Aloe vera has popularly been used for its topical healing properties for ages. But lately, the plant is showing up in greater numbers in various beverages.
"People have known about the benefits of aloe vera for years, especially in the health food market," said Kelly Brubaker, manager of Nature's Cupboard, with locations in Chesterton and Michigan City.
Brubaker said the store carries not only the straight aloe vera juice but specialty beverage drinks made with aloe.
"We carry (the brand) ALO in different flavors and we have the (straight) juice by George's, Lilly of the Desert and Aloe Life," she said.
While the straight juice has been popular at the shop for years, Brubaker said the ALO flavored drinks have been sold at their store for about a year.
She said their health-conscious patrons regularly purchase the juice for aloe's benefits from alleviating digestive problems to offering other soothing properties.
In detailing aloe's healing properties on its website, the Global Healing Center states "The bulk of the aloe vera leaf is filled with gel, which is approximately 99 percent water. The other 1 percent contains over at least 75 known nutrients, including 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, 18 amino acids, 200 active plan compounds called phytonutrients, and of course, water."
In addition to the brand ALO, other manufacturers include Aloe Vine and Tulip International Inc., which are both products of Korea. Aloe Vine is distributed through the JJ Martin Group of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Among interesting flavors in the Aloe Vine line are mango, grape, pomegranate and guava while Tulip International 's T'Best collection features flavors such as peach, pineapple, lychee, kiwi, strawberry and more.
The ALO company features drink variations such as ALO Escape, with a mix of pineapple, guava, and seabuckthorn berry; ALO Exposed, made with Aloe Vera pulp and honey; ALO Awaken, with aloe vera and wheatgrass; ALO Enrich, with pomegranate, cranberry and real aloe vera. ALO was recently awarded the 2011 InterBev Beverage Innovation Award for Best Natural Functional Drink and also recently won the BevStar Bronze Award in the Functional/New Age category form Beverage World Magazine.
"It's a growing niche within a niche," said Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of Beverage World Magazine, about the appearance of aloe drinks in the marketplace.
Cioletti said the magazine's personnel gave their award to ALO in 2011 on the basis of innovation in the emerging aloe segment.
As with all food and beverages with healthy properties, consumers should speak with their doctor prior to purchasing and drinking all products. Manufacturers state no specific claims for medicinal purposes or cures.