The botanical name of Aloe vera is Aloe barbadensis miller. It belongs to Asphodelaceae (Liliaceae) family, and is a shrubby or arborescent, perennial, xerophytic, succulent, pea- green color plant. It grows mainly in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America.
The name Aloe vera derives from the Arabic word “Alloeh” meaning “shining bitter substance,” while “vera” in Latin means “true.” 2000 years ago, the Greek scientists regarded Aloe vera as the universal panacea. The Egyptians called Aloe “the plant of immortality.” There are hundreds of species of Aloe plant. It has been used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes throughout history. Modern pharmaceutical companies use extracts of Aloe Vera in many skin-based cosmetics, sited as a natural approach to cosmetics.
Care. It can be grown indoors or outdoors, but will turn brown in harsh sunlight so choose a location in indirect light. Will freeze, make sure to protect it during frost dangers. Not suitable for wintering over in cold weather zones. Aloe vera thrives outside better than inside, but definitely makes a good indoor houseplant. Use well-drained sandy potting soil, a good quality commercial mix with extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand are added is recommended. Cacti and succulent mixes may also be used.
Watering. This is a succulent, don’t overwater. Allow the soil to become fairly dry before watering. Lightly water during winter months since the drying out will be slower.
If potting, make sure there is a drainage hole so the water can drain easily.
Repotting. When it is rootbound, it will be top heavy and will send out more new shoots or pups, repot. Remove new shoots when they are 3 to 4 inches high and replant in their own pots. If you don’t, they will suck life from the mother plant. Signs of this happening: The mother will get bright green and spread its leaves horizontally rather than vertically.
Water the pups well when repotting then don’t water again for about 3 weeks, forcing the new roots to get strong and seek water. They may turn grey or brown initially, this is normal. These make great gifts so give freely!
Aloe Vera contains:
– Vitamins – including C,E,Beta Carotene, B12
– Minerals – including magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, chromium, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron.
– Amino Acids – 20 out of the 22 required by the body as the building blocks for protein and 7 out of the 8 that the body cannot manufacture itself
– Sugars – including long chain polysaccharides that help boost the immune system
– Enzymes – to help break down and digest food
– Plant Sterols – that act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents
– Lignin – a woody substance that helps Aloe penetrate the skin
– Saponins – soapy substances with an anti-microbial effect
– Anthraquinones – powerful natural painkillers
– Salycylic Acid – anti-inflammatory, helps break down dead tissue
Aloe Vera contains enzymes that the body needs from foods, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals. It also contains plant steroids with analgesic, anti-inflammatory properties. In it’s raw form, parts of the plant also act as a powerful laxative. Those who support Aloe Vera believe in its use as a drink or foodstuff and not just as a source of chemicals for health products, though unfortunately the raw plant has a bitter taste and is best to be prepared with fruits.
Aloe is still hotly debated in medicinal circles. There is evidence both for and against its restorative powers. The main problem with testing the effectiveness of the plant in speeding the recovery of wounds is that one cannot wound a person beyond minor incisions for the sake of medical trial. Nevertheless the tributes of ancient people, folklore and mythology give hope to the idea of using the plant as a healing aid.