All About Aloe: Are Cheaper Capsules Really Cheaper?
Welcome to part two of our blog post detailing how you can select a good quality oral aloe vera product suitable for long-term use! Please do not read this until you have read part one, or else you will miss out on lots of information!
When you purchase an oral aloe vera product, it is crucial that you know what concentration you are getting; otherwise you cannot make proper product comparisons. A reputable brand will always, always have the concentration marked on the packaging, ideally in the product information table. Without the concentration is it impossible to calculate how much fresh aloe equivalent is in each capsule. I would never purchase an oral aloe vera product that did not explicitly display the concentration of powder used.
Thinking back to a single strength concentrate (explained in part one), 1 gram of aloe = 1 gram of aloe, because nothing has been removed or added. For a double concentrate where half of the water has been removed, 1 gram of treated aloe product now contains the same aloe solids as 2 grams of fresh aloe. For a 100:1 aloe powder, 1 gram of powder contains the same weight of aloe solids as 100 grams of fresh aloe. For a 200:1 powder, 1 gram of powder contains the same weight of aloe solids as 200 grams of fresh aloe. Knowing this allows us to convert the amount of powder per capsule or tablet into its fresh aloe equivalent and this then allows us to compare products of different concentrations. Only then can we get a proper idea of whether an aloe vera product is good value for money.
We are finally in a position to start the maths properly! I have recently become aware of more than one aloe vera brand that positions itself in the IC market, and I know of others that do not, but that still sport positive testimonials from IC sufferers. The question, “Why can’t I just buy any aloe vera capsules from Amazon?” can therefore be answered with, “To an extent you can!” However, the real question is: would you want to? Are cheaper aloe vera product sufficiently high-quality and are they actually good value for money?
Much of part one concerned how to choose a high-quality aloe vera product. We will now examine how to assess whether various aloe products represent good value for money. Please note that product prices and specifications were taken from each brand’s own website or Amazon page and were accurate at the time of writing. I am not going to link the products, because items seem to frequently come and go from Amazon and I don't want expired links in this blog.
If I search for ‘aloe vera capsules’ on Amazon, the first product that comes up for me is Health4All Aloe Vera. Each capsule contains 30mg of 200:1 aloe vera and there are 90 capsules per pot. The price is £8.99 (plus delivery if you don’t spend £20).
200:1 means that each milligram of powder is equivalent to 200 milligrams of fresh aloe. Each 30mg capsule therefore contains 6,000mg of fresh aloe equivalent (30 x 200 = 6,000). There are 90 capsules in the pack, so each pack contains 540,000mg of fresh aloe equivalent (90 x 6,000 = 540,000). This is 540g of fresh aloe equivalent. £8.99 = 899 pence. 899p divided by 540g gives a cost of 1.66 pence per gram of fresh aloe equivalent.
Next on my Amazon list come three products which do not display the concentration of powder used, so I am unable to work out a cost per gram. I would not buy these products because they do not contain the necessary information for me to be assured of their quality. After that appear some products about whose anthraquinone status I am unsure, because they are variously described as colon cleanses, not for prolonged use, or omit to mention their anthraquinone status at all. As those with interstitial cystitis will be using oral aloe vera products long-term, none of these products would be suitable.
Finally, we reach Global Healing Aloe Fuzion, which seems to meet all the necessary criteria for cost analysis! Aloe Fuzion contains 180mg of 200:1 aloe vera powder per capsule, giving fresh aloe equivalent of 36,000mg or 36g per capsule (180mg x 200 = 36,000mg which is 36g). There are 60 capsules per pot, so each pot contains 2,160g of fresh aloe equivalent (36g x 60 = 2,160g). The Amazon price is £23.95 – you can buy it from other UK suppliers – which is 2,395 pence. This gives a cost of 1.11p per gram of fresh aloe equivalent (2,395 divided by 2,160).
