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Fast food: Don't say you haven't tried aloe vera juice

Popping a few anti-oxidants every morning is not the only way to ensure your future well-being. You clearly haven't been paying attention. Why take a pill when you can benefit from the effects of a raw material free from synthetic drugs? Royal jelly and ginseng have all had their 15 minutes of fame and now it's the turn of Aloe Vera.

You could, of course, be forgiven for thinking that Aloe Vera is just a body lotion or a shampoo ingredient. Those at the helm of food supplement fadism are now extolling the virtues of Aloe Vera juice or "mother nature's tonic". "Do I look more beautiful today? I've been drinking Aloe Vera juice," was overheard recently in a trendy West London agent's office. Those who believe it will turn them into overnight beauty queens are sad fashion victims, but what it can offer are some wide-ranging benefits, such as high calcium content, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and overall assistance in strengthening the immune system and internal conditioning. Well, why else would you pay at least a fiver for half a litre or so?

As with most fads, it's by no means new, however new it may seem to the trendsetters. Historically, its use goes as far back as 1500BC. Alexander the Great's armies used Aloe internally to heal wounds and illness and it is attributed along with asses' milk as being one of Cleopatra's beauty secrets. More recent icons such as Goldie Hawn and Gwyneth Paltrow believe in its benefits enough to drink it every day.

A member of the Lily family, Aloe Vera plants look more like they should belong to the cactus family. Of the 200 different species of Aloe, only four are deemed suitable for human consumption, Aloe barbadensis miller being at the top. Unless you are a regular drinker of glue, the thick pulpy appearance and bitter taste are best mixed with fruit juic. Unfortunately the old adage of "if it tastes this bad it must be doing me some good" applies.