Aloe, native to Africa, is also known as ‘lily of the desert’, the ‘plant of immortality’, and the ‘medicine plant’. The name was derived from the Arabic ‘alloeh’ meaning ‘bitter’ because of the bitter liquid found in the leaves.
There are over 500 species of aloe growing in climates worldwide. The plant is about 96% water. The rest of it contains essential oil, enzymes and glycoproteins. The aloe leaf contains over 75 nutrients and 200 active compounds, including 20 minerals, 18 amino acids, and 12 vitamins. Aloe vera ‘extract’ is made by crushing the whole leaves of the plant. Aloe juice is made from the inner leaf.
In 1500 B.C. Egyptians recorded use of the herbal plant in treating burns, infections and parasites. Ancient Greeks, Arabs and Spaniards have used the plant throughout history, and African hunters still rub the gel on their bodies to reduce perspiration and their scent. Modern healers have used it since the 1930's. It features in many liquid health treatments, sometimes in combination with other plants and herbs.
The juice is soothing to digestive tract irritations, such as colitis and peptic ulcers. As a supplement, aloe is said to facilitate digestion, aid in blood and lymphatic circulation, as well as kidney, liver and gall bladder functions. Aloe contains at least three anti-inflammatory fatty acids that are helpful for the stomach, small intestine and colon. It naturally alkalises digestive juices to prevent over-acidity - a common cause of indigestion. It also helps cleanse the digestive tract because of its soothing, balancing effect.
Extensive research since the 1930's has shown that the clear gel has a dramatic ability to heal wounds, ulcers and burns because of the protective coating effect it has on these areas. This helps to reduce inflammation, decrease swelling and redness, and accelerate wound healing.
A newly discovered compound in aloe, acemannan, is currently being studied for its ability to strengthen the body’s natural resistance. Studies have shown acemannan to boost T-lymphocyte cells that aid the immune system.
Aloe can aid in keeping the skin supple, has a moisturising effect, and has been used in the control of acne and eczema. It can relieve itching due to insect bites and allergies, and is a common remedy for sunburn. Aloe's healing power comes from increasing the availability of oxygen to the skin, and by increasing the synthesis and strength of tissue.