What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera, a member of the lily family, is a spiky, succulent, perennial plant. It is indigenous to eastern and southern Africa, but has been spread throughout many of the warmer regions of the world, and is also popularly grown indoors. There are about 300 identified species, but Aloe vera ("true aloe") is the most popular for medical applications. It has also been known as Aloe barbadensis Miller. Aloe leaves may vary in length, anywhere from 30 to 50 centimeters long, and are lance-shaped with serrated edges. The succulent leaves are firm and have a smooth, green skin with a fleshy texture. The skin is fibrous and bitter and is not typically consumed. The plant has red/orange flowers. Each leaf is composed of three layers. A clear gel, that is the part of the plant used for topical application is contained within the cells of the generous inner portion. Anthraquinones, which exert a marked laxative effect, are contained in the bitter yellow sap of the middle leaf layer. The fibrous outer part of the leaf serves a protective function. The clear, inner flesh or “gel” of the Aloe plant has a texture like the flesh of a firm grape. Between the thick, protective skin and the translucent, jelly-like flesh is a bitter, viscous yellow-hued sap that needs to be rinsed off.
Aloe has been consumed and applied topically for thousands of years and is well-known for its health benefits. The word ‘Aloe’ comes from Arabic and means "shining bitter substance", referring to the translucent “meat” within the long leaves of the plant where most of its benefits lie. It is also a remedy which has long been used in the Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine
Aloe vera grows in arid and sub-tropical climates year-round.
Aloe is both nutrient and mineral dense and provides a wide variety of health benefits. The “gel” or tissue within the skin contains most of the beneficial properties. Aloe is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex, as well as folic acid and potassium. It also contains the minerals calcium, sodium, iron, magnesium, and copper. Aloe contains compounds called anthraquinones which provide anti-pain, antioxidant and antiviral benefits. It contains 7 of the 9 essential amino acids required for optimal health, in addition to polyphenols which provide beneficial antioxidants, and at least a dozen different compounds that reduce inflammation.