Aloe vera is one of the few plants that share the same scientific and common name. It is a flowering plant that originates from Northern Africa under the family of Aloaceae, which was previously placed under the lily family (Liliaceae). Aloe vera is a xerophyte, a plant that can grow in arid conditions and can withstand long periods of drought. This adaptation includes waxy leaves, the ability to store water, leaves reduced to spines to avoid water loss through transpiration and a short life cycle that can be completed when sufficient water is available. Due to its unique healing abilities, Aloe vera is commonly known as the wand of heaven, heaven’s blessing, and the silent healer.
Aloe vera is a rosette plant with thick leaves that are margined with sharp spines. Generally, it thrives well in hot and dry climates. It can be found in almost every household but needs strong sunlight and well-drained soil to thrive. Soil substrates mixed with peat moss, perlites, and coconut fibers are necessary to allow proper drainage of water. Commercial succulent soil substrate can also be used with a successful outcome. Aloe vera needs to be watered only when the soil is visibly dried or cracked on the surface. It is recommended to water the soil instead of watering the plant itself. This is because any water droplets that get stuck in between the leaves or rosette structure will eventually lead to bacterial rot. Watering too frequently before the soil is dried up might also lead to insufficient oxygen for the plant’s roots and thus causing root rots. Rotting can be a severe problem in propagation when tools such as scissors are not properly sanitized, which will eventually spread from root parts to the stem and leaves. To avoid spreading, you must cut the healthy stem using sterilized tools and allow the wound to dry before planting into the soil. In most conditions, it is less likely to observe any pathogens on aloe vera, making it one of the best indoor plants with minimal maintenance.
Aloe vera produces stalks of long-bell-like-flowers and can be propagated through seeds from self-pollination. However, it is not recommended to induce flowers on purpose as the flowers will drain the energy from the mother plant, thus slowing down its growth. It is rather suggested to cut off the flower stalk to allow healthy and strong growth. Aloe vera can also be propagated using leaf cutting or pulling like other succulents, in which the baby plants will be produced through somatic embryogenesis at the wounded part of the leaves after few weeks. Cutting the stem is another common horticultural practice to multiply succulents. However, it is suggested to dry the wound before planting in dry soil and water only after a few days. This is to avoid bacterial infections by the bacteria present in water or soil. Aloe vera babies will appear around the dry wound surface. Aloe can also be propagated by splitting of the babies (suckers or “pups”) that surround the mother plant.
Aloe vera is uniquely consumed for the aloe vera gel of its leaves flesh. The outer layers are usually removed since it has a bitter taste due to the presence of latex. The flesh consist of transparent parenchymatous tissues is tasteless, in which 98% is water. Studies show about 75 potentially active constituents may have valuable effects. The active compounds include polysaccharides (glucomannan and acemannan), enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carboxypeptidase, sterols, salicylic acid, and anthraquinones. Makes it an ideal ingredient for foods, as well as in healthcare and cosmetic industries. Aloe vera is very popular in making functional drinks such as healthy soft drinks, laxative drinks, aloe vera lemon juice, sherbet, and diet drinks.
Aloe vera has therapeutic properties, especially in skin-soothing and healing. The mucilaginous tissues of aloes have antimicrobial, anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties, which are useful for treating wounds and burns, minimizing frostbite damage, healing infections, curing chapping, decreasing hair loss, and improving the immune system. Aloe is very safe, no adverse effects have been reported so far. Besides, aloe vera is widely used in our daily life merchandise such as moisturizing creams, cleansers, shampoos, soaps, masks, shaving creams, lotions, and lubricants. It especially useful for making hand sanitizer products. Not only because of the antimicrobial property but also it can moisturize the skin.
There is a rumor that aloe vera with white dots on leaves is toxic to be consumed. However, this is not true! The white dots normally show only at an early stage and will disappear when reaching maturation. Actually, it’s a quite common character of succulent plants, those white dots are known as variegation and have been observed in many succulents. The mechanism behind this might be some self-protection strategy, which might be similar to the animal world, spots on deer fawns will disappear when they’re getting older. Maybe a protection layer at the young stage will increase the chance to grow into an adult. Fully mature aloe leaves are spotless with a grey-green hue. Sometimes brownish gel can be observed during harvest. That is because the oxidation by the air does not change the beneficial effects at all.
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