Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Aloe Vera - Myths and Realities about this Misterious Plant

Aloe Vera is without a doubt a very extraordinary plant.

Aloe Vera is a plant with a long history; some of the most ancient cultures like the Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, and Roman talk about it in their writings; they describe the therapeutic advantages and healing properties of this plant.  According to some historians, the earliest records were found on a Sumerian tablet from 2100 BC.  For example, Nefertiti and Cleopatra used it as part of their regular beauty regimes.  Alexander the Great, and Christopher Columbus used it to treat their soldier’s wounds.  By the early 1800s, Aloe Vera was in used as a laxative in the United States, but in the mid-1930s, there was a turning point, and it started being used for chronic and severe radiation dermatitis with enormous success.
Aloe Vera continues being an alternative source of healing.  You might remember your mom, grandma, or any friend of them talking about how Aloe Vera helped to cure some illnesses or heal skin problems, or simply to calm down the sunburn after spending the day at the beach.

I remember seeing my mom scraping the jelly from an aloe leaf, and using to heal my abraded knee, after I had fallen of my bicycle; Doctor Mom knew what she was doing, it always worked like a charm.

Living in Costa Rica, has taught me to appreciate the natural resources that Mother Nature has set up for us in each one of the plants, fruits, and many other living beings in the jungle.      

Aloe Vera has been a wonderful and continuous source of health and healing for me.  For the last two years, I have been growing my own plants.

Healing Powers of the Plant
Aloe Vera gel contains active compounds that help to reduce inflammation and prevent bacteria from infecting damaged and vulnerable organs, including the skin.  Some people believe that the gel can aid cell regeneration, reason why the healing time seems shorter after using aloe gel.

One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in Jun 2010, found that the Aloe Vera gel/cream reduced patients’ postoperative pain, sped up wound healing, and reduced significantly the need for analgesic and painkillers.

Aloe Vera also shows to be a natural healing aid for gastric ulcers; according to other studies, Aloe Vera can be used internally to reduce gastric inflammation, induce ulcer healing, and help to protect the intestinal lining.

Another promising benefit of taking Aloe Vera internally is its anti-diabetic effects.  A paper published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal in July 2009, points to several studies that support the plant’s blood sugar-lowering effects in patients with type-two diabetes.

There is also scientific documentation that Aloe Vera is useful for the following health issue:
Herpes simplex virus-2
Burns type-2
Wound healing

Traditional literature suggests empirical evidence that Aloe Vera can be used in the treatment of alopecia (hair loss and baldness), parasite infections, and arthritis.

Aloe Vera structure

Aloe Vera is a stem-less plant with thick and fleshy green to grey-green and serrated leaves.  The leaf structure is made up of three layers:
The Rind – is the outer protective layer.
The Sap – is the layer of yellowish-bitter fluid; it function is to protect the plant from animals.
The Mucilage Gel – is the jelly-like substance we have come to know for its healing qualities.
Aloe plants contain two key substances with therapeutic properties: gel and latex. 

The gel is the translucent, kind of gooey substance found in the inner leaf, and the latex is the yellowish layer found beneath the skin in most aloe varieties.

How can we grow Aloe Vera?

The Aloe Vera plant can be reproduced from pups and from seeds.

When the Aloe Vera plant reaches maturity, produces tiny plats called pups, which sprout from the base of the plant.  The pups can be safely removed from the mother when they are over 2 inches tall.  When you detach the pups from the other, make sure the root system remains intact.

Aloe plants can also be reproduced from the seeds released by the flowers.
Unbelievably, the Aloe Vera plant produces flowers; they come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. The truth is that most people are not very familiar with the flowers because a plant can take several years to produce one, and sometimes, some varieties of Aloe, do not produce flowers.

The Aloe flower is slender and tubular, growing in massed groups at the top of thin spires.  It is a very peculiar type of flower; it is made up of a tall stem, a peduncle, and a colored flower. The flower is supported by the peduncle. It is called a raceme and can be open or compact.

Most flowers are not self-fertile.  It requires a mobile pollinator; birds are the most common pollinators, being the most usual, and the hummingbird.  The seeds are fertilized and then dropped on the soil, then transported by the wind or water run-offs.

Since the aloe plant has powerful regenerative abilities, a broken stem, leaf or rosette can also create a brand-new plant. Many gardeners choose this technique to grow new plants.

Many uses of the Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe Vera is used in alternative medicine, and as home first aid.  People in different countries acknowledge its properties as wound healing, burn recovery, laxative, antiviral, antibacterial anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, moisturizing, etc.

In markets all around the world a variety of Aloe Vera products are available, which are used in many remedies and cosmetics.  Those products are sold as Aloe gel, shampoo, body wash, body lotion, sunscreen cream, soothing night cream, arthritis cream, and soap among other.

Even though Aloe Vera has been commercialized in yogurt, beverages, and skin products, the greatest benefit is obtained when it is fresh from the plant.
It can be used topically as well as taken internally.  It is especially helpful on a variety of skin diseases.

It has a rejuvenating action.

It acts as a moisturizer and hydrates the skin.

As you can see, Aloe Vera is an old fashioned, and still in fashion aid for everything that needs some help in the healing process of our body.

I can’t be anything but grateful to Mother Nature for such a multifaceted gift that seems to be timeless.

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