea, bleeding of the intestines, and even cancer. One shocking story is that a woman regularly took Aloe Vera based laxatives which contained anthraquinones, causing her entire colon to become black due to being completely covered with pre-cancerous lesions. Another story is that a girl took Aloe Vera based laxatives from the age of 14 months to 6 years old, and by the time she was 18 she developed leiomyosarcoma, which is a form of cancer.
Clearly people should not take Aloe Vera based laxatives. Indeed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled all Aloe Vera based over the counter (OTC) laxatives off the shelves in the United States in 2002. That being said, Aloe Vera based laxatives may still be available in other countries, and even in the United States people may be ingesting the Aloe Vera plant for the laxative effect.
Aside from using Aloe Vera based laxatives, it can be dangerous to extract juice from Aloe Vera, as proved by one man who made his own Aloe Vera juice and ended up with pain and rashes all across his body as well as significant necrosis to the kidneys.
Not all Aloe Vera products are necessarily dangerous however, only some of them. Most of the Aloe Vera that is in store bought products has gone through the decolorization process, where the natural Aloe Vera is passed through activated charcoal, which absorbs almost all of the carcinogenic anthraquinones. Unfiltered extracts of Aloe Vera were found to contain 8 mg/g of carcinogenic aloin, while decolorized extract was found to contain 0.08 mg/g.
Apparently restaurants which serve Aloe Vera juice generally use decolorized Aloe Vera, and concentrations of Aloin in juice are only 1 part per 100 million. Semi-solid and solid Aloe Vera products are known to have Aloin concentrations of 10 to 100 parts per million, but these products are not meant to be ingested anyways, just rubbed on the skin. Also, most of the aloin in Aloe Vera is contained within the inner leaf material, and not in the gel itself, with gel being the raw material used to make most Aloe Vera based cosmetic and topical products.
In summary, it is true that Aloe Vera contains carcinogenic anthraquinones including aloin, but simultaneously most products which contain Aloe Vera have gone through a decolorization process which removes almost all of the anthraquinones. It seems Aloe Vera continues to be safe as a topical treatment, especially if only used in the case of a burn and not all the time. Also, Aloe Vera juice can be relatively safe if it has been decolorized, but people should certainly ask when buying Aloe Vera juice from a restaurant, because if it is not decolorized it could be dangerous.
Taking Aloe Vera based laxatives and ingesting the Aloe Vera plant as food can lead to all sorts of problems including cancer, and should be avoided. This is an important point, since Aloe Vera is considered a superfood, and people may be ingesting the raw Aloe Vera plant to get healthier without knowing that it can cause serious health issues.