Aloe vera: A gift of nature
About the plant
Aloe barbadensis commonly called aloe vera is an indigenous
medicinal herb. It is also known as ghikawar, gwarpatha or
ghritakumari. A member of Liliaceae family, it is an evergreen
perennial succulent plant, growing up to 1 meter in height. Its
green, tightly packed, thick, fleshy leaves have jagged, thorny
edges and are radially arranged in two or three circles. Each leaf
is 30-50 cm long and 10 cm broad at the base. Bright yellow
tubular flowers appear in a spike.
The aloe plant is best known for its healing aloe vera gel. The plant can be processed into two
basic products – gel and latex. The gel is the leaf pulp, a thin clear jelly-like substance obtained
from the inner portion of the leaf. The aloe latex is a bitter yellow and slightly sticky substance from
the pericyclic tubules just beneath the outer skin of the leaves. This is commonly referred to as
aloe juice and it also has laxative properties.
Aloe vera is mentioned both in the Bible and by the ancient Egyptians. Aloe juice is believed to
have been used to preserve the body of Jesus. Aloe barbadensis is native to warm, dry regions,
especially Southern Europe, Asia and Africa. Habitats described include the area surrounding the
Mediterranean Sea in Europe, some parts of the southwestern United States, Southern Australia,
and the eastern and southern parts of Africa. Aloe genus comprises about 200 species, indigenous
to East and South Africa. In India the plant is mainly found in Rajasthan and other dry belts. It also
grows in coasts of Mumbai, Gujarat and South India.
Aloe vera is an amazing mixture of more than 200 constituents, including polysaccharides (a
complex carbohydrate), enzymes, glycoproteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It has 96%
water. The gel contains an emollient polysaccharides, Glucomannan and pectic acid. Barbaloin
and homonataloin are important metabolites found in the leaves. Purgative properties of aloes are
due to the presence of this barbaloin. It also contains C-glycosides and resin. They are
anthraquinone-producing plants and the content of anthraquinone is subject to seasonal variation.
Anthraquinone such as aloin A and B are responsible for the plant’s laxative and healing
For over three thousand years, millions of people all over the world have been using aloe as a
home remedy. Today it is being used in Ayurveda, Siddha, and Homeopathy. It is also used in
Chinese and Arabian medicine. The laxative sap is dried and sold as “resin”. The gel stimulates the
immune system and has antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects. This makes it useful in
the treatment of certain skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Among other substances,
this herbal healer contains several antiseptic agents which make it effective against many internal
and external infections. In Ayurvedic medicine, aloe is used internally as a laxative, antihelminthic,
hemorrhoid remedy and menstrual regulator. Aloe products for internal use have been also
promoted for constipation, coughs, wounds, ulcers, diabetes cancer, head aches, immune-system
deficiencies, and many other conditions. The gel provides a protective coat on the
affected area caused by wounds or burns.
In the 1930s, aloe vera became renowned for treating radiation burns. Today it is
widely used as a soothing, moisturising and healing gel to treat wounds, burns,
acne, anal fissures and haemorrhoides. Aloe may also help rheumatic ailments.
Its juice is given for stomach ache, purgative, antihelmintic, anemia, piles, wounds
and arthritis diseases. Derived directly from the plants leaves, aloe vera is very
effective in its natural state. Simply a leaf may be cut off from the plant and the
soothing gel can be applied to skinned knees, minor burns, scrapes and small
hurts. Many pharmaceutical companies are preparing its different products – juice,
paper, aloe vera jelly, jams etc. Many folklore processing are also common.
Since ancient times, women have been using aloe gel to improve or maintain the appearance of
their skin and hair. In history, Queen Cleopetra was said to include aloe cream in her beauty
regimen. It is claimed that aloe has anti-aging effect. Today it is widely
used in herbal cosmetics. This gel acts as an excellent skin moisturiser.
Many leading cosmetic companies have launched products for skin and
hair containing aloe vera extracts. Aloe vera gel is an active ingredient in
hundreds of skin lotion, sun block and cosmetics. It is said to work as a
moisturizer, a cleanser, bleach and a rejuvenator. It usually suits all skin
types. At the present time, aloe vera based hair oils, cold creams, night
creams, sunscreen lotions, hair gels, moisturizer, lipsticks, etc, can be
seen on every shop shelves. Since aloe vera is rich in vitamins, minerals
and enzymes it is also used as a health supplement beverage. Some
companies have produced juices containing aloe vera which can be used
as a laxative.
