The plant.- Aloe Vera is one of the more than 250 known species of aloes. It is a succulent, belonging to the liliaceae family.
Scientific names: Aloe Vera (Lineo), Aloe Barbadensis (Miller).
Common names: Aloe, Aloe Vera, Barbados Aloe, Sabila, Pita Sabila, etc...
It inhabits desert or semi-desert areas, although its preferred environment is a temperate climate with low rainfall, such as the climate of the Canary Islands. Its fleshy leaves are capable of accumulating a large amount of water, and are able to increase in size to a length of more than 50 centimetres and a considerable thickness. To avoid evaporation during sunshine hours, the plant closes its pores or stomas. These reserves are stored and slowly consumed when rainfall is scarce, and the leaves may then decrease in size and consistency and some leaves may even be sacrificed in order to enable the rest of the plant to survive. Aloe Vera is a real survivor, prepared for the most difficult conditions…… almost.
Aloe Vera does not resist these environmental conditions either permanently or periodically, which means that large crops imported and maintained artificially for some time (even years) have succumbed to a single storm, blizzard, frost, torrential rainstorm etc. In any case, in its natural habitat (the Canary Islands) it is almost indestructible: obviously its small spines are inadequate defence against predators, but what is infallible is the yellow liquid or sap that is secreted as soon as the skin of the plant is penetrated. This sticky liquid with a very bitter flavour, as well as intimidating any aggressor, has a rapid scar forming action so that when a leaf suffers a cut or tear, a short time after the yellow sap is secreted the rind of the leaf becomes perfectly sealed, preventing its gelatinous interior from being exposed and defenceless. It is no wonder that it was originally thought that the curative properties of the plant were found in this substance.
The leaf.- The plant consists basically of a variable group of leaves that emerge from a stem which serves as both a central root and as the point from which, two or three times a year, on a sporadic basis, a long stalk emerges, with several extensions from which yellow flowers droop. From the central root other small but strong roots branch out, which do not take great depth in the soil in order to take advantage of all the water that is deposited on the soil. The structure of the leaf is a gelatinous, transparent nucleus (pulp) enveloped in a fine layer of a yellow liquid or sap, all of which is protected by the fine but resistant external green rind.
What does it contains?.... A great deal of research has been done on the composition of Aloe Vera in search of an active ingredient responsible for its therapeutic action, but modern analytical methods can only confirm the presence of previously chosen elements. In this way, when it was thought that the vitamin contents could be the cause of its effects, it was noted that Aloe Vera contains around a dozen vitamins, but not in quantities that distinguish it to any extent from other known products. This meant that research continued on a variety of elements, with several of each type being found in reasonable amounts, although none of these was in itself particularly outstanding. The amount and variety of the components found in Aloe Vera have not been found in the most complex vegetable species studied, and today studies of its molecular composition still continue, providing new results. This fact leads to the conclusion that it is a synergy of all the components of the plant that produces the effects unsurpassed by any other known product, with Nature making of this plant the best 100% natural and 100% vegetable cosmetic.
VITAMINS.- Beta carotene Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Folic acid Vitamin C Vitamin B3 Vitamin B6 Vitamin E y Choline.
MINERALS.- Calcium Magnesium Sodium Copper Iron Manganese Potassium Zinc Chromium Chlorine
AMINO ACIDS.- Essential, Lysine, Threonine, Valine, Methionine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Phenylaianine, Tryptophane, Histidine, Arginine, Hydroxy Proline, Aspartic, acid Serine, Glutamic acid, Proline, Glycerine, Alanine, Cystine y Tyrosine.
ANTHRAQUINONES.- Aloin, Isobarbaloin, Barbaloin, Cinnamic acid, Emodin, Aloe Emodin, Ester of Cinnamic acid, Anthracene, Antranol, Aloetic acid, Ethereal oils, Resistannols y Crysophanic acid.
MONO AND POLYSACCHARIDES.- Cellulose, Glucose, Mannose, Galactose Aldonentose, L-rhamnose, Uronic acid, Xylose, Glucuronic acid y Arabinose.
ENZYMES.- Oxidase, Amylase, Catalase, Lipase y Alinase.
What is it used for?... Since ancient times it has been used for a multitude of applications and this is due to the great variety of nutritive elements that it provides to tissues. Aloe Vera is basically a cellular regenerator and therefore acts, with very positive results in many conditions:
External uses: Dry and cracked skin, burns (accidental, chemical, electrical, solar, friction), blisters, insect bites, allergic reactions, skin eruptions and acne, rashes and irritations, ulcers, sores, eczema, some herpes, marks on the skin, urticaria and psoriasis, athlete's foot, fungi, vaginal infections, seborrhoea, conjunctivitis and sties.
Internal uses: Problems in the mouth, gums and throat, stomach disorders, acidity, indigestion, gastritis and ulcers, colitis and haemorrhoids, cirrhosis, hepatitis and diabetes. It also regulates blood pressure, and acts in rheumatism, arthritis, and infections of the kidney, the urinary tract and the prostate. Aloe Vera stimulates the synthesis of elastin and collagen in the organism, compensating the ageing produced by the reduction of these with age and making the artificial application of elastin and collagen unnecessary. In addition, it is not only useful for human beings: its veterinary uses are the same or even greater. Furthermore, it also has textile applications in the treatment of organic tissues.
History.- In more remote times the virtues of Aloe Vera were known in the East and in the Mediterranean. The beauty of Cleopatra is attributed to the use of Aloe Gel and it is also said that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socrotora before embarking on his eastern campaign, in order to stock up on Aloe with which to cure the combat wounds of his troops. The most ancient description known is found in the Egyptian papyrus from Ebers, from the year 1500 BC, in which more than 12 remedies with a base of Aloe Vera are detailed. In the first century AD, Dioscorides described Aloe Vera and its medicinal and cosmetic qualities in great detail in his Greek herbarium. The Arabs, great users of Aloe, took it with them on their campaigns and at the end of the Reconquest left extensive plantations from which attempts were later made to introduce the plant to Northern Europe but where it did not resist the winter cold. The difficulty in conserving the plant meant that its virtues were forgotten and, replaced by other remedies, the plant itself was forgotten. In the Middle Ages the use of Aloe was restricted to the dried yellow sap with a high Aloin content which gave it scar forming and bactericide properties. In the XX century there was a return to the ancient crop, with its effectiveness being proven in burns produced by X-rays, although it was not until the nineteen fifties that the juice or gel was able to be stabilised. In the Canary Islands Aloe Vera L. (Aloe Barbadensis Miller) is a plant that grows indigenously, where its wide medicinal application has been used in a traditional manner since time immemorial.
Christopher Columbus stocked up on Canary Islands Aloe on his voyages to the New World in order to combat epidemics on board, and the chronicles of the conquest of the Canary Islands cite the use of this plant made by the natives. The Canary Islands aloes are of excellent quality. The humid and almost constant temperature, the natural light and the low rainfall combine to make a plant with higher than average concentra-tions of active ingredients.