How is Aloe Processed?
Aloe vera has been used as an ingredient in skin care products for centuries. It has also traditionally been used as a laxative and purgative. Modern research indicates that aloe may be useful in lowering serum cholesterol and blood glucose levels, according to MayoClinic.com.
Traditionally, aloe vera gel was obtained from the plant by manual methods; it is now commercially prepared by machines. In the manual method, workers harvest the mature leaves that grow near the bottom of the plant. The tip and bottom of the leaves are cut off and they are placed on end in containers so that the aloe latex, a bitter sap that is used as a laxative and purgative, can drain out.
Then the skin on one side is sliced off revealing the clear gel inside. The gel is scraped out and crushed, filtered, heated to pasteurize it and bottled.
Whole Leaf Preparation
Whole leaf preparation begins with washing the leaves as soon as they are harvested. Then the entire leaf is crushed, ground or pressed depending on the machinery used. The resulting mixture is filtered to remove particles, and then goes through additional filtering with solvents to remove the bitter latex. The aloe juice is pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to make a stable blend. The final product is then used as an ingredient in foods, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.
In a different process, aloe leaves are fed through machinery that slices of the skin on both sides, revealing the gel inside. The latex is drained, and the gel is ground or pressed, sterilized or pasteurized, filtered and stabilized.
Sterilization can be achieved with the use of enzymes or by ultraviolet light, or the gel can be pasteurized by heating it to 65 degrees Centigrade for less than 15 minutes. The disadvantage of using heat is that it may destroy bioactive ingredients in the gel if it is heated too long or at too high a temperature.
Leaves must be processed immediately after harvesting as they begin to deteriorate within hours. Depending on the processes used, the gel may be treated with activated carbon to remove color and the latex. Preservatives such as sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, citric acid or vitamin E are added to extend shelf life. Finally, the aloe gel is concentrated, or the manufacturers remove all the water in the gel and grind the resulting product into a powder.
Cut off a mature leaf at the base of the plant. Trim the bottom and remove the tip and then place the leaf upright in a container to drain for at least 10 minutes to remove the bitter latex. Then slice off one side of the skin and use a spoon to scrape out the gel. Rinse the gel in vinegar to remove bacteria and prevent darkening. You can freeze the gel fillet and cut off pieces to use as needed on burns, sunburn or abrasions. Do not take the home processed gel internally as any residual latex can cause abdominal pain and cramping.
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