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There are more than 200 species of aloe. The plant is native to South Africa, and then spread to the hot and desert regions of America and Asia. The plant is part of the Liliaceae family, it can reach 3 or 4 meters in height, thanks to the growth of its central or trunk axis. The leaves are fleshy and have thorny edges. The flowers are yellow or red, depending on the variety they all hang from a long stem. The parts of the plant used are the juice of the leaves. Aloe belongs to the group of xeroid plants, characterized by the ability to close the stomata of the leaves once they have been cut or incised, thus avoiding the loss of water. The doctors of antiquity had observed that if an incision was made in one of the leaves of the plant, it healed quickly, to retain the precious liquid contained in it. Following an inductive reasoning, the doctors thought that if the aloe was able to effectively regenerate the damaged surface of its leaves, the same would have done with the wounds of men once applied to the skin.
Properties and indications
The active ingredients of aloe consist of cathartic anthraquinones which have the same effect as antibiotics but are less toxic to the body.
As has already been said from the aloe leaves, two main products are obtained: the juice and the gel.
Aloe juice is obtained by cutting the surface of the leaves. The juice contains from 40 to 80% of resin and up to 20% of aloin, anthraquinone glucoside, which is its active ingredient.
Depending on the daily dosage, aloe has two distinct applications:
Up to 0.1 g is an aperitif, stomachic and cholagogue and therefore facilitates digestion. Starting from 0.1 g, it acts as a laxative and as an emmenagogue (increases the menstrual flow). In doses of 0.5 g (maximum recommended daily dose) it acts as a powerful purgative and also as oxytocic (causes uterine contractions).
The aloe gel is obtained from the flesh of the fleshy leaves, which contain a sticky, almost transparent juice. It is composed of a mixture of more than 20 substances, such as polysaccharides, glucosides, enzymes and minerals. Contains glucomannan, a substance that increases the immune system. Unlike juice, the gel has no laxative properties.
Locally applied aloe can have beneficial effects in many cases such as:
Clean or infected wounds: the gel can be applied as a compress on the wound, or you can directly use the pulp of the leaf.
Burns: aloe gel is applied in compresses during the days following the burn. In first-degree burns, two or three days of application are sufficient, while in more serious cases it is advisable to consult a doctor.
Skin diseases: applied as a lotion, aloe gel has a beneficial effect in the case of psoriasis and eczema of the skin, as well as acne, athlete's foot (mycosis), herpes and other disorders. To enhance its effect it is recommended to take it also orally.
For children, aloe gel lotion is used to treat eczema caused by diapers, to relieve burning and to promote healing of skin in exanthematous diseases such as measles, rubella and chickenpox.
Preparation and use
For internal use the aloe is used in the form of juice and gel. As a laxative and purgative aloe juice acts slowly and therefore must be taken in the evening if you want it to take effect the following day. The gel should be taken 1-2 tablespoons 3 or 4 times a day, dissolved in water, fruit juice or milk. Normally it is taken during meals. In the case of gastroduodenal ulcer it is recommended to take it half an hour before meals and before bedtime.
For external use, compresses, lotion and creams are used. For the wrap, the application should be maintained throughout the day, moistening it with other gel each time it dries. The gel dehydrates the skin, so at night you can apply a cream or a bit of olive oil. The lotion is applied 2-3 times a day on the affected skin. There are various aloe-based products on the market, such as creams to alleviate burns due to excessive sun exposure, or to soothe insect and hives, etc.
Aloe properties: To know that
On aloe it is necessary to know that recent studies have shown how the plant is able to prolong and improve the life of cancer patients because it stimulates their immune system. The experiment was carried out on human cancer cells. Lecithin, an aloe compound, was injected directly into the diseased cells, this would activate a part of the immune system, which in turn produces substances to attack the cancer.
Many people ask how to prepare the drink with aloe leaves. Actually the do-it-yourself method is not recommended, because aloe leaves are rich in aloin which, if present in excessive quantity, can prove fatal for the organism since it is a powerful anthraquinone drug. It is preferable to buy the product already prepared in specialized shops, free of aloin and quality.