Aloe Vera - The Heavenly Plant
Roy De Souza
The aloe plant is truly heaven-sent because of its multiple uses. Recent investigations have shown that the aloe leaf contains nearly all of the nutrients and trace elements that are necessary for a healthy life.
The aloe is a perennial, xerophyte plant so it should be planted in a soil that is sandy and easily drained. It needs to be watered only once a fortnight. In colder climes it should be planted in pots that can be taken indoors during winter.
There are many types of aloe, some as small as 20 to 30 centimeters, others reaching 20 meters. The commonest variety is called Aloe Barbadensis (or aloe vera). It is stemless and its leaves fan out from the ground in layers. Other types have short and woody stems and still others have stems that are long and thick.
The leaves should be harvested when the plant is between three and five years old. They should be cut early in the morning when the sun is low. The gel in the leaves is at its most concentrated when the plant has not been watered for four or five days, so this is the ideal moment to harvest. The leaves can be used at once or placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated for up to seven days. For longer periods, the leaves should be cut and placed in a jar with an equal amount of water and medicinal alcohol.
The leaf of the aloe plant is green, with an elongated shape tapering to a thin, pointed end. Along the edges are spines that should be cut off before the leaf is used. The body of the leaf is thick and softly yielding to the touch.
The green skin or cover of the leaf is thin and yields a dark, brownish, strong smelling liquid. This is bitter and rich in iodine, chlorophyll, calcium oxalate, and smaller quantities of other substances. When dried in the sun, it forms a reddish powder.
Under the green layer are capsules or sheaths with spongy cellular tissue through which circulates a mucilaginous fluid. They contain the greater part of the therapeutic substances that are found in the leaves. Besides the trace elements such as iodine, iron, copper, and zinc, there are vitamins, amino acids, organic germanium, and three fatty acids.
The easiest way to extract aloe gel is by grinding the crystals in a mortar, placing the mixture in a stocking and squeezing until only the pulp remains. The gel can then be stored in a bottle and the pulp used for external applications. The iodine and other substances contained in the green sheath can also be obtained by the same method.
Organic germanium is one of the more interesting properties of aloe because of its use as a stimulant of the immune system. Another component called glucomannan shares the same quality. Together they have proven to be formidable allies against chronic viral infections.
The three fatty acids in aloe are campesterol, cytosterol-B, and HDL cholesterol. These three act as anti- inflammatory agents in allergies, gastritis, and duodenal ulcers. They may also help in cases of arthritis, arthrosis, and rheumatic fevers.
Because of its germicidal, moisturizing, and cleansing actions, aloe has many external uses. It can be used to reduce wrinkles, shadows under the eyes, and other problems caused by water retention between the epidermis and the dermis. By saponification the obstruction in the pores is dissolved and the skin is thoroughly cleansed. The regenerative properties of aloe, due to vitamin A, the B complex, and vegetal glucone, then combine to make the fibers of the dermis more elastic.
In cases of cuts and bruises, the bactericide in aloe acts against the germs while the properties help to heal the wound. Against herpes and acne, the pulp should be placed on the face for 15 minutes. To increase the effect, the gel should also be mixed with water or fruit juices and drunk.
Aloe could also be used as a shampoo by mixing 20 cc of gel with water. This mixture should then be massaged into the scalp for 10 minutes. It is effective in cases of hair loss and dandruff.
In the kitchen aloe could be used in salads with tomatoes and other vegetables. The spines, needles, and green shell should be carefully removed and the white crystals should then be mixed with the salad. The taste is pleasant and slightly starchy.
An effective facial mask can be made by mixing one tablespoon of aloe pulp, one egg, one tablespoon of honey and two tablespoons of barley flour. The paste formed should then be placed on the face for 10 to 20 minutes.
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