Aloe veraAloe vera is a species of succulent plant that probably originated in northern Africa. The speciesdoes not have any naturally occurring populations, although closely related aloes do occur innorthern Africa. The species is frequently cited as being used in herbal medicine since thebeginning of the first century AD. Extracts from A. vera are widely used in the cosmetics andalternative medicine industries, being marketed as variously having rejuvenating, healing orsoothing properties. There is, however, little scientific evidence of the effectiveness orsafety of A. vera extracts for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes, and what positive evidenceis available is frequently contradicted by other studies. Medical uses of aloe vera arebeing investigated as well.DescriptionAloe 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 somevarieties showing white flecks on the upper and lower stem surfaces. The margin of the leaf isserrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90 cm(35 in) tall, each flower being 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 thatallows the plant better access to mineral nutrients in soil.[11Taxonomy and etymologySpotted forms of Aloe vera are sometimes known as Aloe vera var. chinensis.The species has a number of synonyms: A. barbadensis Mill., Aloe indica Royle, Aloe perfoliataL. var. vera and A. vulgaris Lam. Common names include Chinese Aloe, Indian Aloe, TrueAloe, Barbados Aloe, Burn Aloe, First Aid Plant. The species epithet vera means"true" or "genuine". Some literature identifies the white spotted form of Aloe vera as Aloevera var. chinensis; however, the species varies widely with regard to leaf spots and it hasbeen 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. vera, and wasdescribed again in 1768 by Nicolaas Laurens Burman as Aloe vera in Flora Indica on 6 April
and by Philip Miller as Aloe barbadensis some ten days after Burman in the GardenersDictionary.Techniques based on DNA comparison suggest that Aloe vera is relatively closely related to Aloeperryi, a species that is endemic to Yemen. Similar techniques, using chloroplast DNAsequence comparison and ISSR profiling have also suggested that Aloe vera is closely related toAloe forbesii, Aloe inermis, Aloe scobinifolia, Aloe sinkatana, and Aloe striata. With theexception of the South African species A. striata, these Aloe species are native to Socotra(Yemen), Somalia, and Sudan. The lack of obvious natural populations of the species have ledsome authors to suggest that Aloe vera may be of hybrid origin.DistributionThe natural range of Aloe vera is unclear, as the species has been widely cultivated throughoutthe world. Naturalised stands of the species occur in the southern half of the Arabian peninsula,through North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, Egypt) as well as Sudan and neighbouringcountries, along with the Canary, Cape Verde, and Madeira Islands. This distribution issomewhat similar to the one of Euphorbia balsamifera, Pistacia atlantica, and a few others,suggesting that a dry sclerophyl forest once covered large areas, but has been dramaticallyreduced due to desertification in the Sahara, leaving these few patches isolated. Several closelyrelated (or sometimes identical) species can be found on the two extreme sides of the Sahara:Dragon trees (Dracaena) and Aeonium being two of the most representative examples.The species was introduced to China and various parts of southern Europe in the 17th century.The species is widely naturalised elsewhere, occurring in temperate and tropical regions ofAustralia, Barbados, Belize, Nigeria, Paraguay and the United States It has been suggestedthat the actual species distribution is the result of human cultivation.CultivationAloe vera can be grown as an ornamental plant.Aloe vera has been widely grown as an ornamental plant. The species is popular with moderngardeners as a putatively medicinal plant and due to its interesting flowers, form, and succulence.This succulence enables the species to survive in areas of low natural rainfall, making it ideal forrockeries and other low-water use gardens. The species is hardy in zones 8–11, although it isintolerant of very heavy frost or snow. The species is relatively resistant to most insect
