Aloe Vera… A useful house plant
Aloe Vera, sometimes described as a “wonder plant or a miracle plant, or immortality plant,” is a short-stemmed shrub everyone should have growing in their yard or at least, a pot on their window sills.
Aloe is a genus that contains more than 500 species of flowering succulent plants. Seriously, many aloes occur in North Africa. The leaves of Aloe Vera are succulent, erect, and form a dense rosette. Many uses are made of the gel obtained from the plant’s leaves.
Aloe Vera has been the subject of much scientific study over the last few years, regarding several claimed therapeutic properties.
What is Aloe Vera?
According to Kew gardens, England’s royal botanical centre of excellence, Aloe Vera has been used for centuries and is currently more popular than ever.
It is cultivated worldwide, primarily as a crop for “aloe gel,” which comes from the leaf.
Aloe Vera is widely used today in:
•Food: It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a flavouring.
The medicinal claims made about Aloe Vera, as with many herbs and plants, are endless. Some are backed by rigorous scientific studies while others are not.
Aloe Vera, is scientifically known as Aloe Barbedensis Miller. It belongs to the family Liliacea and it is native to North Africa. Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gijrat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala are major producers of Aloe Vera which is locally known as Ghrit Kumara and Ghikanwar has many health benefits and use for skin treatments, and to treat several diseases such as heart diseases and digestion issues. Aloe Vera becomes popular due to its medicinal properties and it is known as a “miracle plant”. Aloe Vera’s name is derived from Arabic “alloeh” which means bitter due to the presence of a bitter substance in leaves while “Vera” in Latin means “true.” There are 500 species of Aloe Vera but only one variety that has a medicinal value dating back to thousands of years. Major producers of Aloe Vera are Africa, China, United States, Australia, and coastal areas of South India.
Aloe Vera has been used for medicinal purposes in several countries such as Greece, Egypt, Mexico, India, Japan, China. Egyptian queens, Nefertiti and Cleopatra used it as part of their regular beauty regimes. Alexander the great and Christopher Columbus used it to treat wounds. The first reference to Aloe Vera in English was a translation by John Goodyew in A.D. 1655 of disorders’ medical treaties De Materia Medica. By the early 1800s, Aloe Vera was in use as a laxative in the United States, but in the mid-1930s, a turning point occurred when it was successfully used to treat chronic and severe radiation dermatitis.
Most people recognise Aloe Vera as an effective treatment for sunburn but its uses go beyond burn care. The gel found inside the leaves of the plant can be applied directly to the skin to treat aches, heal dry skin and cut the itch of a bug bite. It can also be taken internally to improve digestive issues, and can even be used as an alternative to a commercial cloning gel for plant propagation. By growing your own, you’ll have access to the purest, cleanest, chemical and dye-free Aloe Vera for your home apothecary!
The plant has triangular, fleshy leaves with serrated edges, yellow tubular flowers and fruits that contain numerous seeds. Each leaf is composed of three layers namely
1. An inner clear gel that contains 99per cents water and the rest is made up of glucomannans, amino acids, lipids, sterols and vitamins.
2. The middle layer of latex, which is the bitter yellow sap and contains anthraquinones and glycosides
3. The outer thick layer of 15-20 cells called as rind, which has protective functions and synthesizes carbohydrates and proteins. Inside the rind are vascular bundles responsible for the transportation of substances such as water (xylem) and starch (phloem)
Active components with its properties: Aloe Vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids.
Aloe is fairly easy to grow, long-living, and requires minimal maintenance. Aloe thrives in bright direct light but too much sun can sunburn your plant which appears.
When watering Aloe, allow the potting medium to be mostly dry before watering again. The leaves on a dehydrated Aloe will wrinkle and you may notice brown leaf tips. It’s best to water before reaching this level of dryness.
Also, be careful not to allow water to settle in the crevices at the base of leaves as this can cause the plant to rot. Overwatering results in black spots forming on the leaves and this is a signal to stretch watering. An Aloe in a 10” diameter pot will need to be watered no more than once per month during the growing season.
Aloe will grow best when temperatures range from 65-75°F with low humidity (40 per cent is ideal). Cactus soil is ideal for Aloe because it is fast-draining. You can also add one part of horticultural sand to two parts all-purpose potting mix to achieve the right blend, feeding monthly with a fertilizer formulated for succulents and cacti.
Varieties of Aloe Vera
1. Aloe Perfoliata also known as the rubble Aloe or mitre aloe. It is hard creeping Aloe, found in the rocky mountainous area throughout the Western Cape South Africa.
2. Aloe Chinesis: it is one of the most famous and easy to care for a variety of aloe genius.
3. Aloe Litoralis: Aloe Littoralis is a succulent that forms a rosette at the top of an upright, usually unbranched stem densely bearded with old dry leaves.
4. Aloe Abyssinia: leaves densely rosulate, ensiform, deep green, often spotted when young, 1 ½ -2 ft. 3-4 in broad low down; marginal teeth large, deltoid, tipped with brown.
Aloe Vera is an excellent plant for cultivation in dry areas and regions with less annual rainfall once planted, it gave a yield of five years.
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