Useful information

Medicinal types of aloe

We somehow got used to the fact that our houses are usually decorated with aloe tree (Aloearborescens Mill.) Is a perennial leaf succulent of the deserts of Eastern and Southern Africa, an indispensable tool for colds and non-healing wounds. Other types of aloe are perceived by us as succulents, performing mainly decorative functions in combination with extraordinary unpretentiousness, according to the principle - went on vacation and forgot. But certain species can be used in the same way as the aloe tree, as a home healer. And some of them are the main ones in the world in the production of drugs from this plant and are widely cultivated in many countries of the world where the climate permits.

Aloe in South Africa. Photo: Irkhan Udulag (South Africa)

In general, the genus of aloe (Aloe) quite diverse. According to various literary sources, there are about 250 or 350 species in the world.These are perennial herbaceous, shrubby or tree-like succulents from the Xantorrhoeaceae family (Xanthorrhoeaceae). In the old classification, they belong to the lily family (Liliaceae)... Their appearance is very diverse, from graceful ornamental plants to huge trees. Aloe has succulent xiphoid leaves, set along the edge with sharp thorns, the color of which can have various shades of green. The leaves extend from the stem, which serves as the central base for them, from which a long peduncle grows two or three times a year. The flowers are red, orange, yellow or white, collected in a dense multi-flowered raceme. The fruit is a cylindrical capsule.

Separately, I would like to dwell on the unusual structure of the aloe leaf, which includes a gel-like gelatinous, transparent core (pulp) surrounded by a thin layer of yellow liquid or juice, all this is protected by a thin, but strong, and even covered on top to reduce evaporation, green skin. The fleshy leaves of these plants are capable of storing large amounts of water, and can grow significantly in size. In order to retain moisture, the plant closes its pores, slowly using up its water reserves when there is insufficient moisture supply, then the leaves decrease in size and consistency, and some, mainly the lower leaves, can be shed to preserve the life of the entire plant.

The layer under the skin is yellowish in color and contains specific substances from the group of anthraquinones called Aloin. It is a bitter product that has been used for centuries as a mild laxative.

But the second inner layer - gelatinous pulp, which is liquid fibers located in the inner part of the sheet, is a separate product and is called Aloe gel.

Therefore, there are three types of raw materials from this plant in the world: Whole Aloe Leaf, Aloin and Aloe Gel, which are used in completely different ways.

Aloin contains anthraquinones (anthracene derivatives), and Aloe Gel is free of them, therefore it does not have stomach irritating properties, does not have a very bitter taste and is recommended for preparing drinks, juices and adding to other food products.

To obtain the gel, the aloe leaves are cut by hand and removed mechanically, while simultaneously separating the yellow liquid - Aloin. They try to get Aloe Gel fast enough to prevent oxidation. It is stabilized immediately after the start of the extraction. It is widely used as a tonic and nutritious product that promotes the regeneration of body tissues. It is non-toxic and has no contraindications. In recent years, a lot of food products with Aloe Gel have appeared: juices, yoghurts, desserts, confectionery, which are not only healthy, but also very tasty.

Aloin, unlike Gel, has a different use - it is a good laxative. However, long-term internal use of pure Aloin or preparations from Whole Aloe Leaf can lead to chronic autointoxication and contribute to the development of hemorrhoids and inflammatory processes of hemorrhagic nature in the lower part of the small intestine and in the large intestine. This is due to the content of the anthraquinone complex, which has a mild laxative effect due to its irritating effect.Aloin acts on intestinal motility, interacts with the enzyme system in the intestinal wall, which is responsible for the absorption of water and nutrients. Therefore, Aloin is contraindicated in pregnancy (risk of miscarriage), menstruation, cystitis, hemorrhoids.

Of the whole variety of aloe species, only about 15 varieties are used for medicinal purposes. Naturally, the most important from a medical point of view will be mentioned. The first, of course, should be called aloe real (Aloevera).

