Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe vera is not a plant that is unheard of. It has been used by people for centuries for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. It is also known as the true aloe or medicinal aloe. It is a succulent species that is native to Southern Africa. Aloe vera is found in abundance in tropical and sub-tropical regions like Africa, Canary Islands and Cape Verde where the temperatures are not chilling. However, because of its many uses, you can find an aloe vera plant in almost every second home across the globe. There are around 250 species of aloe vera with various sizes and properties. Though it looks like it comes from the cactus family, it actually belongs to the lily family. It stays moist where other plants wither and die due to lack of moisture.
Aloe vera is a stem-less succulent plant. Sometimes it has a very short stem. It grows to 80-100 cm tall and spreads by offsets and root sprouts. It has thick, fleshy leaves that are green to gray in color. Some varieties of aloe vera have white flecks on upper and lower stem surface. The leaf margin is serrated and has small white teeth. Like other aloe species, aloe vera too has the symbiosis (arbuscular mycorrhiza) to allow the plant to absorb more nutrients from the soil. A mature aloe vera leaf is 7-10 cm wide across the base and can weigh upto 2 kilogram. Some aloe vera even bloom a bright color beautiful flower. The flower is produced on a spike 90 cm tall.
The leaves and the seed of the plant are the only two edible parts. The aloe vera leaf structure has three layers:
Rind: Rind is the outer protective layer.
Sap: It is a layer of bitter fluid. This layer helps to protect the plant from animals.
Mucilage Gel: this is the main part that is filleted out to make the aloe vera gel. It is the innermost part of the leaf.
Aloe vera is termed as the "miracle plant" and "natural healer" because of this third layer's properties. This gel is used for many cosmetic and medicinal purposes. The inner gel has those eight amino acids that is needed by the human bodies and cannot be produced by the body itself. The aloe vera gel and the aloe vera juice are considered synonymous, but that is not true. While the gel is the inner most part of the leaf, the aloe vera juice can either be a whole leaf or inner gel juice.. The outer leaf contains aloin; the bitter substance found just under the leaf skin. Experts believe that only the aloe gel in fresh form has remarkable properties.
Aloe vera if taken in raw state has a bitter taste. You can get used to it, but if not you can add fruit juice to it to make the taste palatable. The use of aloe vera is seen in both medicines and cosmetic fields. Various ointments and creams with aloe vera are available for curing rashes, cuts, burns etc. Many cosmetics, including face wash, body lotion and make-up products use aloe vera to give the skin a soft and beautiful look.