Aloe is a tropical African plant which has been tried for health benefits since ancient Greek and Roman times. The plant reached the West Indies with the slave trade in the 16th century and has been widely cultivated there ever since - hence such common names as Barbados or Curacao aloes. In the West, the juice has traditionally been regarded as a soothing wound herb, although in Ayurveda it can be used as a restorative tonic.
The whole leaf is a bitter purgative and common supportive in products for constipation. "Extract Bitter Aloes" was once standard on health practitioners' shelves as a laxative and is generally made from a combination of various species of aloe. The same liquid was popularly painted on children's fingers to stop them sucking or biting nails.
Aloe vera is also the commercial name given to the mucilaginous gel from one particular type of aloe which has become extremely popular in recent years both as a tonic and as an ingredient in skin creams and cosmetic lotions.
The plant grows well in the UK as a houseplant but will generally not survive out of doors for long. Although it looks like a succulent, aloe is more closely related to the lily family, so it needs plenty of water. The gel is easy to collect by simply breaking open a leaf and scraping out the sap; alternatively, fresh leaves can be split and applied directly to wounds and inflammations. It can be useful when grown on a kitchen windowsill as a convenient first-aid standby for minor burns. The sap is also be used on eczema and can help with fungal infections such as ringworm and thrush.
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More Photographs - Extra Strength Aloe Vera Leaf 200:1 Extract - 450 mg
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