pests, though spider mites, mealy bugs, scale insects, and aphid species may cause a decline inplant health. In pots, the species requires well-drained sandy potting soil and bright sunnyconditions; however, in very hot and humid tropical or subtropical climates, aloe plants shouldbe protected from direct sun and rain, as they will burn and/or turn mushy easily under theseconditions. The use of a good-quality commercial propagation mix or pre-packaged "cacti andsucculent mix" is recommended, as they allow good drainage. Terracotta pots are preferableas they are porous. Potted plants should be allowed to completely dry prior to re-watering.When potted aloes become crowded with "pups" growing from the sides of the "mother plant,"they should be divided and re-potted to allow room for further growth and help prevent pestinfestations. During winter, Aloe vera may become dormant, during which little moisture isrequired. In areas that receive frost or snow, the species is best kept indoors or in heatedglasshouses. Large scale agricultural production of Aloe vera is undertaken in Pakistan,Australia, Bangladesh, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, India,Jamaica, Kenya and South Africa, along with the USA to supply the cosmetics industrywith Aloe vera gel.UsesAloe vera gel being used to make a dessert.Preparations made from the plant Aloe vera are often referred to as "aloe vera". Scientificevidence for the cosmetic and therapeutic effectiveness of aloe vera is limited and when presentis frequently contradictory. Despite this, the cosmetic and alternative medicine industriesregularly make claims regarding the soothing, moisturizing, and healing properties of aloe vera,especially via Internet advertising. Aloe vera gel is used as an ingredient incommercially available lotions, yogurt, beverages, and some desserts, although at certaindoses, it has toxic properties when used either for ingested or topical applications.Folk medicineAloe vera has a long association with herbal medicine, although it is not known when its medicalapplications were first suspected. Early records of Aloe vera use appear in the Ebers Papyrusfrom 16th century BC, in both Dioscorides De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elders NaturalHistory written in the mid-first century CE along with the Juliana Anicia Codex produced in
512 AD. The species is used widely in the traditional herbal medicine of China, Japan, Russia,South Africa, the United States, Jamaica, Latin America and India.Dietary supplementAloin, a compound found in the exudate of some Aloe species, was the common ingredient inover-the-counter (OTC) laxative products in the United States prior to 2003, when the Food andDrug Administration ruled that aloin was a class III ingredient, thereby banning its use. Aloevera has potential toxicity, with side-effects occurring at some dose levels both when ingested orapplied topically. Although toxicity may be less when aloin is removed by processing, aloevera that contains aloin in excess amounts may induce side-effects. A 2-year NationalToxicology Program (NTP) study on oral consumption of non-decolorized whole leaf extract ofaloe vera found evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats. The NTP says moreinformation is needed to determine the potential risks to humans.Aloe vera juice is marketed to support the health of the digestive system, but there is neitherscientific evidence nor regulatory approval to support this claim. The extracts and quantitiestypically used for such purposes appear to be dose-dependent for toxic effects.PhytochemicalsAloe vera leaves contain phytochemicals under study for possible bioactivity, such as acetylatedmannans, polymannans, anthraquinone C-glycosides, anthrones and anthraquinones, and variouslectins.CommoditiesAloe vera is now widely used on facial tissues, where it is promoted as a moisturiser and/or anti-irritant to reduce chafing of the nose of users suffering hay-fever or cold. It is commonpractice for cosmetic companies to add sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to products suchas makeup, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, incense, shaving cream, and shampoos.Other uses for extracts of aloe vera include the dilution of semen for the artificial fertilization ofsheep, use as fresh food preservative, and use in water conservation in small farms. Ithas also been suggested that biofuels could be obtained from Aloe vera seeds. Aloe is alsoused as a food substance. Some molecular gastronomists have begun to take advantage of itsgelling properties. Perhaps the most notable among these is Chef Quique Dacostas "OystersGuggenheim," created at El Poblet in Spain.Research for possible medical usesAloe vera may be effective in treatment of wounds. Evidence on the effects of its sap onwound healing, however, is limited and contradictory. Some studies, for example, show thataloe vera promotes the rates of healing, while, in contrast, other studies show that woundsto which aloe vera gel was applied were significantly slower to heal than those treated withconventional medical preparations. A 2007 review concluded that the cumulative evidencesupports the use of aloe vera for the healing of first to second degree burns. Topical
