Cyprus Mail

Plant of the week: Wealth of uses since time of Alexander

Name: Aloe Vera (Aloe vera)

Otherwise known as: Aloe Barbadensis, Aloe Vulgaris

Habitat: A succulent member of the Liliaceae family growing up to 1.2m in quite indifferent soil, it has thick, green, rubbery leaves with saw-tooth edges that grow in rosette form. The leaves contain a solid wedge of clear jelly. It requires very little water and after two years throws a pink or yellow flower spike which lasts two months.

What does it do: There is a biblical reference to Aloes although the herb came to prominence in the Hellenic world during Alexander’s first Persian campaign. On the advice of his mentor, Aristotle, he was persuaded to invade the island of Socotra and harvest the Aloe Vera, the island’s main crop, to use as an anti-septic and wound stauncher in the forthcoming battle. It bankrupted the islanders but saved many lives. Both Pliny and Dioscorides refer to the wound-healing properties of the plant which has been used to treat topical ailments, burns, wounds and skin irritations, ulcers and constipation.

In the 1930s, following the increased use of X-rays and their attendant radiation burns, it was found that Aloe Vera gave relief and repaired tissue where all other medical preparations failed.

More dramatically, it proved to be the most effective treatment of radiation burns following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Apart from the foregoing, Aloe is now being used to treat stomach ulcers and asthma and researched in the treatment of HIV and diabetes. Successful results have been achieved from the topical application of Aloe gel to varicose ulcers.

Aloe cures range from influenza, through irritable bowel syndrome to arthritis. While, empirically, it is claimed to cure constipation and diarrhoea, little wonder that medical science finds it baffling.

The plant contains vitamins A, B, C and E; the minerals Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Sodium Chloride and Potassium; 17 amino acids, proteins, enzymes and anthraquinones. As such, it is anti-viral, antibiotic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Further claims have been made for the plant’s ability to treat nail biting, skin ageing, liver spots, acne, nappy rash and stretch marks. It is now believed to prevent dental decay.

Considering how easy it is to grow, why pay for it?

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