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Overview
Aloe Vera is a succulent in the family Aloaceae. Common relatives include the Aloe aculeata (red hot poker aloe), Aloe africana, Aloe barbadensis,and the Aloe barberea tree which can exceed fifty feet in height (succulentplant.com, 1-16). There are believed to be over 250 varieties of aloe plants existing today, most of which are native to Africa (thegardenhelper, 1). Aloe varieties are often mistaken as cacti, technically plant is not a species of cactus. Cacti typically require drier soil conditions, whereas Aloe thrives in moist soil as the plant requires significantly more access to water in order to thrive (iasc.org, 2). The ancient Egyptians even named the plant "the plant of immortality" and associated it with the pharaohs and after life (herballegacy.com, 1). Imagine yourself in the intense Egyptian sun thousands ofago; you would appreciate Aloe as they did. Simply put, Aloe is a plant that has gained a symbiotic relationship with humans over the centuries by facilitating the healing process and regeneration of the skin.





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The plant family Aloaceae is easily identifiable due to its long, basal leaves that usually reach a height of about thirty-six inches, but certain varieties can grow much larger. Species within the family Aloaceae can vary greatly in height and width depending on factors including but not limited to competition, soil moisture, and sun exposure. The family shares the characteristic that the majority of Aloaceae species are composed primarily of water. Aloe Vera is physically composed of up to 95% water when healthy (thegardenhelper.com, 3). The leaves have a tooth-like serrated edge that can be sharp to the touch. Aloe Vera is a flowering plant, and when in the flowering stage, flower stalks can exceed four feet in height! Flowers of this family are often beautifully colored and vivid portrayals of the plant's overall splendor (see pictures)! The Aloe plant bears a triangular fruit with multiple seeds within. Aloe Vera is an angiosperm (appliedhealth.com, 5).
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Flowering Aloe Plant





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Geographical Distribution
Aloe does grow in America, but mostly only within in the Southernmost states where semi-tropical conditions are found. Such temperate zones include Southern Texas, California, and Florida. Additionally, Aloe thrives in Central America, the Caribbean, areas in the Pacific, Africa, Australia, and even India (iasc.org, 10). Aloe Vera makes a great houseplant and can be grown in greenhouses as well as long as semi-tropical growing conditions are duplicated.



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American Aloe Growth Zones





Distinctiveness
Aloe Vera is unlike many other traditional herbs in that it is not used mainly for flavoring. Although Aloe Vera carries a mild scent, it does not offer the same culinary benefits, as do many other herbs. Aloe Vera does, however, provide us with a soothing agent that is held within the plant’s variousleaves, which can also be described as shoots. This juice is thick and somewhat resembles water but is often slightly cloudier. The juice can, at times, encompass a pungent odor as well. Yet,
the benefits of Aloe Vera are plentiful.

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Beautiful Flowering Aloe



Remedial Usage
The soothing properties of Aloe Vera have enabled humans to remedy problem areas of skin for centuries. The herb receives praise for its ability to treat and stimulate healthy healing of skin that becomes victim of minor burns, cuts, and sunburns. The anti-inflammatory aspects of Aloe Vera should not be dismissed as insignificant. The herb provides its users with a safe and effective way to reduce swelling. For this reason, as well as its natural hydrating effects, Aloe Vera can also be used as a remedy for those who suffer from acne, as well as arthritis (aloe-vera-studies.org, 3, 10).



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Nutritional Information
Another advantage of Aloe Vera is that the juice provides anti-aging benefits. Due to the presence of antioxidants within the juice, various communities around the world mix the juice with other fluids and ingest it, as Aloe Vera is believed to be an elixir by many. The reality is that “Aloe Vera juice provides vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, and E. (aloevera.com, 7). Additionally, Aloe Vera contains an abundance of minerals, such as “copper, calcium, selenium, chromium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, sodium and zinc,” (aloe-vera-studies.org, 10). Despite the abundance of active compounds, there is no definite proof that drinking Aloe Vera is beneficial to ones health. More likely, people probably mistakenly correlate the plant’s soothing properties on skin as an indication that the plant is entirely benevolent even if consumed. While the plant does embody various vitamins, internal consumption of Aloe Vera can triggerabdominal pain, cramps, or mild to serious rash outbreaks. Additionally, Aloe Vera juice ingestion can cause serious intestinal cramping and diarrhea (aloeveraplant.org, 3). Yet, it is also believed that these issues do not frequently arise with one time use of Aloe Vera juice, but rather longer periods of extended use cause these symptoms to arise.





Conclusion
Although these side effects have been alo1-main1.jpg, we cannot dismiss the possibility that ingesting correct amounts of Aloe Vera juice could be a healthy action. Yet, there is one substance in Aloe that is known to be dangerous when ingested in large quantities. What users of Aloe must be aware of is the substance aloin. This substance is a compound found within many varieties of Aloe which causes severe diarrhea quite frequently (thealoevera.com, 3). Yet, after all, there are still a variety of beverage products that use Aloe Vera juice as an ingredient. These drinks are common in Asia, as well as other areas of the world, which claim that aloin is simply helpful for digestion. Also, the helpfulness or severity of one's ingestion of aloin is debatable, and probably varies from person to person. However, unless you are severely constipated, it may be a good idea to stay away from drinking Aloe Vera juice for now.




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"The Aloe Page - Aloaceae." The Succulent Plant Page - Start Here. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.succulent-plant.com/families/aloaceae.html>.

"Aloe Vera, How to Grow and Care for Aloe Plants." The Garden Helper's Guides to Gardening, Flowers and House Plant Care. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.thegardenhelper.com/aloe~vera.html>.

"Aloe Vera Side Effects." Growing Aloevera Uses | Gel | Drink | Juice | Lotion | Capsules or Pills. Web. 11 Jan. 2012. <http://www.aloeveraplant.org/aloevera-side-effects.php>.

ALOE VERA WARNING! | JUICE AND GEL. Web. 09 Jan. 2012. <http://www.aloe-vera-studies.org/>.

"Discover the 10 Main Benefits of Aloe Vera | AloeVera.com." ¤ Aloe Vera Benefits, Juice, Gels | AloeVera.com. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://aloevera.com/aloe-vera-benefits/>.

"History of Aloe Vera." Dr. Christopher's Herbal Legacy. Web. 09 Jan. 2012. <http://www.herballegacy.com/Baldwin_History.html>.

"The International Aloe Science Council." International Aloe Science Council IASC Aloe Vera. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.iasc.org/aloe.html>.