Well, I recently decided to taste some aloe (vera, not any of the more toxic species). I found it to be quite bitter. However, upon further experimentation, I discovered a few things… but first, I’ll describe the 4 main components, from my perspective.
First off, we have the exterior (just in case you have trouble identifying this, I’ll give you a hint: it’s the green stuff).
Next, we have the gel (get this by slicing open a leaf and note the clear mucus-like substance).
Third, we have the body (this is the core of the leaf that gives it volume).
Fourth, we have aloin. I did not know about this until I tasted it – to know what I’m talking about, cut the end of a leaf and let it sit for a few minutes. A brownish-yellow liquid (much less viscous than the gel) will coalesce. If you taste this, you will discover that it is quite bitter.
Not surprisingly, and quite encouragingly, we do not want to consume the aloin – it has a really nasty taste, and is actually a laxative (see below for more on the possible negative effects of aloin). It’s mostly found in the exterior, with some in the gel.
So, it comes down to this – if you want to eat it, just eat the body, and in moderation. Peel the leaf, and remove as much gel as possible. The body will still contain plenty of gel, but removing the gel on the exterior will help remove more aloin.
As for why you might want to eat aloe, lots of people have differing ideas (helping with complexion, healing, etc.). I know that people drink it in Korea. Mostly I thought it would be interesting to do.
Other random things I learned about aloe while writing this:
Topical Use – “In a review of the scientific literature, researchers found that patients who were treated with aloe vera healed an average of almost 9 days sooner than those who weren’t treated with the medicinal plant… (Aloe is best used for minor burns and skin irritations, and should never be applied to an open wound.)” [link]
Ingestion – A study found that rats that consumed liquid aloe extract had (among other things) a decrease in red blood cell count (bad), low protein levels in blood (bad), high AST levels (bad), low cholesterol levels (good), low triglyceride levels (good).
This is the most negative study I have seen, but as I discovered after reading it, they did not separate aloin from the aloe, which could easily be very significant. Many positive studies on aloe gel can be found, and I feel confident saying that in general, aloe gel is good, aloin is bad.