Aloe vera

Aloe vera (A. Barbadensis) is the most common and well known species of the genus Aloe and is also known as True Aloe, Medicine Plant, Burn Plant and more [14]. Aloe vera is a member of the Aloaceae family, which has around 400 different species. Some other species include Aloe barberae (Tree Aloe), Aloe aristata (Torch Plant or Lace Aloe), Aloe dichotoma (Quiver Tree), Aloe variegata (Tiger Aloe) and more[2]. Members of the Aloe genus are succulent perennials in the Liliaceae family, which also include familiar plants such as Tulips, Easter Lilies and Asparagus [12].

The Aloaceae family has been described with varying forms and sizes, from small grass-like herbs to stemless succulent rosettes a few inches taller, to larger species that have a 60ft trunks. They have waxy leaves and adapt well to harsh climates with infrequent percipitation[18]. They can grow clusters, called inflorescences, of tubular flowers that ranges from the colors yellow, orange, red or brown. The flowers are bisexual, containing both female and male parts, and are irregular, where they can be dissected and mirrored only one way. The flowers are perianth of 6 lobes, where sepals and petals are considered together. They have 6 stamens and the ovary is superior, where the sepals, petals and stamens are inserted beneath the ovary.[9][18] Most Aloe plants require partial to full sunlight. Strong sunlight may be required to develop the bronzed foilage that some species develop in their habitat. Although mostly grown in warm dry climates, most Aloe plants can tolerate cold winter dry seasons, and there are a few species that can sufficiently withstand cold wet winter weather as well.[18]

‚ÄčThe Aloe vera plant can grow up to height of 3 feet. The green leaves, which sometimes have white spots, are long, stemless, have spiky edges and grow in a rosette fashion. Aloe vera plants can produce brightly colored inflorescences of tubular flowers, growing usually from the center of the rosette of the leaves. The leaves can by cut and thick clear slimy sap from the inside of the leaves can be used for medicinal purposes.[6] The leaves of the Aloe vera plant are composed of three layers. The most inner part is the thick clear gel, which contains 99% water and the remaining is made of glucomannans, amino acids, lipids, sterols and vitamins. The middle layer contains anthraquinones and glycosides, which makes up the bitter yellow-colored sap, known as the aloe latex. The thick outer layer is known as the rind and has a protective function and synthesizes carbohydrates and proteins. Vascular bundles responsible for transportation of substances such as water and starch are also in the rind.[17]

Aloe Vera's green leaves with spiked edges.
Aloe Vera's green leaves with spiked edges.
The inside of the leaf of an Aloe Vera plant.
The inside of the leaf of an Aloe Vera plant.

The brightly colored tubular flowers from an Aloe Vera plant.
The brightly colored tubular flowers from an Aloe Vera plant.
Close up on the Aloe Vera flowers.
Close up on the Aloe Vera flowers.











Geographic Distribution


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Distribution Map of Aloe Vera in the U.S.
Distribution Map of Aloe Vera in the U.S.
Most botanists say, and historical evidence suggests, that the Aloe vera plant orginated in the warm, dry climates of Africa, but can be found in many warm lands today, including Texas, Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Aloe vera grows in warm climates and can also be found in Africa, countries bordering the Mediterranean and Red Seas, India, China, and islands of the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean area. It has also been spotted on growing wild on the islands of Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Carary cape, Cape Verde and along the coast of southern India. However, it is China, United States of America, Mexico, Australia and some of the Latin American countries that are major producers of Aloe vera plants because they export their aloe to be used in products around the world.[2][10][19]


Historical and Current Uses of Aloe vera:



Paintings of the Aloe vera plant can be found on the temples and tomb walls of ancient Egypt from around 4,000 B.C. and was said to be used by Cleopatra as a skincare and beauty product to maintain her youthful beauty. However, it wasn't until the 4th century B.C. when Greeks sent by Alexander the Great began to spread the use of the Aloe vera plant, by using it to cure the wounds of his soldiers. It was around 1st century A.D. that the Greek and Roman physicians, Dioscorides and Pliny, began to document the wide vareity of uses of the plant. They recorded the internal uses of Aloe vera, which includes cleansing of the stomach, healing tonsilitis, relieving diseases of the mouth and more. Also, the external uses, which includes skin abrasions, insect bites, burns, bruises and more.[2]

