The Shocking Truth About Aloe Vera (And How to Remove the Latex)
The Shocking Truth About Aloe Vera (And How to Remove the Latex)

If you have been following my work for a while, read the articles I put out, or are, or have been, one of my clients, you will know that I am very quick to highlight the dangers and potential dangers of plants and wholefoods. I have covered the salient points in detail in a number of articles, so if you are new here, and want to learn more, please read my Featured Deep-Dive Nutrition articles HERE.

Essentially, many plants and their seeds have a number of defence mechanisms to deter (or else impair) herbivores and omnivores. Obviously, this does not mean plants should not be eaten. Botanicals contain an incredible, highly diverse array of essential and optimising macro and micro compounds that the body requires. But as humans living here on Earth, we need to be mindful of which plants to avoid, and how to mitigate, negate or offset the potential dangers within plants and plant parts, through tried and tested (and occasionally new) culinary methods, so as to maximise the healthful nutritive or manna within them. Aloe vera is a great example of a plant, medicine and food that is both deterrent and manna. On the one hand, its soothing, nutrient-rich gel is revered across the planet, both as a regenerative natural skin and hair care product and as a nutritional ingredient for use in drinks, smoothies etc (and sometimes scooped out and eaten as is on a spoon. On the other-hand, Aloe Vera has a number of defensive repellants to protect said gel, discouraging opportunistic predators from consuming it.

As the first line of defence, the outer part of the leaf is spiked, so we must remove them. Secondly, the outer skin is a bitter cocktail of numerous anti-nutrients, like saponins, oxalates, alkaloids and phytates, which aside from not being very pleasant to taste, can interfere with our digestion and nutrient uptake if consumed at sufficient volume. So aside, from certain short-term medicinal uses (for example, as a laxative), we should cut the skin off and discard it. Indeed, this is the usual procedure that most of us naturally abide by. But, what the majority of folks do not know, is that Aloe Vera has a secret 3rd defence mechanism called Aloe latex, which also needs to be removed. Aloe latex, also known as aloin (henceforth I will use the two interchangeably), is a toxin and irritant that can actually damage or burn skin and tissues, and cause stomach ache and intestinal discomfort if eaten at sufficient quantity. In fact, many people that use fresh leaf aloe vera on their skin, have become somewhat perplexed that the Queen of natural, fast soothing skincare, has actually caused their skin to become red and inflamed, and for some sensitive skin types, even produced a nasty rash, boils or blisters. The reason for the unexpected reaction was the aloe latex all along.

Aloin, is a yellow-brown compound that lies right in-between the skin and the gel, and is typically seen flowing relatively freely from a freshly cut leaf, especially if the leaf is medium to large leaf in size. Larger more mature leaves have more latex, and of course more healing gel to guard, so it is just more noticeable. Aloin starts off as bright yellow to milky yellow colour and becomes much darker as it oxidises. The good news is, that despite its toxic, irritating nature, Aloe latex can be removed easily enough, and the healing, soothing properties of the gel can be finally experienced as Goddess Nature had always intended. Thankfully aloin has a high solubility in water, so nearly all of it can be washed away from the leaf, simply by soaking thoroughly in sufficient water.

In fact, the process is simple. To remove the aloe latex from your fresh aloe vera leaves, simply cut the spines off the aloe leaf, and then proceed to cut it into rectangles, thereby allowing the water to flood through from all four sides to leach away the latex. Simply soak in a bowl of clean water overnight. In the morning you will notice the water has turned a shade of yellow. You can further speed up and even amplify this process by standing the aloe vera pieces upright in a large water-filled drinking vessel (perhaps use an elastic band to keep all the pieces together) and let the latex drip out under the influence of what is commonly referred to as gravity. In either instance, discard the water and let the pieces of aloe air dry naturally. Put in a container, and place in the fridge or freezer depending upon your requirements and how long you are wanting to keep them. Personally, I prefer using frozen aloe vera gel directly on my skin. Take it fresh from the freezer, wait for a few seconds for the outside layer to become a little softer and more emollient, and rub the wonderfully icy latex-free aloe vera into your grateful, soon to be glowing skin. Essentially, aloe vera as you always imagined it was meant to be.

Kyle Vialli (2024)

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