Originating most likely in the Northern African region, Aloe Vera is a succulent, desert plant that has been used for centuries as a remedy for many different health conditions. There are about 400 species of the genus Aloe with Aloe Vera, or “true aloe,” being the most popular used for healing. The Aloe Vera plant is used as both a gel externally and a juice internally. Although the plant looks like it belongs in the cactus family, it is in fact in the lily family. From cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, this beautiful plant has been known for centuries as a panacea for health and healing.
Aloe barbadensis, Barbados, Cape, Curaiao, Socotrine, Zanzibar aloe, Aloe indica; Aloe Africana, Aloe arborescens, Aloe natalenis, Aloe frutescens, Aloe ucriae, Aloe ferox, Aloe supralaevis, Aloe perryi, Aloe spicata.
The Aloe Vera plant has been used for its healing properties all over the world and throughout history. The oldest record of the plant dates back to 2100 BC on a Sumerian tablet. Egyptian queens like Cleopatra used the Aloe Vera plant for skincare and beauty. Alexander the Great secured the aloe plants for the healing of his soldiers’ wounds. Aloe plants are even mentioned throughout the Bible for its healing properties. From ancient China and India to the Greeks and Romans, this African native plant has become popular throughout the globe.
The genus Aloe means that the plant is succulent with a high rate of water retention. Aloe Vera has thick, spiky, fleshy, gray-green, lance-shaped leaves. These leaves contain four basic layers: the rind, the sap, the mucilage layer, and the inner leaf gel. The outer layer, called the rind, is the protective layer of the leaf. Underneath the rind is the sap which contains the vascular bundle of the plant. The sap is made up of a crystalline, yellow, bitter compound called “aloin” which contains twelve anthraquinones. Arthraquinones are recognized for their laxative effects on the digestive system especially in high doses. The mucilage layer contains polysaccharide sugars called gluco-mannan. The polysaccharides make up 6 to 15 percent of the total solids in the plant but can be destroyed in processing by heat. The gel from the mucilage layer has been studied to promote an increase in immune response and also a decrease in inflammation. The inner leaf gel is the most sterile and can be used immediately. This is the portion of the leaf where the most healing properties are stored.
Aloe Vera has about 200 naturally occurring biologically active ingredients. In fact, there are 75 important active constituents of the aloe plant. The inner gel of the Aloe Vera plant consists of amino acids, enzymes, prostaglandins, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Aloe Vera contains 19 out of 20 amino acids required in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins that make up the body. The enzymes found in Aloe Vera help speed up chemical reactions in the body which help to aid digestion. The minerals found in Aloe Vera include calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. All of these minerals are extremely important within the body for optimal function. Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, and folic acid are all found in the Aloe Vera plant. Interestingly enough, vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants. Antioxidants are extremely important in preventing cell damage that can ultimately lead to cancerous cells. Other constituents include, but are not limited to, cholesterol, steroids, lignins, uric acid, gibberllin, lectin-like substance, salicyclic acid, and arachidonic acid. Because of these components of the Aloe Vera plant, the magical inner leaf gel has been known to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-viral, and anti-baterial effects on the body.