Cultivation of medicinal plants especially those of high value is high in demand. The wild resources
of medicinal plants have depleted from their natural homes, therefore, aloe is now commercially
cultivated in the United States, Japan and countries in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Many
individuals also grow aloe as a houseplant.
The plant can be cultivated in dry climatic conditions, in poor soils without much care. The root
system is shallow and does not penetrate deep into soil. They require sandy calcareous soil /loamy
soil with adequate drainage. Plants grow luxuriantly with moderate irrigation during dry season and
with generous fertilization, leaves attain a full size within three years of planting. Temperature
requirement is 20-22° C.
For commercial cultivation the plants are propagated from shoots or root suckers. The plantlets are
prepared under shade and high humidity. Suckers are planted in well- prepared field during June-
July in ridges. Plant to plant spacing should be 30-45cm, while row to row should be 60 cm. Typical
number of plants/acre is 5000. Spraying water/water drip/light irrigation is sufficient. Organic
farming is more preferred and beneficial. Therefore, cow dung, wormy compost and biofertilizers
like blue green algae/azolla are used. Chemical fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides should be
avoided. Neem oil cake solution can be sprayed to protect its leaves from pests, termites and other
infection. Weeds should be eradicated from the field by hand.
Harvesting can be started after 12 months of planting. Leaves are cut manually and marketed or
processed for juice making. Gel extraction should be done within 3 hours of plucking. About 75-85
quintal leaves per acre may be obtained 14 16 months after planting. For production in 1 acre of
land it costs nearly Rs 50,000.00 while the profit comes around Rs 40,000.00 per acre.
Conventionally, aloe is propagated from seed or by vegetative method, but bot these methods
have disadvantages. Seed propagation is associated with inherent uncontrolled genetic variation
as well as poor germination of seed. Rate of multiplication of plants is also slow by vegetative
method. Therefore, for rapid propagation of aloe, tissue culture technique may be employed using
various responsive explants like shoot tip, axillary bud, nodal segments etc. Another advantage of
tissue culture is that secondary metabolites or drug can be directly extracted from the callus tissue
without sacrificing the whole plant.
Aloe vera extraction
The leaves of healthy and
proliferous Aloe Vera plants are
green and juicy. The crop is
abundant. It is harvested,
replanted and grown again and
again. The process of harvesting,
cleaning and extracting is
followed to obtain aloin, Aloe vera
gel and juice.
Aloe vera processing unit
The cultivation, harvesting, extraction and other related processes are carried out by a group of
educated and efficient workers who are trained to do the job. In the first instance, each plant, rather
each leaf of the plant, is cleaned with water in the field to remove the adhering dust, microbes,
insects, if any. The water contains 5 10 ppm chlorine to assure that water is free from pathogen
etc. This again makes the plants and the surroundings sterile and aseptic. The leaves are next cut
transversally at the bottom. The workers are fully equipped and provided with adequate aprons,
hand-gloves, nose-masks and head guards to avoid bacterial, viral or other infections from human
body to plants and vice-a-versa.
Soon after cutting, the leaves are brought to a washing pond, where each and every leaf is further
cleaned manually, first with water and then with a solution containing 0.001 to 0.005 ppm formalin
and finally with clean water. The cleaned leaves are brought to a tray 4ftx4ft, with about 1ft height.
The leaves are stacked vertically with cut at the bottom to drain-off.
The leaves are next cut once again about two to three cms above the bottom and fed to the juicing
machine. The feeding operation is manual but the juice extraction is carried out in a power driven
machine. Thus, leaves are continuously squeezed and extracted. The squeezed liquor is
collected in front and the extracted leaves at the rear end of the machine. Residual juice from the
squeezed leaves is also drained and collected.
The viscous clear transparent juice is then passed through a filtration-cum-homogenizing unit to
get clear, water white, transparent juice. Adequate preservative, sodium benzoate plus potassium
sorbate, for example, are added. The leaves are dried under aseptic conditions and ground.
The juice is cooled to 0-5° C and transported for concentration and freeze drying. The freeze dried
powder 200x is packed under nitrogen.
An area spread in 2000 sq. ft., a factory 2000 sq. ft, where organic farming, forestation, medicinal
plants cultivation, extraction and manufacture of value added products along with variety of
research activities should be carried out with the full fledged R&D laboratory and with herd of cows
for organic manure.
