Thilaka Baskaran finds that this aloe vera variety contains more than 75 valuable constituents

While skin care products with aloe vera have been in the market for long, I have noticed a range of aloe vera food products in the market, including aloe vera juice or combinations of fruit juice and aloe vera.

Research has revealed that this succulent plant contains no less than 75 valuable constituents such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. No other natural product contains such a large number of nutrients beneficial to humans.

There are over 250 species of this plant, mostly native to Africa. Of these, four have medicinal properties: the most popular one being Aloe barbadensis.

Plant of immortality

The healing properties of this plant have been recognised in Eastern and Greco-Roman civilisations. Ancient Greeks are known to have used it for treating burns and wounds. Egyptians called it ‘the plant of immortality' and included it in the funerary gifts that they buried with the dead. The fleshy aloe vera leaf contains a translucent gel which is used medicinally.

Water carrier

All aloes are semi-tropical, succulent plants that store large quantities of water in the leaves. They grow well in full sunlight and require moderately fertile soil that is fast draining. Once established, the plant will survive with very little water.

During summer, it is good to soak the soil and allow it to dry before watering again.

It propagates through offsets or ‘pups' that come up around the base of the mature plants. Aloe vera can easily be grown in containers that are wide rather than deep since they have a shallow spreading root system.

Use a heavy terracotta pot and potting mix with 30 per cent sand for easy draining.

Replant when the plant gets heavy on the top. Probably as a result of the worldwide interest in the plant, research on its healing powers in the past two decades has continued at an increasing pace.

In Russia and the U.K. burns patients have been treated with aloe vera gel. It has gained attention in recent years for its beneficial qualities for the digestive tract.

Highlight

An important element of aloe gel is acemannan, a complex carbohydrate, with immune-stimulating and anti-viral properties.

It facilitates the healing process by enhancing immune cell function. Some of the recent research has shown that aloe vera may have properties that work to cure cancer by stimulating the immune system.

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Keywords: aloe vera

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