Aloe vera, known as sabila in Ecuador, looks like a cactus, with soft spines and leaves that spike out from the stalk. It is actually a member of the Lily family, related to onions and garlic and it originated in Africa.
Most often kept as a house plant in the U.S., this succulent, ever-growing plant gets quite huge in Ecuador, where the leaves alone can weigh several pounds each. A mature plant can reach up to four feet in height.
The long, green, plump, juicy leaves provide endless remedies and health benefits to suffering humans, making it indispensable to practitioners of natural medicine. In Ecuador, its medicinal applications are numerous and it is used both internally and externally. It is a natural plant remedy for a long list of human ailments.
There are about 250 different species of aloe vera growing throughout the world. Of these, 15 are considered very toxic or poisonous. So make sure you have a non-toxic variety before taking aloe vera internally or even spreading it on your skin!
Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the one mostly used for commercial products because it is the most nutritional and the most medicinal of the aloes. Four other aloe vera species also have great health value—Aloes Perryi Baker, Ferox, Arborescens and Saponaria.
The plant's gel has 75 minerals, vitamins and amino acids. It's natural sugars are beneficial in boosting the immune system. Aloe is the only natural source of vitamin B12 that science has found so far and it also contains vitamin B1, 2, 3, and 6, plus vitamin C and vitamin E.
It is a little-known fact that these plants take four years to mature and to reach the height of their healing potential. So the gel shouldn’t be used until the plant is the proper age. Also, most health practitioners don’t use the skin of the plant. Usually only the clear, sticky gel inside the leaf is used whether as a drink or topical preparation.
There is a bitter yellowish juice, called aloe latex, between the outer leaf and the inner gel. It is a strong laxative.
Sabila is astringent, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibiotic. It soothes sunburned skin and helps with the healing of wounds, cuts and burns.
There are claims that it stimulates cell growth, reduces scarring, reduces pain, helps blood to clot and may be effective for arthritis, diabetes, ulcers and other problems. I would say it's best to check with your doctor before using aloe vera to treat internal ailments. I certainly don't know whether many of these claims have been substantiated by medical science.
The Health Ranger, Mike Adams, finds it a great boost for the cardiovascular system and says it helps healing take place for those with cancer, high cholesterol and diabetes. Read his great article on aloe vera- http://www.naturalnews.com//021858.html
It is absorbed by the skin very quickly. In Ecuador, it is used as a salve for cuts because of its cleansing properties. It is also a popular drink or addition to health drinks and can be found in soaps, lotions and other products used on the skin.
Read Linda's blog about how sabila reduced the inflammation, infection and pain when she punctured her knee.
In Cotacachi, two push carts frequent the streets, selling a healthy sabila drink, freshly made from the gel of the plant, flax seed, herbs and spices. Click here to read more about the sabila drink.
In the Philippines women mix it with milk to cure dysentery and kidney pain and they also use it to cure baldness.
Keep a plant around, the right one,
and use it often as an extremely beneficial living addition to
your natural medicine cabinet. We usually have a fresh aloe vera leaf in our fridge and add a peeled chunk of it to our morning smoothies.