Along come more products whose anthraquinone status is dubious. We then get to Now Foods Aloe Vera Gels and astonishingly there is no mention of aloin on its product description either! However, as Now Foods is a very well-known supplement manufacturer, I will do the calculations anyway. Each softgel contains 50mg of 200:1 aloe vera, giving a fresh aloe equivalent of 10,000mg, which is 10g (50mg x 200 = 10,000mg which is 10g). There are 100 softgels per pot, so each pot contains 1,000g of fresh aloe equivalent. The Amazon price is normally £12.45, which is 1,245 pence. 1,245 divided by 1,000 gives us a cost of 1.24p per gram of fresh aloe equivalent.
Moving away from Amazon, we will consider Pharm-Aloe, which I have occasionally been asked about. No concentration is given, so I am not able to accurately perform the calculations. However, the brand claims to use whole macerated leaves, so we will stick with industry protocol and assume a concentration of 100:1. Each capsule contains 450mg of powder, so assuming a 100:1 concentration gives us 45,000mg of fresh aloe equivalent per capsule, which is 45g. There are 90 capsules per pot, so 4,050g of fresh equivalent per pot (90 x 45 = 4,050). The price is $25.99 (it’s not available in the UK, so you’d need to pay shipping and customs on top if you’re here). At current exchange rates, that is £21.18 which is 2,118 pence. 2,118 divided by 4,050 gives us a cost of 0.52p per gram of fresh aloe equivalent, plus shipping and import fees.
Holland and Barrett is a very famous brand of nutritional supplement in the UK. It offers an aloe vera tablet containing 20,000mg of fresh aloe equivalent, which is 20g. There are 90 tablets per jar, which is 1,800g of fresh aloe equivalent. The price is £12.99 giving a cost per gram of fresh aloe equivalent of 0.72p. No anthraquinone status is given.
Now I will perform the same calculations for Tiny Pioneer aloe vera products. First, Simply Aloe Powder: each sachet contains 90g of 200:1 powder, which is equivalent to 18,000g or 18g of fresh aloe. The price is £48 including VAT, giving a UK price of 0.27p per gram of fresh aloe equivalent.
Next, Aloe 200 Capsules. Each capsule contains 200mg of 200:1 powder, giving 40,000mg of fresh aloe equivalent, which is 40g. There are 180 capsules per pot, so 7,200g of fresh aloe per pot. The price is £36 including VAT, giving a UK price of 0.5p per gram of fresh aloe equivalent.
Finally, Aloe 600 Capsules. Each capsule contains 600mg of 200:1 powder, giving fresh aloe equivalent of 120,000mg, which is 120g. There are 180 capsules per pot, so 21,600g of fresh aloe per pot. The price is £58.20 including VAT, giving a UK price of 0.27p per gram of fresh aloe equivalent.
As you can see, although Tiny Pioneer aloe vera products are more expensive to initially purchase than several ‘cheaper’ brands, they are actually far more economical when you work out the real cost per gram of fresh aloe equivalent. This is important if you are purchasing aloe vera to use in interstitial cystitis, because you will need quite a large serving size of fresh aloe equivalent each day. I did not omit any genuine contenders from my Amazon list – I went through the first 20 items listed and if a product contained all necessary information to perform the calculations and was not advertised as a laxative or similar, it was included. The fact I had to omit so many products because of questionable laxative status or vague specifications demonstrates the need for caution when choosing oral aloe vera products.
I’d like to say that this is the end of the story, but even armed with information about the quantity of aloe used, the part of the leaf, the amount of aloe present, the concentration and the anthraquinone status, it is still difficult to make product meaningful comparisons. This is because not every 200:1 aloe vera powder is created equally. Perhaps even more important than the amount of fresh aloe equivalent provided per capsule/tablet is the amount of mucopolysaccharides that remain in the processed powder. It is the mucopolysaccharides, including acemannan, that give aloe vera many of its medicinal properties and many of these can be destroyed during processing.