application of aloe vera may also be effective for genital herpes and psoriasis. However, it isnot effective for the prevention of radiation-induced injuries. Although anecdotally useful, it hasnot been proven to offer protection from sunburn or suntan.In a double-blind clinical trial, both the group using an aloe vera containing dentifrice and thegroup using a fluoridated dentifrice had a reduction of gingivitis and plaque, but no statisticallysignificant difference was found between the two.There is preliminary evidence that A. vera extracts may be useful in the treatment of diabetes andelevated blood lipids in humans. These positive effects are thought to be due to the presence ofcompounds such as mannans, anthraquinones and lectins.Internal intake of aloe vera hasbeen linked in preliminary research with improved blood glucose levels in diabetics,although it has been suggested by the NTP that aloe may lower blood glucose levels. It hasalso been linked with lower blood lipids in hyperlipidaemic patients, but also with acutehepatitis (liver disease). In other diseases, preliminary studies have suggested oral aloe veragel may reduce symptoms and inflammation in patients with ulcerative colitis. Abdominalcramps and diarrhea have been reported with oral use of aloe vera. Diarrhea, caused by thelaxative effect of oral aloe vera, can decrease the absorption of many drugs. Compoundsextracted from aloe vera have been used as an immunostimulant that aids in fighting cancers incats and dogs; however, this treatment has not been scientifically tested in humans.Gels from Aloe vera have been compared to those derived from other aloe species and with otherplants belonging to the family Asphodelaceae. Bulbine frutescens, for example, is used widelyfor burns and a host of skin afflictions. Aloe vera extracts might have antibacterial andantifungal activities, which possibly could help treat minor skin infections, such as boils andbenign skin cysts and may inhibit growth of fungi causing tinea. For bacteria, inner-leaf gelfrom aloe vera was shown in one study to inhibit growth of Streptococcus and Shigella species invitro. In contrast, aloe vera extracts failed to show antibiotic properties against Xanthomonasspecies.All About Aloe Vera - Uses & Health Benefits"You ask me what were the secret forces which sustained me during my long fasts. Well, it was myunshakeable faith in God, my simple and frugal lifestyle, and the Aloe whose benefits I discovered uponmy arrival in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century".- Mahatma GandhiIntroductionCommon Names: Aloe vera, Aloe, Lily of the desert, Burn plant, Elephants gallLatin Names: Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensisAloe veras use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stonecarvings. Known as the "plant of immortality," aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.Native to Northern Africa, Aloe vera (syn. A. barbadensis Mill., A. vulgaris Lam.) is a stemless or very
short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 80–100 cm tall, spreading by offsets and root sprouts. Theleaves are lanceolate, thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with a serrated margin. The flowers areproduced on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm long.Clinical evealuations have revealed that the pharmacological active ingredients are concentrated in boththe gel and rind of the aloe vera leaves. These active ingredients have been shown to have analgesic andanti-inflammatory effects.Various Uses of Aloe VeraAloe vera is being used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative,since centuries. Today, apart from the people traditional uses, people also take aloe vera orally to treata variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. People use aloe topicallyfor osteoarthritis, burns, and sunburns. Aloe vera has been used to treat various skin conditions such ascuts, burns and eczema.Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks. Cosmeticmanufacturers add sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to makeup products, tissues, moisturizers,soaps, sunscreens, shampoos and lotions.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring. In Japan,Aloe Vera is commonly used as an ingredient in commercially available yogurt. Many companies in EastAsia produce Aloe Vera beverages. Pashtuns in the Hazara region of the North West Frontier Provincehave been using Aloe Vera for centuries to improve physical endurance, probably due to the highnutrient content of the gel. People in Rajasthan, India prepare Aloe Vera as a vegetable with fenugreekseeds. Similarly, people in Tamil Nadu, another state of India prepare a curry using Aloe Vera eat alongwith Indian bread or rice.Among the recent uses of Aloe vera includes using it as a Food preservative. Researchers at theUniversity of Miguel Hernández in Alicante, Spain, have developed a gel based on Aloe vera thatprolongs the conservation of fresh produce, like fresh fruit and legumes. This gel is tasteless, colorlessand odorless. This natural product is a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to syntheticpreservatives such as sulfur dioxide. The study showed that grapes at 1°C coated with this gel could bepreserved for 35 days against 7 days for untreated grapes.Aloe vera Gel and Juice are different?People often assumed incorrectly that Aloe vera Gel and Juice are the same thing, which they are not.Let us understand the Aloe leaf structure first. It is made up of four layers - Rind, Sap, Mucilage and Gel.Rind is the outer protective layer; Sap is a layer of bitter fluid which helps protect the plant fromanimals; Mucilage and the Gel, which is the inner part of the leaf that is filleted out to make Aloe Veragel.The term Juice refers to the bitter sap or Latex that resides just under the skin of the leaf and contains apotent laxative - Aloin. This juice should not be used by human unless desired or recommended by a
