Popular Aloe Vera Gel Products Contain No Aloe Vera, Finds Investigation

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Several store-brand aloe vera gels do not actually contain any traces of the aloe plant, according to recent testing performed by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg’s study examined samples of four aloe gels: Wal-Mart’s Equate Aloe After Sun Gel with pure aloe vera; Target’s Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel with pure aloe vera; CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel; and Walgreens Alcohol-Free Aloe Vera Body Gel. The samples from Wal-Mart, Target, and CVS, all of which showed no indications of any of the plant’s three chemical markers – acemannan, malic acid, and glucose -- in lab tests, despite labels showing aloe barbadensis leaf juice as the first or second ingredient after water.

A sample from Walgreens contained one of the three markers, but not all three.

Both Fruit of the Earth, the Texas-based aloe brand that made the gels for Wal-Mart, Target, and Walgreens, and Concentrated Aloe Group, the Florida-based aloe supplier of the company, are disputing Bloomberg’s findings.

“We’ve been in the business a long time and we know where the raw ingredients come from,’’ John Dondrea, Fruit of the Earth’s general counsel, told Bloomberg. “We stand behind our products.’’

American aloe gel producers are on an honor system when it comes to the contents of their products, which do not need to be approved by the FDA before being sold, according to Bloomberg's report.

Aloe vera is a succulent farmed in hot climates. The plant's leaves contain a clear, gooey substance that has been used to treat burns and other skin problems for millennia; according to a 2008 report in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, aloe was frequently used by Ancient Egyptian queens including Nefertiti and Cleopatra as well as by Alexander the Great to treat the wounds of soldiers.

The true aloe plant is very expensive, with one kilogram of aloe powder taking 400 kilos (882 pounds) of aloe leaves to make.

In the past year, the total U.S. market for aloe products grew 11 percent to $146 million, according to Chicago-based market researcher SPINS LLC.

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