Aloe vera (Aloe vera). Photo: Elena Malankina

This species was first described by K. Linnaeus as Aloeperfoliata var. vera in 1753. In 1768 N. Burman singled it out as a separate species. But in the same year F. Miller renamed it aloe real, instead of the Barbados aloe described in 1620 by K. Baugin. Now these two names are taken as synonyms by most botanists. Although some authors believe that these are two morphological types of the same species with flowers of different color - in the first - orange, in the second - yellow.

Aloe, or barbados (Aloe vera Tourn. ex L., synonyms: Aloe barbadensis Miller., Aloe perfoliata var. vera L., Aloe elongata Murry, Aloe vulgaris Lamarck, Aloe flava Pers.) Is widely used all over the world. The word "vera" has a Latin origin, and in translation means real, that is, really healing aloe. The native land of the plant is the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Canary Islands. Present aloe has very powerful fleshy leaves, reaching 80-100 cm in length and 15 cm in width. Some authors describe two varieties of it - green and blue. The green variety can only be used at the age of 4-5 years, the blue one grows faster, reaching harvest at the end of the third year. Both varieties have the same medical uses. And the most important thing that unites them is very fleshy leaves, from which a lot of gel is obtained.

Currently titled Aloe vera combine several varieties cultivated on plantations in America and East Asia. And it is this species that is very widely exported to all countries of the world by China. By the way, large plantations are located on the island of Hainan, well-known to Russian tourists.

Scarlet tree (Aloearborescens Mill.) Is a wild African species of aloe, widely used and cultivated in Russia, where it has been thoroughly studied. We are familiar with him as a small and unpretentious houseplant, which blooms very rarely and whose height reaches no more than 1 meter. But in its homeland of South and East Africa, it is a magnificent, powerful tree. During the Soviet era, aloe tree was cultivated in the open ground of humid subtropical zones in the coastal part of Adjara, on plantations near Kobuleti, as well as in the Odessa region. This allowed the USSR not to depend on imported raw materials, and the subject of import was only dried aloe juice - sabur. Received three types of raw materials: fresh leaf - Folium Aloes arborescentis recens, dry leaf - Folium Aloes arborescentis siccum and fresh lateral shoot - Cormus lateralis Aloes arborescentis recens.

Aloe arborescens in South Africa. Photo: Irkhan Udulag (South Africa)

Currently, some farms continue to grow this type of aloe in greenhouses, for example, in Poland.

Aloe arborescens (Aloe arborescens). Photo: Elena Malankina

Aloe sokotrinskoe (Aloesoccotrina Lam.) Is native to the island of Socotra in the south of Yemen. Since the time of Alexander the Great, it has been heavily supplanted by the species mentioned above, but it still has a certain local significance. It is sometimes seen as synonymous with aloe vera.

Aloe socotrina. Photo: Elena Malankina

Aloe awesome (Aloeferox) is common in Lesotho and South Africa (in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces and Kwa Zulu-Natal). Its life form is closer to trees, height - up to 3, very rarely up to 5 m. Leaves up to 1 m long, dull green, sometimes with a reddish tinge, along the edge have long reddish teeth at a distance of 10-20 mm from each other. One sheet can weigh 1.5-2 kg. The peduncle is highly branched, up to 80 cm high. The flowers are very numerous, orange.

Aloe ferox Photo: Rita Brilliantova

It was first described in 1768 by Philip Miller. Linnaeus mentions him in his "Species Plantarum " how Aloeperfoliata var. γ and Aloeperfoliata var. ε. Aloeferox. The species turned out to be very polymorphic and now there are several synonyms and taxa in the rank of subspecies: Aloeferox var. subferox (Spreng.) Baker (1880), Aloeferox var. incurva Baker (1880), Aloeferox var. hanburyi Baker (1880), Aloeferox var. galpinii (Baker) Reynolds (1937), Aloeferox var. erythrocarpa A.Berger (1908) and so on.

Currently, it is an official species, from which juice is pressed, which is a dried pharmaceutical raw material. It is widely grown in South Africa for the production of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

They are used, although not as often as the previous types, Scarlet soap (Aloe saponaria (Ait.) Haw.)This species is characterized by the presence of adorable specks on the leaves and also has very fleshy leaves that are easy to gel.

Aloe in South Africa. Photo: Irkhan Udulag (South Africa)

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