Aloe Vera

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The Other Name:

Aloe; aloe vulgaris; alwat;Barbados aloe; curaoa aloe; hsiang tan; medicinal aloe; miracle plant.

Also Know As:

It 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 and other arid areas. The species is frequently cited as being used in herbal medicine. Aloe Vera extracts is useful in the treatment of wound and burn healing, diabetes and elevated blood lipids in humans. These positive effects are thought to be due to the presence of compounds such as polysaccharides, mannans, anthraquinones and lections.

Parts used:

Mainly the gel which is found in the central parts of the aloe Vera leaves is used. When collecting the gel care should be taken to remove the green colored gel close to the skin, because this contains the bitter substance aloin. The process of harvesting aloe Vera gel is called filleting. To obtain the best quality this filleting should be done by hand.

When the leaves of the aloe Vera are cut, li quid exudes from the wounds. This aloin rich liquid is dried and harvested, to obtain Curacao aloe.

Distinction between aloin and gel of the plant:

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 thelatex-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.

It is also important to understand and look for this distinction in evaluating any attempt at scientific study of the plant's medical properties. Any study which does not specify which parts of the plant were used, is likely to confuse the issue, rather than to clarify. Any product which does not distinguish these may contain a mixture of both, and therefore would be likely to have compromised usefulness for most purposes where Aloe vera is commonly used.

Traditional Herbal Uses and Medicinal Properties:

Aloe Vera gel is used as an ingredient in commercially available lotion, yogurt, beverages and some desserts.

Aloe Vera juice is used for consumption and relief of digestive issues such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome. It is common practice for cosmetic companies to add sap or other derivatives from Aloe Vera to products such as makeup, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, incense, razors and shampoos. Other uses for extracts of Aloe Vera include the dilution of semen for the artificial fertilization of sheep, use as fresh food preservative, and use in water conservation in small farms.

Aloe Vera extracts have antibacterial and antifungal activities. Aloe Vera extracts have been shown to inhibit the growth of fungi that cause tinea. It is used as a fish tank water conditioner.


Historical uses:

Historical use of various Aloe species by humans is well documented. Documentation of the clinical effectiveness is available, although relatively limited.

In the 300 species of Aloe, only a few were used traditionally as a herbal medicine, aloe Vera again being the most commonly used version of aloe in herbal medicine. Also included Aloe perryi (found in northeastern Africa) and Aloe ferox (found in South Africa).

The Greeks and Romans used aloe Vera to treat wounds. In the middle Ages, the yellowish liquid found inside the leaves was favored as a purgative. It should be noted that processed aloe that contains aloin is generally used as a laxative, whereas processed aloe Vera juice does not usually contain significant aloin.

Some species, particularly Aloe Vera are used in alternative medicine and in the home first aids. Both the translucent inner pulp and the resinous yellow aloin from wounding the Aloe plant are used externally to relieve skin discomforts. As an herbal medicine, aloe Vera juice is commonly used internally to relieve digestive discomfort "aloe for heartburn". Some modern research suggests Aloe Vera can significantly slow wound healing compared to normal protocols of treatment. Other reviews of randomized and controlled clinical trials have provided no evidence that Aloe Vera has a strong medicinal effect.

Today, aloe Vera is used both internally and externally on humans. The gel found in the leaves is used for soothing minor burns, wounds, and various skin conditions like eczema and ringworm. The extracted aloe Vera juice aloe Vera plant is used internally to treat a variety of digestive conditions. The use of this herbal medicine was popularized in the 1950s in many Western countries. The gel's effect is nearly immediate; it also applies a layer over wounds that is said to reduce the chance of any infection.

There have been relatively few studies about possible benefits of Aloe gel taken internally. Components of Aloe may inhibit tumor growth. There have been some studies in animal models which indicate that extracts of Aloe have a significant anti-hyperglycemic effect, and may be useful in treating Type II diabetes. These studies have not been confirmed in humans.

Commodity uses:

Aloe Vera is now widely used on face tissues, where it is promoted as a moisturizer and/or anti-irritant to reduce chafing of the nose of users who suffer hay-fever or cold. It has also been suggested that biofuels could be obtained from Aloe Vera seeds.

Culinary uses:

Aloe is also used as a foodstuff. Some molecular gastronomists have begun to take advantage of its gelling properties. Perhaps most notably among these is Chef Quique Dacosta's Oysters Guggenheim, created at El Poblet in Spain.


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