From celery juice to coconut water to apple cider vinegar, there’s always something being promoted as the new miracle beverage. And maybe you’ve recently heard about two options that sound a little strange: aloe vera and cactus juice.
Both drinks are made from plants called succulents, which grow in deserts and are known for their unique ability to store water. Plants that are able to survive in harsh environments also often contain powerful molecules they use to defend themselves against the elements. Those are often able to defend your body against enemies like free radicals and inflammation, too.
Should you start swigging aloe vera and cactus juice? Here’s a quick breakdown of what they are and if they’ll really benefit your health.
What is aloe vera juice?
Aloe vera is a tropical succulent that’s also a common houseplant. The gooey substance inside its spiky leaves is well-known as a soothing skin treatment for issues like sunburn. The plant has been used as a natural topical remedy and supplement for all kinds of ailments for thousands of years, around the world.
To make aloe vera juice, you typically crush or grind the entire leaf.
Potential benefits of aloe vera juice
Here’s what we know for sure: Aloe vera is super hydrating and contains many important nutrients. Those include amino acids, folic acid, choline, vitamins A, C and E, which are all antioxidants, minerals like calcium, and vitamin B12, which is difficult for vegans to get in their diet. It also contains several anti-inflammatory compounds.
Many people say drinking aloe vera juice helps with digestion, but there is little research to back up that point. While the juice can have a laxative effect, some of the components that produce that effect can be toxic in excess.
Skin health is similar — many experts swear by aloe vera juice as the secret to clear, glowing skin, but there isn’t enough science to support the claim.
Of course, a drink that hydrates your body, provides all kinds of important nutrients and has anti-inflammatory properties definitely has potential in terms of improving digestion, and a healthy digestive system (plus proper hydration) is crucial for great skin. So while we don’t have proof it will make a huge difference for your body, it’s certainly a safe, healthy drink to add to your wellness routine once in a while.
What is cactus juice?
Cactus juice that people drink for wellness benefits generally comes from the prickly pear (or nopal) cactus, which is native to Mexico. Juice can be extracted from the pads of the cactus, which are like broad, flat leaves, or from the small, round fruit the cactus produces. Many bottled versions contain juice from both parts.
Potential benefits of cactus juice
Like aloe vera, cactus juice contains plenty of powerful nutrients. It’s a great source of vitamin C, which you probably know is good for your immune system and also acts as an antioxidant. The fruit also contains the superstar antioxidants you get from fruits like blueberries, called flavonoids.
More research is needed on how drinking the juice affects the body, but one very small study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who ate the fresh fruit pulp had enhanced antioxidant defenses.
Cactus juice also delivers calcium, an important mineral for building healthy teeth and bones.
The bottom line
There is no evidence that either of these options are miracle drinks that will cure you of all your ailments, so you should ignore marketing that claims otherwise. But there’s no harm in sipping them once in a while to stay hydrated while reaping the benefits of an antioxidant-rich diet.