The aloe vera is a succulent plant that usually grows without a stem and has thick, green fleshy leaves that can grow as high as 2 or 3 feet. Its medicinal qualities have been well-known for thousands of years; and, for this reason, the plant has been called many names by our ancestors. To the Egyptians, it was the “plant of immortality.” The Native Americans referred to it as the “wand of heaven.” The ancient Greeks thought of the aloe vera as a sort of panacea that cured various ailments from insomnia to hair loss.
For us who live in contemporary times, the aloe vera continues to be valuable. Aside from being grown as an ornamental plant, it is utilized as an essential ingredient in numerous pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. Here are more remarkable uses and facts about the aloe vera plant.
- Aloe vera plants are hardy and long-lived. Wild species have been known to survive for 100 years.
- There are approximately 250 species of aloe vera but only 4 of them are cultivated for their health benefits. The most cultivated species, Aloe Vera Barbadensis, originated in North Africa.
- The aloe gel is 96% water, which enables the plant to survive in arid regions.
- The aloe leaf contains latex that is effective as a laxative. However, ingestion of the latex should be limited to small amounts since large doses can be toxic.
- Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra was said to apply aloe vera gel to her skin as part of her beauty ritual.
- The most valuable part of the aloe vera plant is the clear gel found inside the leaves, which contains 75 health-giving nutrients, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
- Aloe vera gel can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi owing to its naturally-occurring antiseptic qualities. The plant’s potential as a cure for cancer and AIDS has been the subject of various studies and research over the years.
- The skin-soothing properties of the aloe vera gel comes from compounds which stimulate growth of new skin cells and connective tissues; as well as vitamins that promote wound healing, such as Vitamins C and E. Thus, it can provide relief against insect bites, burns, sunburn and frostbite. When applied topically, it can moisturize and soften the skin, lighten stretch marks and shrink warts. Some people even swear that it can minimize wrinkles.
- Aloe vera has long been used in traditional medicine. Ayurveda, a system of natural healing that originated in India, uses aloe vera to treat several skin conditions as well as improve the function of the digestive and immune systems.
- Among the various ailments that aloe vera is believed to help prevent or cure include heartburn, arthritis, joint pain, diabetes, eye and ear infections, and high cholesterol.