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Aloe Vera: The Queen of Medicinal Plants

Aloe Vera: The Queen of Medicinal Plants

Since ancient times people believed that this plant was powerful in various treatments. Ancient Jewish and Muslim people believed so much in the powers of the plant, for all evils, that they hung the leaves in the main door of the house. Aloe vera is a juicy, green plant with fleshy leaves and serrated edges. 

Aloe vera produces two substances with medicinal applications: gel and latex. They are obtained from distinct parts of the plant. The latex is extracted from the cells just below the epidermis of the leaf. The gel, in turn, is withdrawn from the cells of the mesophyll (center) of the leaf.

It is a plant very rich in vitamins and minerals essential for the growth and proper functioning of all systems of the organism. Contains antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, vitamin B12, folic acid and choline, minerals such as calcium, copper, selenium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc. Provides substances with laxative, analgesic, antibacterial and antiviral applications.

Most people use the gel as a treatment for skin problems, however there are several other benefits in using this plant as intestinal diseases, natural remedy for asthma and stomach ulcers.

The Aloe vera plant is believed to have originated in Sudan and was later brought to the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, India, Europe and America.

1. Historical references of Aloe Vera since ancient times

As far as their cosmetic virtues are concerned, historians believe that Aloe vera was the great beauty secret used by Cleopatra in ancient Egypt. The empress made use of her properties to treat her skin that enchanted everyone. This fact, corroborated by the current industry, given its use in the granting of numerous creams, tanning lotions, shampoos, conditioners, masks, etc.

The Chinese, 6,000 years ago, used Aloe Vera as a medicine.

In ancient Greece, 2,000 years ago, Dr. Penadius Discorides enunciated the use of Aloe vera as a treatment for burns, hair loss, stomach upset, blemishes and skin care.

Alexander the Great would have had a secondary interest in conquering the Socotra Islands in the Indian Ocean (4th century BCE). On these islands Aloe vera grew abundantly. The conqueror's primordial interest in the islands was to have enough plants to heal the wounds of his soldiers after the battles, for he already knew of his healing powers. From this conquest Aloe vera was used by the soldiers of Alexander the Great as a first aid medicine to heal wounds, facilitating healing.

The sailors of Christopher Columbus were treated with Aloe vera and later was used by missionaries in the New World discovered by him. Ancient tribes from Central and South America and Mexico enjoyed the characteristics of Aloe vera to treat stomach, hair, scalp and skin problems. The tribes of the Seminole Indians, who populated part of the United States and now live in Florida, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, used Aloe vera to cover surgical incisions and wounds from battles.

The Aloe Vera plant is designated in the Bible by "perfumed tree" and "perfumed resin". Nicodemus used a blend of Aloe vera and myrrh to embalm Jesus. 

Used in traditional Indian medicine to treat various health problems like intestinal constipation or skin diseases, Aloe Vera is also widely used in Western culture in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and food industries. Aloe Vera gel was used by the United States International Atomic Energy Agency to treat burns caused by X-rays. The benefits of Aloe vera sap are backed by nearly 700 published scientific and clinical studies.

2. Scientific explanation of the properties of Aloe Vera

Gastrointestinal tract: Acemannan, a naturally occurring mucopolysaccharide, has the protective ability of the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestine.

Immune system: The same substance, acemannan has immunostimulating properties, allowing to protect the organism against bacteria and viruses, by stimulating the activity of macrophages. The commercialized Aloe vera drink can be ingested at specific times (autumn, winter, physical examination periods or physical tests) to stimulate the body's natural defenses. Zinc, one of the constituents of Aloe vera, contributes to the balance of the immune system and mood.

Irritations and skin problems: There are several studies on the applications of Aloe vera in this area, the first of which in 1935 finds that this plant has the ability to provide rapid relief for burns and skin regeneration. More recently, the effectiveness of Aloe vera in various types of treatment has been demonstrated in a review of numerous studies in 2009, namely in the treatment of inflammation, genital herpes and as an antifungal agent. There is evidence that this plant is effective in treating dermatitis, psoriasis and surgical wounds.

Antibacterial and antiviral: Extracts of Aloe vera have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, being able to act against some strains of bacteria (ex .: Escherichia coli), viruses or fungi (ex.: Candida albicans).

Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying: These powers are related to the variety of constituents of Aloe vera: 18 amino acids, 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, 15 enzymes, 75 nutrients and about 150 active principles. Within its constituents we highlight the following ones. Vitamin A, found in Aloe vera, contributes to healthy vision and skin and proper neurological abilities. Vitamin C helps prevent skin wrinkles and eye diseases, assists in controlling cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems. Aloe vera also has the ability to fight free radicals responsible for cell aging.

Constipation: Aloe vera latex contains anthraquinones that have a laxative power by increasing the water content in the intestine