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Aloe veraAloe vera (syn. A. barbadensis Mill., A. vulgaris Lam.) 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 2-3 cm long.
CultivationAloe vera is relatively easy to care for in cultivation in frost-free climates. The species requires well-drained sandy potting soil in moderate light such as the sun. If planted in pot or other containers ensure sufficient drainage with drainage holes.The use of a good quality commercial potting mix to which extra perlite, granite grit, or coarse sand are added is recommended. Alternatively, pre-packaged 'cacti and succulent mixes' may also be used. Potted plants should be allowed to completely dry prior to re-watering. During winter, A. vera may become dormant, during which little moisture is required. In areas that receive frost or snow the species is best kept indoors or in heated glasshouses
Aloe vera has a long history of cultivation throughout the drier tropical and subtropical regions of the world, both as an ornamental plant and for herbal medicine. For its herbal and medicinal uses, many of which are shared with related species, see Aloe.
Medicinal usesAloe vera has been used externally to treat various skin conditions such as cuts, burns and eczema. It is alleged that sap from Aloe vera eases pain and reduces inflammation. Evidence on the effects of Aloe vera sap on wound healing, however, is contradictory (Vogler and Ernst, 1999). A study performed in the 1990s showed that the healing time of a moderate to severe burn was reduced when the wound was treated on a regular basis with Aloe vera gel, compared to the healing of the wound covered in a gauze bandage (Farrar, 2005). In contrast, another study suggested wounds to which Aloe vera gel was applied were significantly slower to heal (Schmidt and Greenspoon, 1991).
Aloe vera's beneficial properties may be attributed to mucopolysaccharides present in the inner gel of the leaf, especially acemannan (acetylated mannans). An injectable form of acemannan manufactured and marketed by Carrington Laboratories as Acemannan ImmunostimulantT has been approved in the USA for treatment of fibrosarcoma (a type of cancer) in dogs and cats after clinical trials. It has not been approved for use by humans, and, although it is not a drug, its sale is controlled and it can only be obtained through a veterinary doctor
Cosmetic companies add sap or other derivatives from Aloe vera to products such as makeup, tissues, moisturisers, soaps, sunscreens, shampoos and lotions, though the effectiveness of Aloe vera in these products remains unknown. Aloe vera gel is also alleged to be useful for dry skin conditions, especially eczema around the eyes and sensitive facial skin
Aloe vera juice may help some people with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. Side effects can occur and consulting a doctor before ingesting any form of aloe vera, including aloe vera juice, is highly recommended.
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