As the summer sun beats down, the inclination to stock up on bottles of translucent green aloe vera gel feels apt; after all, the soothing slime is the reigning champion of calming intense sunburns and providing deep moisture to parched skin. But beyond its topical, medicinal elements, aloe vera is delicious. Lemonade be damned: aloe should be your summer drink of choice.
When we talk about drinking aloe, we’re not suggesting you uncap your summer stash and guzzle down the green goo or dive into your coworker’s potted desk plant… though if that's what you want to do, let that freak flag fly. But we're talking about grabbing a bottle of actual aloe juice. See, aloe, when make for drinking, is far more liquidy; it’s thicker than water, yet you won’t have to struggle with a straw with it as you would for thick milkshakes or smoothies. The texture is more akin to a very pulpy juice.
And pulpy it is! For the most part, aloe vera juice contains floating specks of aloe vera pulp; consuming the pulp is similar to chewing on jelly or bloated basil seeds. The flavor of the liquid aloe itself is very mild and slightly sweet, like an upgraded version of H2O that will leave you feeling hydrated beyond water’s capabilities -- and may even make you forget your former devotion to coconut water. Due to its unobtrusive flavor, aloe makes for a perfect canvas for introducing other juices or even liquor to it -- if you’re trying to simultaneously harm and heal your body.
And while it's a relative newcomer to beverage options in grocery and convenience-store fridges, it's not exactly new. Aloe, which is native to the Arabian peninsula but grows all over the world now, has been cultivated for its medicinal properties -- applied topically and ingested orally -- since at least 2100 BC, according to Aloe Vera: Nature’s Silent Healer.
Research by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, a biochemist with a phD from the University of Oregon, reveals that aloe vera juice is capable of improving digestion, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastrointestinal function. Apparently, it even reduces bloating and farting, signs that “[indicate] improved colonic bacterial function.” It’s not a stretch to believe -- if aloe vera is capable of soothing us from the outside, why wouldn’t it do the same internally? If aloe can fix a sensitive sunburn, why not alleviate our heartburn, too?
It’s all thanks to the cocktail of beneficial nutrients that aloe vera contains, including the antioxidants vitamins A, C, and E; calcium; and manganese -- to name a few.
Brands like Alo and Aloevine have recognized aloe’s positive qualities, bottling the rejuvenating nectar with added twists by incorporating flavors of mango, strawberries, and even coconut water for a doubly hydrating beverage. Other aloe purveyors, like Lily of the Desert, sell 100% aloe juice and encourage consumers to have happy guts. Even Target’s in-house Up&Up brand carries aloe juice, advertised as a dietary supplement that will cost you a mere $3.99 per bottle (or about as much as a Starbucks latte).
Aside from the collections of bottled aloe juice that can be found at local grocery stores, health shops, Asian markets, and even gas stations, aloe also makes an appearance at boba shops as a topping. The syrup-soaked cubes of jelly topping a firmer chew than the pulp you can find floating in bottled drinks, but the flavor remains mildly sweet.
If you’ve felt the invigorating effects of aloe vera on sun-kissed skin but have yet to try drinking it, why not incorporate aloe into your summer rotation? And if you truly miss lemonade, maybe pour some in with your aloe: win-win.