A reputable aloe vera brand will tell you on its packaging or website what process has been used to create the aloe powder. Freeze-dried and spray-dried are the two usual descriptions used. However, not all freeze-dried or spray-dried methods leave the same proportions of mucopolysaccharides intact and there is no way you can make any kind of assessment about this without laboratory testing. Incidentally, in spite of the name, freeze-drying is not a truly cold process, as the aloe vera liquid is often briefly heated during a pasteurisation step. How long this lasts and how high the temperature gets might vary from brand to brand. Presumably this is why the International Aloe Science Council considers the term ‘cold-processed’ misleading unless literally no heat is used.
It is quite possible that several different 200:1 aloe vera powders could be tested and could be found to contain very different levels of active polysaccharides. Furthermore, because aloe vera is a natural ingredient, there are variations from crop to crop, even where processing techniques remain constant. The amount of rainfall an aloe plant receives can affect what it smells like and how fluffy it is once it is turned into powder. Factors like temperature, rainfall, soil quality, and general health of plants will all play their part in determining how potent the end powder are. If this sounds dubious, ask yourself whether all strawberries taste the same, or whether you ever cook a particularly tasty batch of potatoes! Natural ingredients are never going to behave as uniformly as lab manufactured ones! The aloe vera used in our Aloe 200 Capsules is grown in volcanic soil in Mexico, which ensures it has high levels of polysaccharides, meaning we can use less powder without compromising too much on potency. There is really no way you could know this just by comparing product labels.
All of the variations in processing techniques and actual aloe vera plants make it impossible for consumers to truly evaluate products without lab testing. It is for this reason that we had our Tiny Pioneer Aloe 200 Capsules, Aloe 600 Capsules and Simply Aloe Powder tested by an independent laboratory so that we could be assured of their quality. We wanted to check that the acemannan levels really were high and that there was no cause for concern with any of the ingredients. Each product surpassed our expectations and that means we feel comfortable offering them to you as genuinely high-quality products!
Unfortunately it is not viable for most people to test several brands of aloe vera before they make a purchase. However, a detailed and unambiguous label, as outlined above, goes a long way to demonstrating a brand’s credibility. There are a couple more things you can check for that might help you to pick out trustworthy products too. One is to check whether organic ingredients have been used. Aloe vera grows quite well without used of pesticides, so it is not difficult to find products that use organic aloe vera. We use USDA certified organic aloe in ours. Another thing you can do is purchase products whose ingredients are certified by the International Aloe Science Council or products that are themselves certified. The IASC lab tests each ingredient or product to ensure that it contains acceptable levels of aloe vera and that it is truthfully labelled. To be IASC certified is a guarantee of quality and is very prestigious. Tiny Pioneer aloe vera products are not IASC certified, but we do use IASC certified ingredients. I would love to have our finished products certified, but it is very expensive to achieve and so it’s a dream for another day.
In summary when looking for an oral aloe vera product to take long-term, you need to check:
- Have the anthraquinones been removed?
- How much aloe vera are you getting and at what concentration?
- What part of the aloe plant are you getting?
- Are any other ingredients added?
- How many capsules or tablets are you getting and are they potent enough for your requirements?
- Is the product economical when you work out how many capsules or tablet you will need? If you have been taking six high-potency capsules a day to meet your requirements, it is unlikely that a couple of 50mg capsules will be adequate for you!
I hope that this blog post will help you in comparing different aloe vera products. I want you to be able to do that, because I’d much prefer you to choose our products having weighed up your options than buy them thinking they are the only option. I think our products are jolly good, but I’d never tell anyone that they should buy ours instead of another brand – that is for you to decide! We will only ever use high-quality aloe vera in our products and we will always be honest and unambiguous on our labels. Along with our lab results, we feel we have done everything we can to reassure you and we hope in time our products will speak for themselves! As I conclude this post, I realise we haven’t even touched on the possibility of using fresh gel or drinking juices yet, so maybe that’s something I need to cover another day!
If you’ve made it to the end of this very long two-part blog post, thank you very much!
Wishing you the best of health,
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