A young couple of my acquaintance make quite a good living as agents for an American company which markets a range of products based on Aloe vera.
The succulent plant species is, according to Wikipedia, “found only in cultivation, having no naturally occurring populations, although closely related aloes do occur in northern Africa.”
And, pursuing my curiosity about the many supposed health benefits to be had from products derived from the plant, I chanced on this … in my opinion … pretty extravagant claim. “Aloe vera has always been a popular herb amongst bush doctors and spiritual workers. The frequency vibration that aloe vera has is mystical. The main use of aloe vera is to re-calibrate the body’s frequency system. This is done on a DNA level. It gets the body’s cells to follow the normal instructions within the DNA. Aloe vera is used to turn off incorrect DNA instructions.” Hmmmmm.
Well, there’s little doubt about the popularity of Aloe vera through the history of recorded time, for the plant enjoyed the common name ‘the medicine plant’ for many centuries. The claims made for Aloe vera are very impressive. It is said to be very useful in treating burns, cuts and grazes; it is used in colonic irrigation and in the treatment of skin disorders; it is a powerful laxative and is used in cases of chronic constipation; it is used in a wide variety of cosmetic preparations; it was used in embalming … perhaps it still is; it takes the sting out of insect bites; it helps cure insomnia and prevent hair loss; it shrinks warts and relieves arthritis; it helps treat stomach ulcers, haemorrhoids and colitis; it promotes healthy teeth; and so on … and on … and on. There seems to be no finite limit to the claims made about the beneficial effects of Aloe vera.
As ever with such claims, their inclusion in this list in no way constitutes an endorsement of the medicinal or almost magical qualities claimed for the plant. However, the sap drained from freshly-cut leaves is widely used, either fresh or evaporated to a crystalline solid, by the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries; and Aloe vera is found in a wide variety of products marketed by entirely respectable and responsible companies. And the curious can try a simple experiment at home, for Aloe vera is sold in the United Kingdom as a houseplant with qualities that merit its inclusion in a splendid Canadian book in my library entitled, ’37 Houseplants even YOU Can’t Kill.’
Mary Kate Hogan, the authoress of that lovely little book (is it still politically correct to call her an ‘authoress’?) advises, “Place the slow-growing aloe plant near a window where it will get plenty of bright light. West or south are fine, but it can adjust to an eastern exposure too.” You’ll need to be careful in Scotland to make sure it’s not so close to the window that it ever finds itself in a temperature of less that about 5°C (say 41°F) for aloes are tender and any temperatures close to freezing will kill them. “During the winter it only needs water about once or twice a month. When the weather warms up, bring your plant outside for the summer and make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Over the summer, feed your aloe plant about once a month; it doesn’t need fertilizer during the cold season.”
I have quoted her exactly, up to and including ‘fertilizer’ with a ‘zee’ as the Canadians call the letter ‘z’. And I have one further quotation. “You may want to keep your aloe near the kitchen for easy access; in case of cooking mishaps, you’ve got an instant burn remedy to hand.” Break off a leaf and spread the sap over the burn. It might be worth a try.