Aloe vera processing machines
Aloe vera Leaf-Washing Leaf extractor and juicer Homogeniser - gel making machine
Unit and extractor
Aloe vera extraction unit Aloe vera juice manufacturing unit
Aloe vera gel filling machine Storage tank and filteration unit
Current market scenario and export potential
The current global turnover of raw aloe leaves amount up to 70-80 million US dollars, which is
expected to grow at the rate of 35% in the next five years. For processed derivatives and value
added products, current global trade is estimated at around 1 billion and 25 billions US dollars
respectively. USA supplies the major bulk of aloe in world market having a share of 60-65%,
whereas Latin American countries supply 20-25% and Australia, China and India combined
together have a market share of only 10%.
American consumers are most familiar with aloe’s use in skin-care products and there have been
dramatic increases in aloe vera sales in the United States. As a beverage, aloe drinks have long
been a staple drink in American health food stores and with direct marketing companies. Korea is
currently the largest international market place for aloe, with Japan running a close second. Both of
these countries have a long and respected tradition of herbal medicine. Aloe beverages are also
very popular in Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. In Australia, market for skin and hair products
containing aloe is increasing. The use of aloe in cosmetic products is growing at a modest rate in
the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and in several African nations. Aloe produced
in Zanzibar, West Indies, Cape Colone, Bonaire, etc, is shipped to the United States and Europe.
In India, aloe juice produced at the farms in Vidharbha region are marketed to Mumbai and
Dried Aloe leaves or powders are often exported to the European countries. The price of dried
Aloes in India ranges from Rs.600 to Rs.1000 per kg depending upon the `aloin'content and colour
of the dried leaves. Aloe gels are expensive. Owing to the increased preference to herbal
cosmetics, the demand for Aloe vera is on the rise every year. It is definitely a crop highly suitable
for growing in many parts of India. The crop could be promoted for commercial cultivation in
marginal soils as well.
With increasing demand for herbal cure and cosmetics, there is good prospect for its large-scale
production. The Planning Commission of Government of India established a task force to study the
export market which suggested fixing up the target of medicinal plant export to the tune of Rs
10000 crore by 2010.
Keeping this high rising global demand and India’s conducive geo-climatic conditions for cultivation
of aloe vera in view, cultivation of this herb can be promoted. This will fetch India good foreign
reserves as well as domestic economic prosperity.
Suppliers of aloe vera raw materials
• Suresh Forestry Network
Merchants/Traders of aloe vera, Address: Kandavarpet, Chickballapur, Near Bangalore,
Merchants/Traders of aloe vera, ayurvedic products, herbal products, Address: Sssiii, Shop:
263, Sector3, Khoparkhairane, Navi Mumbai.400 709, Maharashtra, India.
• Fortune Beverages Pvt. Ltd.
Manufacturer Exporters of health drinks, aloe vera juice, flavoured aloe vera
Address: B-11, Godawari 2, Opp. Tube Well Vasna., Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
• Vinayak Herbals
Manufacturer Exporters / Merchant Exporters / Merchants/Traders of aloe vera, herbal products,
Address: Chaudhary Market, Palsana, Rajasthan, India.
• Unique Enterprises
Merchant Exporters of herbal products, aloe vera, Address: 642, 1st Floor, Rediyyar Building,
100 Feet Road, Gandhipuram, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.
Supplier of Aloe vera processing machines
• Dhopeshwar Engineering Pvt. Ltd., A-16, Cooperative Industrial Estate, post office lane,
Balanagar, Hyderabad-500037, Andhra Pradesh, India.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) today as many as 80% of the world population
depends upon traditional medicine. In the ancient times, plant based drugs were used in small
quantity and the production was in abundance. But today the demand is very high whereas
production is very low. The main reasons of low production are increasing population,
deforestation, industrialization, urbanization, etc. So to fulfill the requirement of medicinal plants, it
becomes necessary to cultivate these plants. It also helps in the conservation of rare plant species.
Since 1979, aloe vera has been the subject of increasing, vigorous, scientifically based
investigations. These studies have indicated that aloe vera has been used since ancient times for
many healing and beauty purposes, may offer a wide range of possible curative and cosmetic
properties far beyond what is already in practice around the world. Various research studies are
underway to explore the potential of aloe vera to boost immunity and combat the HIV virus, and to
treat certain types of cancer. It may even have a role to play in managing diabetes.
Many multi-level marketing companies sell wide range of aloe vera-based health and beauty
products. Many of these products are being sold in India. Keeping in view, the blooming stage of
Indian herbal industry and export potential, commercial cultivation of aloe vera can be very
rewarding for Indian farmers.
Dr. Jyotsna Devi
Dept of Plant Breeding and Genetics
Assam Agricultural University
Jorhat - 785 013, Assam
e mail: email@example.com
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