Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)


Aloe vera is a perennial semitropical plant in the lily family and has a long history with civilization. The early Egyptians showed the plant on stone carvings several thousand years ago.

This plant is quite hardy (Hardy Zones 9-11), resistant to most insects and has few diseases. A grown plant seldom requires frequent maintenance and does not need much water. As a matter of fact, over watering is the problem for Aloe Vera as a house or garden plant. Its roots may rot readily in over saturated wet soils. Most growers strongly recommended a hole at the bottom of the pot to allow water seep out from the soil. Some advise placing some gravels at bottom of the pot. The soil should be well drained; a good proportion of the soil mixture is - one third of sands, one third of soil and humus, and one third of gravels. Adding a few pieces of dolomite stones is also a good idea to lower the acidity in the soil.

In warm regions such as southern Florida and California, and Hawaii, it thrives under direct sun with sufficient rains and can grow to about 2 feet tall. In colder regions, potted plants can be placed outside in the summer but should be relocated indoors in the winter. as they can withstand frost for only a very short period. The plant can live in shady areas year around but does not grow stronger, thus some exposure to the sunlight would benefit the growth. Under strong direct sunlight, the plants would turn brownish green. In this case, removing from the sun will turn the plant green again. Last reminder: Watering is the key. The plant can tolerate no watering for one to two weeks, but dies quickly of overwatering.

Photo: Small potted plant with clipped tips
and 2 large Aloe Vera stalks


Pot Plant Cares

Ideal temperature: 19-25 degree°C (65-77°F)
Indoors environment: warm room with some sunlight
Water:       nbsp;   In humid room, allow soil to dry suffuciently between waterings
                    In dry room, watering or spraying more frequently
Feedings:   In Spring and Summer, fertilize monthly
                    In Fall and Winter, no need to fertilize


Use of the Plant

In North America, the plant is well known as a major ingredient in hand lotions and various beauty products, but the healing properties of Aloe Vera have also been known. The gel of the succulent plant is used for a variety of ailments: minor cuts, insect stings, poison ivy rashes, other skin irritations, burns, and sunburns. A living Aloe Vera is a handy first-aid in the kitchen. To use aloe as a medicine, clip one or two inches from the leave stems. Squeeze and spread the gel onto the affected area. The acidic skin of the plant can be blended to make a tonic to help digestion and to cure alimentary disorders.

Some herbalists use the aloe for various ailments such as constipation, coughs, wounds, ulcers, diabetes, cancer, headaches, arthritis, immune-system deficiencies, and many other conditions. The nutrient composition of Aloe Vera is quite complex. The transparent gel is about 90% water but has amino acids, minerals, vitamins (including B-12), enzymes, and proteins and carbohydrates (glycoprotein and polysaccharide). The green fibrous skin is quite bitter and contains sulfites and other substances. More scientific studies are needed to investigate the plant further.


List of Common Uses

1. Stop bleeding almost immediately of small external cut, for example the fingers.
2. Soothe the occasional dry or "damaged" skin as an alternate ointment.
3. Smooth and tighten skin using the fresh gel.
4. Help minor skin irritations using fresh gel or over-the-counter gel from a pharmacy.
5. Take as a laxative orally. (Approval cancelled by FDA as an over-the-counter drug in 2002)
6. Use as a natural food flavoring. (Approved by US Food and Drug Administration)
7. Drink as a beverage.
8. Eat as a tropical vegetable.



Aloe Vera Gel and Tapioca Dessert

Ingredients
1 stalk
1.5 cups
2/3 cup
100 ml
8 cups

1.5 ft Aloe vera
small coloured grains of tapioca
sugar
coconut milk
water

Dessert served with cubes of papaya
Method
1. Peel the green skin from Aloe Vera using a skinny or paring knife. (No need to use a sharp blade)
2. One easy way is to cut the stalks into two. Use a heavy paper towel and hold the cut stalk and hollow out the gel.
3. If desired, rinse the slimy gel with cold water; then cut the gel into 1/4 inch cubes.
4. Place the cubes in a bowl aside for later use.

5. Boil about four cups of water in a pot.
6. Lower the heat and pour in the tapioca,
7. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, constantly stirring, until the inside of tapioca grains mostly turn transparent.
8. Drain out the hot water. Pour in 2 cups of cold water to stop tapioca from overcooking.
9. Put 2 cups of water in the pot and bring to a boil. Dissolve in the sugar and then the milk.

10. At the same time, place the Aloe Vera cubes in the boil and cook for about 5-10 minutes.
11. Turn the heat off. Place the tapioca mixture in the pot.
12. The dessert can be served hot or cold.