A Chinese wellness vlogger called Ms Zhang poisoned herself on a livestreamed video by eating what she thought was an aloe vera plant. She thought to pull this small stunt to show and prove aloe vera benefits to her viewers.
At best, she would have proven how harmless aloe vera is—if what she had on hand had been aloe vera. Unfortunately, what she bit into wasn't what she thought it was. Instead of aloe vera, Ms Zhang bit into a plant called Agave americana. This plant, however, isn't as harmless as aloe vera. After Ms Zhang bit a piece off the leaf, it quite quickly became clear that something was wrong. Ms Zhang tried to play it cool and even said that “this is great”, though she also said afterward that the plant tasted surprisingly bitter. She soon felt her mouth go numb and her throat felt like it was on fire.
Ms Zhang not only bit off more than she can chew for that video—it seemed that she was misinformed as well. She had to go to the hospital after ending the video because sores developed in her mouth and she reportedly broke out in rashes. Doctors had to pump Ms Zhang's stomach to remove all traces of the agave plant.
Agave americana is actually poisonous and is known to contain irritants. This plant's sap has substances like calcium oxalate crystals, acrid oils, and saponins, which human bodies don't really agree with. The calcium oxalate in particular can be quite irritating to humans if ingested.
There is actually a lot of information on the harmful effects of the Agave americana. The aloe vera plant, however, won't be sending us to the hospital. The worst that can happen consuming too much aloe vera, because high doses of aloe vera can have laxative effects. Even the tough outer covering of the aloe vera plant is edible, so taking a bite out of an aloe vera leaf won't hurt you.
Aloe vera has long had a reputation for being beneficial to our health. However, scientists say that aloe vera benefits aren't actually all that clear. Aloe vera won't kill us, but it's possible that it doesn't really benefit us as well.
The consumption of raw aloe vera is apparently a new wellness trend in China. There are also reports that other vloggers have also livestreamed themselves eating aloe vera. Of course, trends aren't always right or good for us.
This is an example of why we shouldn't take bites out of plants if we're not completely sure of what they actually are. If anything, the video shows that it can be dangerous for laymen or non-experts to experiment with exotic plants. It can also be unwise to follow health trends without looking into the available information yourself.
Scientists say that aloe vera benefits aren't that clear yet, but they may discover some concrete benefits in the future. However, until that time comes, it may be prudent to avoid biting into raw plants that we're not entirely sure about.
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