doctor.What does it containAloe Vera contains over 75 known active ingredients (and probably many more). Also included are 19 ofthe 20 amino acids required by the human body and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids (that the bodycannot make), as well as vitamins and minerals. There are 20 "critical" Amino Acids in humanmetabolism, but the body can only make 12, the other 8 have to be obtained from food. These areIsoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Valine, and Tryptophan.Aloe Vera contains also contain useful enzymes like Amylase, Bradykinase, Catalase, Cellulase, Lipase,Oxidase, Alkaline Phosphatase, Proteolytiase, Creatine Phosphokinase, Carboxypeptidase. Most of theseare beneficial to human metabolism.Lignin gives Aloe Vera its penetrating powers, but is not considered to have any other benefit.Aloe Vera contains important minerals like Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese,Potassium, Phosphorous, Sodium, and Zinc.As most of us know that the mono-saccharides are the familiar glucose and fructose. It is believed thatthe more complex long-chain sugars are the poly-saccharides give Aloe Vera its unique healing andimmuno-stimulating properties.Aloe Vera contains useful vitamins. These include A (beta-carotene and retinol), B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamin), C (ascorbic acid), E (tocopherol) and FolicAcid.Salicylic Acid, a substance similar to aspirin that can help reduce fever and inflammation is also found inAloe vera. It also contains Saponins and Sterols. Saponins are natural soapy substances that have bothcleansing and antiseptic properties while Sterols are naturally occurring plant steroids with analgesic,anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties.Health Benefits of Aloe Vera"Extracts of Aloe Vera first became popular as a proven skin healer. Aloe is said to improve collagenrepair, heal burns and prevent wrinkles. It is a powerful detoxifier, antiseptic and tonic for the nervoussystem. It also has immune-boosting and anti-viral properties. Research has proven that adding AloeVera to ones diet improves digestion. As a general health tonic, there are benefits in taking a measure ofAloe Vera each day"Patrick Holford, Founder - Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) (Source: Metro Magazine August 2000)Here are few benefits of Aloe Vera: - Studies have shown that aloe vera speeds the healing process,particularly in burns, including those from radiation. It is also used by dermatologists to speed healing
after facial dermabrasion, which helps remove scars from the top most layers of the skin. The otherhealth benefits from the use of aloe vera include helping to soothe skin injuries affected by burning,skin irritations, cuts and insect bites, and its bactricidal properties relieve itching and skin swellings.- Aloe Vera possesses incredible moisturizing properties. Studies show that Aloe Vera improves theskins ability to hydrate itself, aids in the removal of dead skin cells and has an effective penetratingability that helps transport healthy substances through the skin.- Aloe vera is also known to help slow down the appearance of wrinkles as it can actively repair thedamaged skin cells that cause the visible signs of aging. Components of Aloe Vera have been found toreverse degenerative skin changes by stimulating collagen and elastin synthesis.- Dermatologist James Fulton, M.D., of Newport Beach, California, uses topical aloe in his practice tospeed wound healing. "Any wound we treat, whether its suturing a cut or removing a skin cancer, healsbetter with aloe vera on it," he states.- Top nutritionalists, around the world, recommend the use of Aloe Health Drinks to aid digestion, andmany patients experience relief in the symptoms of problems such as Irritable Bowel Sydrome andCrohns disease.- Aloe Vera is believed to reduce severe joint and muscle pain associated with arthritis, as well as painrelated to tendinitis and injuries. When applied directly to the area of pain, Aloe Vera penetrates theskin to soothe the pain.- Aloe Vera is considered as a miraculous plant by some for even hair loss treatment. It is assumed thatno other plant more closely matches the human bodys biochemistry, hence, an excellent treatment forhair loss. It has anti-inflammatory properties of and therfore helps in fighting against AndrogeneticAlopecia.