Aloe vera is a medicinal plant belonging to the genus Aloe. This succulent plant is found growing in the wild in places having tropical climatic conditions across the globe. In addition, it is also cultivated for medicinal as well as agricultural purposes. Some people grow aloe vera as a decorative plant and it grows well in pots indoors.
This species usually does not have a stem and even if it does, the stem is very shot. However, the plant is very juicy and grows up to a height of anything between 60 cm and 100 cm (24 inches and 39 inches). Aloe vera spreads by means of offsets. The green to greyish-green leaves of aloe vera are thick as well as plump. A number of aloe vera varieties have white speckles on the upper and lower surfaces of their stems. The leaf margin of this plant is hollowed out and has tiny white teeth.
Aloe vera flowers bloom during the summer. The flowers appear on spikes that can reach a height of about 90 cm (35 inches). All the flowers are pendulous and have a yellow-hued tubular corolla measuring about 2 cm to 3 cm (0.8 inch to 1.2 inches) in length. Similar to other plants in the genus Aloe, this species also develops arbuscular mycorrhiza, which is a symbiosis that enables the plants to access mineral nutrients from the soil in a much better way.
The leaves of aloe vera produce as well as exude a transparent gel which can be obtained by breaking off the leaves from the plant. This gel possesses therapeutic properties and can be applied externally for soothing the skin and healing wounds.
Findings of various studies undertaken to explore the health benefits of aloe vera have shown that the plant possesses several therapeutic properties, which are useful for treating various skin disorders ranging from dry or flaky skin to cosmetic ailments and more. It has been found that the gel produced by aloe vera is also effective for treating problems related to the scalp and hair.
Many studies have established that the use of aloe vera can help to treat problems associated with sunburn. This is primarily because the gel produced by this plant possesses potent healing actions at the skin's epithelial levels, which is the stratum of cells that envelopes our entire body. When applied topically to the skin, this gel serves as a protective layer and aids in restoring the skin's moisture. As aloe vera possesses nutritional as well as antioxidant attributes, it speeds up the healing process.
Although aloe vera keeps the skin moisturized, it does not lend an oily feel. Hence, this natural remedy is suitable for everyone, including people with oily skin. Aloe vera can be a wonderful substitute for mineral-based make-up used by many women, as this plant not only works as moisturizer, but it is also excellent for the face before applying make-up as it helps to keep the skin hydrated and avoid dehydration of the skin. This plant is also beneficial for men, as it can be utilized in the form of an aftershave treatment. The healing attributes of aloe vera are capable of healing minor cuts caused during shaving.
Aloe vera is an excellent natural remedy for acne. The gel of this plant encloses two hormones called gibberellins and auxin, which possess anti-inflammatory as well as wound healing properties, thereby helping to lessen inflammation of the skin. Aloe vera contains giberellin, which works in the same way as a growth hormone and stimulates the growth and development of new cells. In addition, this hormone also helps the skin to heal naturally and faster with the least possible scarring.
The gel produced by aloe vera plant is calming and, hence, works to lessen skin itchiness, inflammation and blistering. At the same time, it accelerates the healing of the skin. In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian herbal medicine system, aloe vera is employed to cure chronic skin disorders like acne, psoriasis and eczema.
Aloe vera is also effective in combating the symptoms associated with aging. As people grow older, they start worrying about the emergence of fine lines, wrinkles as well as the lack of suppleness of their skin. Since aloe vera is packed with loads of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene, it is useful in enhancing the natural firmness of the skin and ensuring that the skin is always moisturized.
Aloe vera is also effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. The human skin can be compared to a very large piece of elastic that expands and contracts as per requirement to provide room for growth. However, when the skin is stretched beyond a certain limit or stretched too rapidly, for instance in the case of pregnancy and quick weight loss or weight gain, the skin's elasticity may be compromised. In other words, our skin looses much of its elastic property when such situations occur. This is the reason why people often have stretch marks on their body.
Such unsightly marks show up owing to small tearing of the skin layers due to abrupt as well as extreme stretching. The gel produced by aloe vera possesses the aptitude to conceal these stretch marks, as it helps to heal the tears in the skin layers.