Aloe vera is native plant in northern Africa. It is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 80-100 cm tall. The leaves are lanceolate, thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with a serrated margin. The flowers are produced on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2-3 cm long
Aloe vera has a long history of human consumption, and has been commonly employed as herbal medicine. Aloe vera's beneficial properties may be attributed to mucopolysaccharides present in the inner gel of the leaf, especially acemannan (acetylated mannans). Mucopolysaccharides is also known as Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) wich are long unbranched polysaccharides consisting of a repeating disaccharide unit. These substances are important for connective tissues in our body. It can be used for the following medical purposes:
First of all the gel extracted from Aloe Vera leaf can be used to treat wounds, burns and other skin problems. We only need to apply a layer of aloe vera gel over the problematic area, then it can heal this area and reduce the risk of infection, because of its content of aloectin B. It can stimulate our immune system. It is an easy process to extract this gel from Aloe Vera leaves: just cut in half and the inner pulp rubbed over the affected area of skin. It can quickly soothe the burnt area etc.
Secondly the yellow sap from the base of the leaf is called bitter aloes. It contains anthraquinones which are a useful digestive stimulant, what is more, it is also a strong laxative. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity. Apart from its external use on the skin, aloe vera can also be used to treat chronic constipation, poor appetite, and digestive problems. However, it is not a panacea, beacuse we should not apply this to pregnant women or people with haemorrhoids. It also has a history of treatment of cancer.
There are many different ways to consume aloe vera. Japanese people commonly add aloe vera into yogurt, and also have drinks which have aloe vera as ingredients. On the other hand Pakistanian traditionally mix dried gel of aloe vera with other herbs, and eat such mixture after their meal to help them digest food; whereas in Mexico, people usually add aloe vera to their smoothies. In China, Aloe Vera has even been used for making aloe vera wine, aloe vera capsules. In cosmetic industries aloe vera are used to make shampoos and handcream etc etc.
It is not difficult to grow aloe vera in your own garden in frost-free climates. It requires well-drained sandy soil in moderate light. If planted in pot or other containers ensure sufficient drainage with drainage holes. Potted aloe vera should be allowed to completely dry prior to re-watering. In winter aloe vera could be dormant, during which little moisture is required. In cold places with frost or snow in winter, you'd better move your aloe vera plant into your house or in green house to keep it in a warm environment./font>
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