Aloe Vera

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‘Allo Vera!

Joking aside – aloes are very special plants. These distinctive, robust succulents belong to an abundant botanical family, the Liliaceae. There are about 400 species of plants in the Aloe genus, some, like the well-known Aloe vera and Aloe ferox, being indigenous to Africa.

Although it may be the striking flowers of the aloe that attracts attention, when spotted on a drive through the Cape Province of South Africa, it’s the fleshy leaves that contain a true hidden treasure – the healing aloe gel.

This plant species, along with its therapeutic and cosmetic virtues, has been around for a long time. Aloe usage is chronicled in historical archives by famous physicians from the past like Dioscorides, Pliny the Elder, and Galen, who apparently used aloe in their medicinal preparations. Egyptian queens are also purported to have used aloe for its skin-care properties. Such records show that the health-related benefits of aloe have survived for more than 5000 years.

Although the inner gel of the aloe consist of over 95% water, it is the more than 75 different constituents found in the remaining fraction that are responsible for the distinctive healing properties of this substance.

Regarding the healing aspects of aloe, possibly the Doctrine of Signatures concept can be applied, especially relative to cuts or wound healing. To extrapolate, when an aloe leaf is cut it almost immediately seals off the cut by secreting a rubber-like protective coating, which prevents sap loss i.e. it heals itself from that which is found within its substance. This possibly explains why it came to be both used, and highly regarded, in folk medicine, over time.

But aloe isn’t harvested only for its mucilaginous gel or juice, the bitter yellow exudate, known as aloe latex or aloe gum, has commercial value in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Nail-biters of a certain vintage will probably be familiar with the vile taste of aloe bitters, often liberally applied to nail stumps by frustrated mums! Aloe barbadensis is a species that is highest in the glyconutrients, mannose and galactose, which have demonstrated health benefits for the gastrointestinal and immune systems.

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Unless you have a ready supply of aloe growing in your garden it is important to ensure you use only properly stabilized aloe products, since unstabilized juice or gel spoils easily. Aloe is most potent in a form that is as close to the original leaf extract as possible. Commercially, the Aloe Vera industry is governed by the International Aloe Science Council, which was established as an independent regulatory body.

Medicinal properties ascribed to aloe include:

Immuno-modulatory benefits – probably due to the glyconutrient components.

Blood sugar stabilizing benefits – important for diabetics and those with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) problems requires long-term usage.

Anti-inflammatory benefits – useful for conditions like arthritis.

Cholesterol and triglyceride lowering benefits – requires long-term usage. b

Gastro-intestinal benefits – helpful for disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation.

Anti-cancer benefits – it is postulated that the polysaccharide acemannan present in aloe may have some anti-cancer properties, possibly due to an increased production of nitric oxide, relative to its anti-cancer properties.

Topical skin benefits – due to the soothing, regenerative, hydrating, and moisturising properties in the gel. Aloe also exhibits anti-microbial effects, making it beneficial for wound healing, as well as being indicated for fungal and viral skin conditions.

 

Modern research into aloe is not only confirming the knowledge of bygone days, but adding to it, as the medicinal potential and value of this ancient plant is verified. Aloe has stood the test of time, which is proof positive that there is significant value in age![/s2If]

 

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