Aloe Vera is a plant that belongs to the genus Aloe in the familyAsphodelaceae. The genus Aloe contains more than 400 different Aloe species and they are of flowering succulents native to Africa. Aloe Vera originates from the dry regions in Africa and is particularly abundant in Cape Province in South Africa. Today, Aloe vera can be found in many other parts of the world since it is beautiful as well as a popular folk remedy plant that is used external as well as internally to treat a wide range of different health problems.
Just like the other succulent plants, Aloe vera is highly adapted to environments where water is scarce. Succulents are a group of plants that store water in their enlarged stems, leaves or roots.
Succulents can be found in many different families due to so called convergent evolution, a process where species develop similar features due to environmental conditions and therefore appear similar without actually being closely related to each other. In a succulent, it is typically the parenchyma tissue that has been enlarged in order to store more water and the Aloe vera plant is no exception.
All plants will store some water within them, but the enlarged parenchyma tissue can store water for prolonged periods of time and make it possible for the plant to do well even during a severe draught. The enlarged parenchyma tissue also means that the Aloe vera plant has a minimum of surface area; a fact that is important since a large surface area equals a large water loss. Fleshy leaves are therefore a very good adaptation to a life in dry regions.
Due to reasons described above, the Aloe vera plant is often found in environments where other plants find it hard or impossible to survive, which means that the Aloe vera is subjected to very little competition. Grazing animals are also usually fewer in dry areas. In its native region, you will find Aloe vera plants in environments that feature hot days and cool nights. During the morning, the dewfall will provide the Aloe vera with small amounts of water.
The Aloe vera plant is stiff and can grow very large over time. The leaves are thick and fleshy and grow in a rosette. The plant has virtually no stem; the rosette is instead located directly at the ground. As mentioned above, the Aloe vera plant uses its fleshy leaves to store water and can therefore survive prolonged periods without water. The leaves are shaped like lances and have a sharp top. When the Aloe vera flowers, it produces small tubular flowers that are densely clustered together on a stem.
As far as we know, the Aloe vera contains 20 different minerals and 12 vitamins, including A, B1, B6, B12, C and E. You can also find all eight essential amino acids within this plant, combined with 11 other types of amino acids. Other compounds found in Aloe vera are resin, sterol, gelonin, polysaccharide, chromone and anthraquinone gycoside.
Many people use Aloe vera externally as a home first aid against burns, sunburns, cuts and scrapes. Many Aloe vera advocated claim that Aloe vera gel can speed up the healing process for damaged skin, but this has still not been scientifically proved. We do however know for sure that Aloe vera does affect the skin and body in various ways.
During a recent study of 21 women in a Los Angeles hospital, Aloe vera was applied to infected cesarean wounds. The study showed that the Aloe vera gel actually increased the length of the healing process. The use of Aloe vera to treat infected wounds should therefore always be approached with caution.