“Burn plant,” “Medicine Plant”
Aloe barbadensis Mill., Aloe Vera
A strange plant that has always found its way into homes as an ancient healer. In one way or another it has brought soothing relief in most desperate times. As a child I remember many instances running back to the house with a small cut, bug bite, or too much fun in the sun, and my mother spreading the mysterious oozy substance the came from this cactus like plant on my wound. This plant still serves its healing power in our homes today just as much as it did many many years ago.
A perennial succulent, a stemless plant, with thick green leaves overlapping each other, growing out from the center in a spiral. The leaves can vary in color from bright green to a dark or a subdued gray-green color. Each leaf is serrated along the edge with small white teeth. When flowering the plant shoots out a long stalk with small yellow or orange flowers forming bell shapes on the tip. Once pollinated the flowers form a seed pod. Aloe vera mostly produces through foliage offsets that grow out from the mother plant.
History & Folklore:
Aloe Vera has a long and cultural history. It has been historically documented as early as the 4th century B.C. in Africa and cultivated all around the world. It’s even said that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to acquire the island on which the A. Vera was widely growing to preserve and protect the plant. Cleopatra was recorded to have used the plant as a daily facial ritual. Also it is represented in folklore to hold many valuable powers. In Africa the plant is usually hung above and around the door to bring good luck and prevent evil from entering. It was also regarded as a plant of immortality to the Egyptians. Spiritually, A. Vera has a feminine energy and is linked with the element of water, the Moon, and Venus. It is known as a token of good luck, love, and a means to drive away misfortune or accidents.
How to Grow:
Most likely voted one of the easiest plants to grow! Aloe Vera thrives outdoors in bright partial light, warm-hot dry climates, with little water; but has found itself just as happy indoors on your windowsill. For optimal growth indoors and out, it requires partial sunlight (although some species of A. Vera thrive in full sun, the most common species found can burn in direct sunlight causing the leaves to turn brown and degrading its medicinal properties). When watering have plenty of drainage; always check before each watering that the soil has fully dried (water about once a week). Native to warmer climates, the temperature in your home will suit just fine. If outdoors bring inside on the first onset of fall weather, A. Vera cannot survive in temperatures below 40 degrees. Finally a low dose of organic fertilizer in the spring (not necessary but helps!). Aloe Vera thrives in a very hard environment, so here your neglect is a form of love!
Aloe Vera is an immune stimulant and anti inflammatory agent. A. Vera is of great benefit for those with skin conditions and skin toxicities. The sap has been found to activate the immune cells that fight off bacteria. It works by stimulating the circulation of blood at the body’s surface to speed healing which increases the amount of oxygen carried by the blood to the cells. This is a very useful plant in treating open wounds against infection and scarring. A. Vera reduces inflammation, swelling, itching, and pain, which makes it a mild anesthetic. Medicinally A. Vera helps with constipation, hemorrhoids, herpes simplex, psoriasis, radiation exposure, ulcerative colitis, ulcers, uv light damage, and vitamin deficiency. In basic terms, but with further study, use Aloe gels for skin conditions, Aloe bitters for constipation, and Aloe juice for other disorders. In order to receive the best benefits and highest nutrients use fresh aloe from your own plant. Some commercial products can be watered down and not as effective, always read the label to be sure you are buying pure A. Vera gel or juice.
Aloe should not be used if pregnant, lactating, or menstruating. Children under 12 years of age should not take it. Do not take with other prescription laxatives and always consult with a doctor before taking especially if on any medications. Do not take internally if on contraceptive pills, Aloe is known to stimulate fertility.
Photo: found via Google images
Prescription for herbal healing, 2nd edition, Phillis A Blach, 2012
Prescription for natural cures revised edition, James F Blach, 2011
Healing plants a beginners guide to plants as natural remedies, Victoria merrett, 2013