Aloe (Aloe Vera, Aloe barbadensis miller)
Main Facts about Aloe
Aloe has more than 300 species. All are perennial and range in size from plants with very short stems to some with stems 20 ft. tall. Aloe vera is the most common species. It has tubular yellow to orang-red flowers, pale green or grayish green leaves. the leaves are fleshy, spiny, taper to a point. Aloe is native to Africa and Mediterranean region. It is a common houseplant. 2,000 years ago, the Greek scientists regarded Aloe vera as the heal-all remedy. The Egyptians called Aloe “the plant of immortality.” According to legends Cleopatra massaged fresh Aloe gel into her skin daily to preserve her beauty. Napoleon's wife Josephine used a lotion prepared from milk and Aloe gel for her face. At present, the Aloe vera has been used for various purposes in dermatology.
Using AloeAloe is famous for its skin-healing properties. Fresh aloe gel yields the best results: break off a leaf, slice it down the middle, and apply to the skin. To make a simple plaster you can place the cut leaf on the affected area and wrap it with gauze. Aloe gel has anti-inflammatory effect. It contains 6 antiseptic agents. They all have inhibitory action on fungi, bacteria and viruses. Aloe vera gel has been reported to have a protective effect against radiation damage to the skin. Internally, an extract of Aloe works effectively as a laxative, but it may cause severe intestinal pain, so it is no used for this purpose very often anymore. This plant has also been recommended for many other ailments including amenorrhea, asthma, colds, convulsions, hemorrhages, and ulcers. However, no scientific evidence supports the use of Aloe for these problems. The results of the two-year NTP study of a whole leaf Aloe vera extract givenn in an animal’s drinking water showed clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumors of the large intestine. There was no evidence of carcinogenic activity in mice. So you must think twice before taking Aloe vera orally.
Caution!It is best to apply Aloe vera gel to a small area first to test for possible allergic reaction. If taking orally may cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, red urine, hepatitis, dependency or worsening of constipation. Prolonged use has been reported to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Laxative effect may cause electrolyte imbalances (low potassium levels). Do not use in case of allergy to plants in the Liliaceae family. Do not use oral Aloe if pregnant or breastfeeding. Application of aloe to skin may increase the absorption of steroid creams such as hydrocortisone. It reduces the effectiveness and may increases the adverse effects of digoxin and digitoxin, due to its potassium lowering effect. Combined use of Aloe vera and furosemide may increase the risk of potassium depletion. People with diabetes who use glucose-lowering medication should be cautious if also taking aloe by mouth because preliminary studies suggest aloe may lower blood glucose levels.
Cooking with AloeThe green part of the leaf can be made into a juice or dried and taken orally as a laxative. Aloe vera is used in various forms: drinks, concentrates, capsules, and powders. Aloe vera is approved by FDA as a food additive for flavor.
How to grow AloeAloe requires a minimum temperature of about 41F. It is easily cultivated from offshoots that grow at the base of the plant. A well drained soil with some limestone is the best for Aloe vera, but it will grow in soil low in nutrients as well. Aloe prefers full sun but tolerate some shade. It does not require frequent watering. During the spring and summer, water when the soil has become moderately dry. In the winter, allow the soil to dry completely between waterings. The plant will grow for years in the same pot if it has good soil. It grows best when the roots are rather crowded. If you want to repot it, do it in late winter or spring. When harvest, cut the outmost leaves (the oldest) first. New leaves grow from the center of the plant.