Today, the use of the Aloe vera plant is still very much the same. The plant is used internally to help digestive problems such as constipation, asthma, diabetes, peptic ulcers and more. The juices from inside the leaves can also be used to treat heartburn, ulcers and more. The plant is also being used externally for things such as burns, skin irritaiton, eczema, sunburns, acne and more. The gel from the inside of the plant can be applied directly to the skin.[11]

External use of Aloe vera:
  • anti-aging
  • ulcers
  • eczema
  • burns and cuts
  • sunburn relief
  • anti-inflammatory
  • skin moisturizer
  • acne
  • dermatitis
  • skin irritation
For topical uses of gels and lotions just apply to area of skin where it is needed. Aloe vera contains active compounds that help decrease pain and inflammation. It also helps stimulate skin growth and repair the skin. Researchers found that patients who used Aloe vera healed 9 days sooner than those who weren't treated with the plant. It is best used for minor burns and skin irritations and should never be applied to an open wound. [1][3][11][13]

Internal use of Aloe vera:
  • peptic ulcers
  • asthma
  • antioxidant support
  • digestive support
  • joint and muscle health support
  • immune support
  • diabetes
  • constipation
  • increased absorption
  • gastrointestinal relief
For internal use one can recieve these benefits through tablets, pills, supplements and juices. Studies have shown that Aloe vera can stimulate and regulate various components of the immune system. Aloe vera is soothing and can help the suport the healing process of an inflamed digestive tract. It provides a thin layer of nutritional coating, which serves as the foundation so that polysaccharides can be allowed to enter in the digestive tract and begin the healing process.


Aloe vera in Products Today:



Aloe vera is very useful and effective, in fact, that companies all over the world are claiming Aloe vera to be an ingredient in their products, ranging from beauty products to drinks, gels, lotions and more. There are three parts of the Aloe vera plant that is used in products today, the whole leaf, the inner thick clear gel and the aloe latex. The whole leaf products usually crush the entire leaf and is processed into a juice, gel or dehydrated powder form. The inner thick gel is hand cut to remove the rind and the aloe latex, leaving the gelatinous part of the leaf to use in products. The aloe latex uses a variety of processing methods so that it can be used as a drug for its anthraquinones compounds.[16]

The International Aloe Science Council (IASC) estimates that there is between 17 million and 20 million gallons of Aloe vera are sold annually around the globe for several different products such as drinks, creams and more[16]. In fact, although many companies claim to have Aloe vera in their products, and even print them on their labels, some products have very little amount of Aloe vera in the products[8]. The IASC certifies products that claims to have Aloe vera if they contain a minimum of 15 percent, because most products only use 1 or 2 percent. Therefore, many comsumers look for the IASC seal so that they are assured that the Aloe vera product has been tested for content and purity.[16]

Aloe vera drinks - company in S. Korea even makes Aloe drinks in different flavors. This product claims to have high content of calcium and vitamins for health and beauty. Also, this drink claims to help with constipation and is a effective skin supplement.
Aloe vera drinks - company in S. Korea even makes Aloe drinks in different flavors. This product claims to have high content of calcium and vitamins for health and beauty. Also, this drink claims to help with constipation and is a effective skin supplement.
There are American companies, such as Burn-Off Corporation in Irving, Texas, which sells products using Aloe vera for sunburn relief and sunburn protection, and their products contain 80 percent of the Aloe vera gel[8]. There are Aloe vera products in India that are produced in collaboration with Genotex USA, and is traded in processed forms such as gel, juice and concentrate. That aloe content is present in over 80 percent of the cosmetics in the European market.[7][10]

Aloe vera juice contains many vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B, iron, potassium, copper and calcium. Some of the benefits from drinking Aloe vera juice are detoxification, better blood circulation, pain relief and improved digestion. Aloe vera juice can help cleanse one's digestive system of bacteria and toxins, which can clog intestinal lining. However, many experts recommend to avoid products that contain artifical additives that can prevent one from receiving the benefits of Aloe vera juice.[5]
Aloe vera hand & body lotion - the Triple Lanolin Aloe Vera Lotion claims to combine aloe vera and lanolin to reduce the redness, flaky skin and soothe the skin.
Aloe vera hand & body lotion - the Triple Lanolin Aloe Vera Lotion claims to combine aloe vera and lanolin to reduce the redness, flaky skin and soothe the skin.

