Aloe vera or aloe is one of about 200 species and hybrids of perennial succulent plants that belong to the lily family, Liliaceous. They are commonly used as landscape plants in dry and frost-free areas and as sometimes cultivated as houseplants.
History of Aloe Vera
Most botanists agree to the historical evidences that the Aloe vera plant originated in the warm and dry climates of Africa. This plant has been in the records of early civilizations – from Persia and Egypt in the Middle East, Greece and Italy in Europe, to India and African continents. The plant is also very popular in Asia and the Pacific, and is present in the folklore of the Japanese, the Philippines and the Hawaiians. Aloe vera is also included in the history of medicine and medical thought. It was recorded that the Greek physician Dioscorides used it. Aloe vera was also used by the Spanish during their years of colonization and carried it with them to their conquests in South America and the Caribbean.
In Egypt, the plant was used as a burial gift to dead pharaohs as is depicted on their drawings and illustrations. The Papyrus ebers, an Egyptian document which was written B.C.E 1550, is probably the first document that detailed the discussion of Aloe Vera’s medicinal value. The document contains 12 formulas for mixing aloe with other agents to treat both internal and external human disorders.
It was Dioscorides who gave the first detailed description of the plant we call Aloe Vera and attributed to its juices “the power of binding, of inducing sleep.” He also said that it “loosens the belly, cleansing the stomach.” He also added that this “bitter” aloe (the sap) was a treatment for boils; that it eased hemorrhoids; aided in healing bruising; that it was good for the tonsils, the gums and all general mouth irritations, and it worked as a medicine for the eyes. Also, he observed that the whole leaf is pulverized; it could stop the bleeding of many wounds.
The most common aloe vera that you see in landscapes and households is characterized with fleshy, stiff and spiny leaves around the edges and are often crowded together in a rosette. Their flowers are usually reddish, produced on snowy spikes that may extend 6 m (20 ft) above the ground. There are also species of aloe vera that produce yellow, orange, or whitish-green flowers. Aloe vera is also known as aloe barbadensis. The word aloe vera comes from the Arabic word aloe, which means plant, vera, which means true or genuine.
Aloe Vera Barbadensis
This is the species of aloe known for its medicinal properties. It looks like a small agave plant, and when adult grows to about 60-70 cm. Small plants often have white dotted marks on the leaf, but will eventually disappear as the plant grows, making it give a shade of light to dark green in color. It is actually a succulent plant that has a fibrous root system producing long, tapering, stem less leaves.
Aloe vera plant may be grown from seed. It thrives in well-drained sunny locations, and prefers rough, gritty medium. It can also be grown in pots and needs little amount of water. When you want to grow them indoors, the offshoots of the plant can be removed and replanted in another pot.
Aloe vera is proven to be of great help in households. When this plant is present in your garden, you may cut the leaves, peel off the green skin and use the transparent aloe vera gel to aid burn skins, irritated skin and scalps. In most Asian countries such as the Philippines, this plant is popular with the mothers as they apply it to the hairs of their daughters along with coconut oil to prevent dandruff and lice infection of the hair. Another one of the many aloe vera uses is in removing lice eggs, when applied it makes the lice eggs easily slide off the hair.
Aloe vera gel and juices are extracted from the plant itself and is also known to aid various ailments. Its antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular ingredient for making lotions; moisturizers and other skin care products. Aloe vera juice is also used as a laxative and is known to aid in weight loss while aloe vera gel benefits skin irritations, dry skin and other skin problems.
Other Names for Aloe Vera
In India, aloe vera is known as Korphad; in states of Rajasthan and Gujarat it is called as GwarPatha, and in Tamilnadu it is known as Katralai. In Pakistan, the aloe vera plant is known as Quargandal and is used in Unani (Greek-Islamic) medicine. In South America, it is known as Sabila, in Indonesia it is called Lidah Buaya and in Thailand, it is known as Crocodile Tail plant.
Aloe vera is widely distributed in the different continents, and for most people it is of great help when it comes to healing and first aid medicine applications.