Aloe Vera Barbadensis miller  
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Aloe Vera
Barbadensis miller

Family: ALOACEAE / ASPHODELACEAE

Aloe is a member of the Lily family, yet it is very cactus-like in appearance. Even though there are over 240 species of Aloe there is only four recognized as having nutritional value.

The main Aloe used in commercial products is Aloe barbadensis miller. Aloe mainly grows in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America as well as in Australia.

The aloe leaf contains over 75 nutrients and 200 active compounds, including 20 minerals, 18 amino acids, and 12 vitamins makes for a high quality Aloe Drink. You only use the nutritious inner gel - not the outer rind of the leaf. Adding Aloe Vera to a smoothy or vegetable juice is one of the most nutritious drinks you can have.

Aloe has a nauseating bitter taste, rendering it unusable in cooking, but this very property protects it in the wild as animals will move on to tastier treats. It is an easy plant to grow and requires little care other than protecting it from frost.

 
Aloe Vera aka Aloe barbadensis miller
Aloe Vera aka Aloe barbadensis miller

Aloe requires temperatures above 40 degrees to grow properly and due to this most Aloe plants are grown in pots that can be moved indoors when the cool weather approaches. It will tolerate poor soil and little water and the growing conditions very much resemble those used for growing cactus, i.e. good drainage and as much sun as possible. In spring and summer allow the soil to become moderately dry before watering, but in winter, let the soil dry completely before adding water. An Aloe plant will survive in the same pot for many years and it appears that Aloes prefer somewhat crowded roots, so don't think you are doing this plant a favour by potting it up in a big roomy pot. If you must repot this plant, do it in the late winter or spring.

 
aloes at Middle Path
the Aloe garden at Middle Path in flower (you cant see the Aloe Vera plants)
 
Aloe can be propagated by seed or by removing the offshoots that grow at the base of the plant called pups. The best way to remove these offshoots is to take the entire plant out of the pot, then separate the offshoots from the parent plant, they should have some roots of their own, returning the parent plant to its original pot. Harvest the older outer leaves first and use to soothe skin problems and put a small amount in smoothies or fruit or vegetable juices.

Aloe has been recognised for centuries for its remarkable health-enhancing properties. Although known specifically for external application to the skin and for burns Aloe Juice is now widely used to help a variety of conditions of the digestive tract. It is used in dentistry and is extremely helpful in the treatment of gum disease and bleeding gums. It is a powerful antisepticfor gum pockets and conditions. Aloe has anti-fungal properties which help greatly in dental problems and skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis.

I have seen it work brilliantly for old people and old dogs with incontinence problems. A small peeled piece put in the blender with juice works wonders daily.

Medicinal Uses of Aloe

 
An Aloe Vera after harvesting whole
Harvesting a mature plant
 

Knowledge about Aloe healing properties has been passed down from the ancients. It is used both internally and topically and has been well documented to facilitate healing of any kind of skin wounds, burns or scalds, even speeding recovery time after surgery. Situations to try it on include blisters, insect bites, rashes, sores, herpes, athlete's foot, fungus, vaginal infections, conjunctivitis, sties, allergic reactions, and dry skin. The raw plant is best and can be purchased at herbal nurseries and many markets.

Other topical uses include acne, sunburn if you have had too much sunlight, frostbite (it appears to prevent decreased blood flow), shingles, screening out x-ray radiation, psoriasis, preventing scarring, rosacea, warts, wrinkles from aging, and eczema.

Internally Aloe is showing real promise in the fight against AIDS, and the virus has become undetectable in some patients who used it on a regular basis, due to its immune system stimulant properties. It also seems to help prevent opportunistic infections in cases of HIV and AIDS. It appears to be of help in cancer patients including lung cancer by activating the white blood cells and promoting growth of non-cancerous cells.

The National Cancer Institute has included Aloe in their recommendations for increased testing because of these apparent cancer fighting properties.

Taken orally Aloe also appears to work on heartburn, arthritis and rheumatism pain and asthma, and studies have shown that it has an effect on lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Other situations in which it appears to work when taken internally include congestion, intestinal worms, indigestion, stomach ulcers, colitis, haemorrhoids, liver problems such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, kidney infections, urinary tract infections, prostate problems, and as a general detoxifier. People who take Aloe internally report just feeling better overall which is in itself something of a testament to its remarkable properties.

Aloe Vera leaves
Aloe Vera leaves
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Commercially aloe can be found in pills, sprays, ointments, lotions, liquids, drinks, jellies, and creams to name a few of the thousands of products available. Unfortunately the Aloe industry is virtually unregulated and some products that advertise Aloe content actually have little to none. Therefore if you are embarking on a regime with Aloe I suggest using it fresh the way nature intended.

Aloe is safe when used in moderation but there are a few contraindications. If you have a heart problem and use any kind of digitalis medication consult your Naturopathic or Medical doctor before using any Aloe product internally as the interaction may cause irregular heartbeat. Avoid Aloe preparations if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or menstruating as it can cause uterine contractions.

The Aloe plant is considered one of the very best medicinal herbs, and there is a surprising amount of good research[1] regarding its benefits which is not the case with many of the other herbs. If you don't have an Aloe plant make it a point to pick one up next time you are out and about because this is one truly miraculous plant!


Further Reading



References

 [#]SourceTitle and link to resource if available
[1]  Aloe Vera Studies OrganizationAloe Vera Studies Organization
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