Aloe vera can be beneficial towards dry and cracked skin because the oils in the Aloe vera plant has healing, moisturizing and restorative properties. Aloe vera can help the skin's ability to hydrate, remove dead skind cells and transport healthy substances through the skin. Therefore, because of these reasons Aloe vera can be found in many lotion and cream products specifically for skin care.[4]
Pills containing Aloe vera - help cope with stomach problems, also help with acne.
Pills containing Aloe vera - help cope with stomach problems, also help with acne.
Aloe vera - Lily of the Desert offers: lip balm, gel, sun care and ointment.
Aloe vera - Lily of the Desert offers: lip balm, gel, sun care and ointment.



References

1. Aloe. University of Maryland Medical Center, 2009. Web. 06 Dec 2009. <http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/aloe-000221.htm>
2. Aloe Vera. Medicine Hunter. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://www.medicinehunter.com/aloe.htm>
3. Aloe Vera and its Medicinal Uses. Aloeveraaid.com, 2009. Web. 06 Dec 2009. <http://www.aloeveraaid.com/aloeveramedicinaluses/>
4. Aloe Vera Benefits. Miller Web Holdings, 2008. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://www.softecare.com/skin-lotions/lotion-ingredients/aloe-vera-benefits.php>
5. Aloe Vera Juice Benefits. Aloeveratruth.org, 2009. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://www.aloeveratruth.org/aloe-vera-juice-benefits.html>
6. Aloe Vera Plants. About.com, 2009. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://landscaping.about.com/od/tropicalplants/p/aloe_vera_plant.htm>
7. Aloevera. Aloeveraindia.com, 2009. Web. 06 Dec 2009. <http://www.aloeveraindia.com/>
8. Gage, Diane. Aloe vera: Nature's Soothing Healer. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1996. print.
9. Hyde, M.A. and B. Wursten. Family Page: Aloaceae. Flora of Zimbabwe, 2002-9. Web. 05 Dec 2009. <http://www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/speciesdata/family.php?family_id=7>
10. India Aloe Vera. Indiaaloevera.com, 2009. Web. 06 Dec 2009. <http://www.indiaaloevera.com/aloevera.htm>
11. Information on the Herb Aloe Vera. Sallamander Concepts, 1998-2009. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://www.ageless.co.za/herb-aloe.htm#Properties>
12. Levetin, E and K. McMahon. Plants and Society. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. print.
13. Lily of the Desert - Organic Aloeceuticals. Lilyofthedesert.com, 2009. Web. 06 Dec 2009. <http://www.lilyofthedesert.com/aloe_story.html>
14. Medicine Plant, Burn Plant or Aloe Vera. University of Arkansas, 2006. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/medicine_plant.htm>
15. Plant Profile for Aloe Vera. United States Department of Agriculture, 2009. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ALVE2>
16. Selecting Quality Aloe Vera Products. Virgo Publishing LLC, 2009. Web. 06 Dec 2009. <http://www.naturalproductsmarketplace.com/articles/2009/01/selecting-quality-aloe-vera-products.aspx>
17. Surjushe, A. and R. Vasani and D. Saple. "Aloe Vera: A Short Review". Indian Journal of Dermatology. Oct-Dec 2008: v53 i4 p163. print.
18. The Aloe Page - Aloaceae. R.J. Hodgkiss, 2009. Web. 04 Dec 2009. <http://www.succulent-plant.com/families/aloaceae.html>
19. The Aloe Vera Plant. Medical Aloe, 2007. Web. 30 Nov 2009. <http://www.medicalaloe.com/aloevera.php>