If you’ve ever suffered from a sunburn, you’re probably quite familiar with the aloe vera plant. Its liquid is used in lotions and gels to reduce inflammation, redness, and pain from too much sun and not enough sunblock. But now people are turning to the plant’s juices to drink instead, some even touting it as the next green juice thanks to its reported myriad of health benefits. To find out if aloe water (or aloe juice—the two names are often used interchangeably) really live up to the claims? We turned to Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D.N., L.D.N., nutrition expert and consultant to find out.
What are aloe water and aloe juice anyway?
You may have come across lots of info about aloe juice and its health benefits, so what’s the difference between aloe juice and aloe water? Not much, says Brill. Both start with a base of aloe vera gel (the topical stuff you’re familiar with), which is derived from the central part of the aloe plant, she explains. What happens next, or better yet, what the gel is blended with next, is what determines what kind of product you see on store shelves. “Aloe juice is basically the gel blended with a citrus juice, like orange juice,” she says. “Aloe water is simply water blended with the gel.”
What are the health benefits of drinking aloe water?
As the name would lead you to believe, aloe water is made of mostly, well, water. So you’ll definitely get a kick of hydration along with a decent amount of potassium and vitamin C. But that doesn’t mean you should guzzle to your heart’s content. “A lot of manufacturers that sell aloe juice or aloe water add in sugar [to sweeten the taste], bumping up the calorie count to 130 per cup or more,” says Brill.
But if you’re looking to improve your skin (and really, who isn’t?), the drink could offer some serious beauty-boosting benefits. Researchers have yet to prove whether aloe water has any real impact, but the nutritional stats are impressive: In addition to the potassium and vitamin C you’ll find, there’s also a plethora of antioxidants, which help protect the skin against damaging free radicals in the environment (like smog and pollutants) and folic acid, which fortifies the body’s immune system—because when you feel great on the inside, you look great on the outside. Until these claims are completely backed up, you probably shouldn’t expect facial-level results, but there’s no much to lose if you’re not watching your calories.
One other note Brill mentions is that aloe water and aloe juice may also act as a natural laxative. So it’s important to watch for side effects like these (which should not be considered a weight loss tool) and be sure to rehydrate if you experience these diuretic effects.
How can you use aloe water in the kitchen?
Freeze aloe water into ice cube trays to boost the nutrition and flavor of your juice or cocktail—lemonade sounds like a good place to start. Try it as the liquid base for smoothies—just swap for almond milk or coconut milk. Last, but certainly not least, you can use aloe water to make refreshing and colorful popscicles. Try using bright kiwi and strawberry for these frozen treats.