Aloe vera, also known as the medicinal aloe, is a species of succulent plant that probably originated in Northern Africa, the Canary islands and Cape Verde. Aloe vera grows in arid climates and is widely distributed in Africa, India and other arid areas.
Aloe Vera is a member of the Lily family, it is a succulent, perennial plant that closely resembles a Cactus. It is a xerophyte, meaning that it thrives in warm, rather arid areas hence it’s African origins. It does not thrive in cold frosty conditions.
Aloe Vera’s thick, tapered, spiny leaves grow from a short stalk near ground level. Aloe Vera is related to other members of the Lily family such as the onion, garlic and turnip families. Aloe Vera’s relationship to the Lily family is evident from the tubular yellow flowers produced annually in the spring that resemble those of the Easter Lily.
Aloe vera is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 60–100 cm (24–39 in) tall, spreading by offsets. The leaves are thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with some varieties showing white flecks on the upper and lower stem surfaces. The margin of the leaf is serrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90 cm (35 in) tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) long. Like other Aloe species, Aloe vera forms arbuscular mycorrhiza, a symbiosis that allows the plant better access to mineral nutrients in the soil.
The typical Aloe Vera leaf grows from the base of the plant in the rosette pattern. Each plant usually has 12-16 leaves that, when mature, may weigh up to 3 pounds. Mature plants can grow as tall as 2 and a half inches to 4 feet with the average being around 28 to 36 inches in length.
There are over 250 different species of Aloe, growing mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. Of these 250+ species of Aloe, five are recognized as having nutritional and medicinal value. These are:
- Aloe Barbadensis Miller sometimes called Aloe Linne, Aloe Vulgaris or the Curacao Aloe
- Aloe Perryi Baker also known as the Socotrine or Zanzibar Aloe
- Aloe Ferox also known as Cape Aloe
- Aloe Arborescens
- Aloe Saponaria
Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the most popular, while the last 2 are the least popular. Aloe Barbadensis Miller was introduced to the West Indies at the beginning of the 16th century.
The species has a number of synonyms: A. barbadensis Mill., Aloe indica Royle, Aloe perfoliata L. var. vera and A. vulgaris Lam., and common names including Chinese Aloe, Indian Aloe, true Aloe, Barbados Aloe, burn Aloe, first aid plant. The species name vera means "true" or "genuine." Some literature identifies the white spotted form of Aloe vera as Aloe vera var. chinensis, however, the species varies widely with regard to leaf spots and it has been suggested that the spotted form of Aloe vera may be conspecific with A. massawana. The species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 as Aloe perfoliata var.
The outside of the Aloe Vera leaf is smooth and rubbery to touch and inside is the Aloe Vera gel that is so highly regarded! The gel appears to contain a “wound hormone” that accelerates the rates of healing of injured surfaces.
Aloe Vera plants are not fully mature with their complementary medicinal properties until they are four years old and it is therefore important that the gel is not extracted until they reach this age.
Aloe Vera is a nutritional storehouse, its gel contains over 75 nutrients such as minerals, amino acids, and a number of vitamins including B12, enzymes and more.
Aloe Vera is currently the only known natural source of vitamin B12.
Aloe vera is a fairly well known herbal preparation with a long history of use. It is widely used in modern herbal practice and is often available in proprietary herbal preparations. It has two distinct types of medicinal use. As mentioned the clear gel contained within the leaf makes an excellent treatment for wounds, burns and other skin disorders, placing a protective coat over the affected area, speeding up the rate of healing and reducing the risk of infection.
This action is in part due to the presence of aloectin B, which stimulates the immune system. To obtain this gel, the leaves can be cut in half along their length and the inner pulp rubbed over the affected area of skin. This has an immediate soothing effect on all sorts of burns and other skin problems.
The second use comes from the yellow sap at the base of the leaf. The leaves are cut transversally at their base and the liquid that exudes from this cut is dried. It is called bitter aloes and contains anthraquinones which are a useful digestive stimulant and a strong laxative. When plants are grown in pots the anthraquinone content is greatly reduced. The plant is emmenagogue, emollient, laxative, purgative, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity.
Apart from its external use on the skin, aloe vera (usually the bitter aloes) is also taken internally in the treatment of chronic constipation, poor appetite, digestive problems etc. It should not be given to pregnant women or people with haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome. The plant is strongly purgative so great care should be taken over the dosage. The plant is used to test if there is blood in the faeces. This plant has a folk history of treatment in cases of cancer.
Aloe vera has a long association with herbal medicine, although it is not known when its medical applications were first discovered. Early records of Aloe vera use appear in the Ebers Papyrus from 16th century BCE, in both Dioscorides' De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elder's Natural History written in the mid-first century CE along with the Juliana Anicia Codex produced in 512 CE.
Aloe vera is non-toxic, with no known side effects, provided the aloin has been removed by processing. Taking Aloe vera that contains aloin in excess amounts has been associated with various side effects. However, the species is used widely in the traditional herbal medicine of China, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the United States, Jamaica and India.
