Aloe Vera: The Natural Healing Choice
Aloe Vera: When only the real thing is good enough
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What is Aloe Vera?The Aloe Vera plant is a cactus-like perennial of the lily family best known for its healing properties. Some of those healing properties include its being anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Thus it has gained a reputation as being one of nature's miracle plants, like tea tree, yarrow, comfrey, turmeric, lavender and eucalyptus.
The leaves of aloe vera have no stem and when healthy have a lovely green colour with small lighter spots on them. Leaf colour can vary between species, from dark hunter green, through forest, kelly and lime green.
Leaves appear a little sword-like and have small harmless spines along the entire edge of the plant. They rarely do any damage, but large leaves with hard and dense spines can make you jump if you 'rake' along them. This is more because you think they might cut, rather than any actual harm being done.
Before modern times in which we now have a pill for everything, the ancient world had rather less options and aloe was used extensively by all the major civilizations to heal various diseases, both external and internal. This ability to bring relief for such a huge variety of ailments has seen aloe vera become very popular among people from around the world, some of whom had never heard of it before now.
I make some guardedly bold claims about my experiences with aloe, but it is important to remember they are my experiences. It is my strong belief that aloe may have the same healing benefits for many others, if not all, and that it has the potential to become one of the worlds favourite home remedies for a variety of health problems. I guess, if that proves not to be true in individual cases, then there is always conventional medicine to fall back on, or to use alongside.
I've never been a 'them and us' kind of guy when it comes to health. I just like to try to use the many vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, mono- and polysaccharides that aloe contains to best advantage, before or alongside, orthodox and conventional treatments. Doesn't that make sense? To use something natural first rather than go immediately to the synthetic?
What makes up the individual parts of the plant?
Well, there's no trunk, stems, spreading nature like a tree, or fruits like a tomato. The outer layer of leaf is quite tough overall, but it does not resist snapping, cutting, puncturing or bruising. I suppose as the inner content of the leaf is soft and squiggy, you could say it acts a bit like our skin because of it's flexibility and ability to indent and recover.
Just inside the rind is a yellow liquid, or sap, called aloin. This tastes rather bitter, and has laxative properties. More on that elsewhere on this site.
Inside the sap layer is a layer of mucilage, which is regarded as the container medium for the inner gel, perhaps a bit like the visceral peritoneum which encloses the visceral organs in humans.
The gel is found in the inner leaf, resembling a clear or semi-translucent jelly; the parenchyma plant tissues. This gel is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and is a rich source of nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
We all know that aloe vera is found in a huge variety of commercial products nowadays. It would not surprise me in the least to find you could buy aloe added to wall paper paste, for whatever reason, justified or not. But one thing is certain, the aloe they contain has also been produced commercially, and this means they will have been grown using fertilizers, insecticides and chemicals, to make the volumes necessary for mass production.
Upon harvesting the gel goes through heavy processing to prepare, stabilize and clean it for use in commercial products like creams, lotions, cleaning products and as a food additive.
Cleaning involves high pressure sprays, storage tanks or soak tanks, and brushing to clean the leaves of dirt, debris, insects and contamination. The leaves are then crushed, pressed and ground up, and filtered to remove solid matter. The liquid is passed through carbon filters to extract the aloin or latex, the plant tissue and musilage. Gradually finer and finer filters are used to remove any microscopic debris.
The aloe vera end product is then purified and stabilized with either the cold filtration process, heat treatment pasteurization and/or chemical sterilization.
Various antioxidants, enzymes and glucose oxidase are added to stabilize and protect the product from becoming oxidized. Preservatives, stabilizing agents, thickening and flavouring agents are also added to help preserve and prevent contamination or physical change of the product.
I put this information here not to put you off, but to assure you that commercial products are safe and pure and tested to make sure they comply with any regulations regarding supply to the public for topical and internal uses. This is a good thing. But, how much of the 'good stuff' has been cooked and neutralized out of the gel in the process?
Now, you need to make the resulting gel into a product that differentiates itself from all the shampoos, hand creams, lotions, drinks, pills and washing products that line our shelves, and that is when you can go to town with additional ingredients. Things like:
A cautionary note: Aloe Vera is very healthy, natural and useful in so many ways, but there are a few people who find they react against the plant and its constituent parts, or have an outright allergy to it. Please, if you find yourself in this unfortunate group of people, avoid using aloe or products that contain it and consult with your doctor, nutritionist or herbalist to explore alternatives, such as yarrow, tea tree, milk thistle, slippery elm, arnica or something similar.