What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe Vera is a species of Aloe, native to northern Africa. It is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 80-100 cm tall, spreading by offsets and root sprouts. The leaves are lanceolate, thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with a serrated margin. The flowers are produced on a spike up to 90 cm tall, each flower pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2 to 3 cm long.
Aloe Vera has long been a popular houseplant. Often called the ‘miracle plant’ or the ‘natural healer’, Aloe Vera is a plant of many surprises. It flourishes in warm and dry climates, and to many people it looks like a cactus with fleshy thorny leaves. In fact it is a member of the Lily family, staying moist where other plants wither and die by closing its pores to prevent moisture loss.
There are around 400 species of Aloe, but it is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller (Aloe Vera or “true aloe”) plant which has been of most use to mankind because of the medicinal properties it displays.
The Aloe Vera Plant
Although there are many Aloe’s the term Aloe Vera (“true Aloe”) refers to the Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Fully grown the plant stands 60 to 90 cm high, and a mature leaf is 7 to 10 cm across at the base, weighing 1.5 to 2 kg.
The lower leaf of the plant is used for medicinal purpose. If the lower leaf is sliced open, the gel obtained can be applied on the affected area of the skin. Leaves and seeds are the two edible parts of Aloe Vera.