The leaf extracts are used in skin-care cosmetic products. Plants have been grown indoors in pots in order to help remove toxins from the atmosphere. It is also unusual in that it continues to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide in the dark, making it very suitable for growing in bedrooms
Here are ten good reasons for you to take Aloe Vera:
1) Aids in Healthy Digestion
A healthy digestive tract ensures that nutrients from the foods we eat are easily absorbed into the blood stream. Aloe Vera has natural, detoxifying abilities. Drinking Aloe Vera Gel regularly may improve bowel regularity and increase protein absorption, while at the same time decrease unfriendly bacteria and yeast.
Aloe Vera has also demonstrated its ability to assist in soothing heartburn and other types of digestive upset.
2) Immune Support and Function
Aloe Vera provides natural support for the immune system. Since the immune system works around the clock protecting the body, Aloe Vera, with its natural immune enhancers, gives the body a continual arsenal from which to draw. Drinking 60-120ml [2 to 4 ounces] of Aloe Vera Gel regularly may give your immune system the helping hand it needs.
3) Anti-inflammatory Properties
Aloe Vera Gel has 12 natural substances that have been shown to inhibit inflammation without side effects. Aloe may also support proper joint and muscle mobility.
4) Body “Building Blocks”
Amino acids are our body’s building blocks. Eight which are essential and cannot be made by the body are found within the aloe plant! Drinking Aloe Vera Gel on a regular basis allows you to help maintain your health by replenishing your body naturally with these essential amino acids. An analysis of the Aloe Vera plant shows that it comes closer than any other known plant to the duplication of essential amino acids.
5) Daily Dose of Vitamins
Aloe Vera Gel includes Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E, Folic Acid and Niacin. The human body simply cannot store some of these vitamins; therefore we need to supplement them regularly through our diet. What better way than by drinking a daily dose of Aloe Vera Gel, while at the same time building the body’s defence system naturally against oxidative stress?
6) Collagen and Elastin Repair
Aloe Vera can add a rich supply of building materials to produce and maintain healthy skin. The skin replenishes itself every 21 to 28 days. Using the nutritional building blocks of Aloe Vera, the skin can utilise these nutrients daily to help combat the effects of ageing! A daily dose of Aloe Vera Gel can be just what your skin is thirsting for. Some of the minerals found in Aloe Vera include calcium, sodium, iron, potassium, chromium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. What a powerful storehouse! We all know that adding foods to our diets with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals is recommended for overall health. Drinking Aloe Vera Gel is a natural and healthful way to replenish the body’s supply.
7) Regulates Weight and Energy Levels
Aloe Vera Gel naturally, and with regular use, allows the body to cleanse the digestive system. Our diets include many unwanted substances which can cause lethargy and exhaustion. Taken regularly, Aloe Vera Gel ensures a greater feeling of well being, allowing energy levels to increase and helping to maintain a healthy body weight.
8.) Provides Rapid Soothing
Aloe Vera enhances fibroblast function. Fibroblasts are small cells responsible for collagen formation. They also assist in the soothing of minor burns, cuts, scrapes and skin irritants.
9) Daily Dose of Minerals
Some of the minerals found in Aloe Vera include calcium, sodium, iron, potassium, chromium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Aadding foods to our diets with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals is recommended for overall health. Drinking Aloe Vera Gel is a natural and healthful way to replenish the body’s supply.
10) Dental Health and Hygiene
Aloe Vera is extremely healthful for your mouth and gums. Take that to your next dentist appointment.
Aloe vera leaves when cut exude two fluids, with differing effects and properties. The yellow/green sap predominantly exuded wherever the green surface of the leaf is cut is an irritant. This contains the latex-like compound, aloin. On the other hand, the transparent fluid exuded by the inner leaf wherever it is cut or crushed, is soothing and said to promote healing.
For successful use of the plant, it is important to ensure that any use employs the appropriate part or parts to suit the purpose.
With regards to how much Aloe Vera you should drink, it is best to introduce it gradually to your system. A good dosage to start with is one tablespoon (which is about 15 millilitres) twice a day and then you can build it up to 30 millilitres twice a day after about one week. Within a month of taking Aloe Vera on a regular basis you can build up your intake to 60 millilitres twice a day.
The amount of Aloe Vera you take is usually a matter of choice and how you feel, sometimes you may need to take a little bit more to boost your immunity against things like colds and bugs. Remember there are no known side effects from drinking Aloe Vera.
You should take your Aloe Vera first thing in the morning and just before bed at night as this is when you will receive the most benefits. Don't forget to put your Aloe Vera drink in the fridge once opened as some brands have very short shelf lives.
The scientific evidence regarding Aloe Vera is sketchy at best, another example of science not being able to prove the evidence of almost 500 years of use. Aloe vera leaves contain a range of biologically active compounds, the best studied being acetylated mannans, polymannans, anthraquinone C-glycosides, anthrones and anthraquinones and various lectins.
The ever increasing worldwide popularity of Aloe Vera has resulted in an increase of low quality products which unsuprisingly are unable to
deliver the benefits of Aloe Vera to their users.
To be sure that you are putting the power of ‘true’ Aloe Vera to work on your behalf, before using any Aloe Vera product, always check to make sure it is a product high in Aloe Vera content, with Aloe Vera appearing as the first item listed on the ingredients panel.
Back to the top of the page