Over 250 species of aloe exist on earth. Aloes are very low maintenance succulents. The most cultivated species is the Aloe Vera Barbadensis in North Africa. Preceding 1700BC, the Ancient Egyptians discovered the many health benefits of this plant. They used it in creams, encouraging anti-aging through cell regeneration, and discovered the anti-viral properties and cleansing aspects of the aloe. They called it the “Plant of Immortality” for this very reason.
The features of the aloe vera plant are the clear gel, resin, aloin, and latex (the underside of the skin). It also consists of 96% water and many vitamins, such as B12 and C, and minerals such as potassium, iodine, zinc, and manganese. Aloe vera consists of amino acids, which are beneficial when applied topically (on the skin), as it is an anti-inflammatory, and relieves muscle and tendon pain.
Aloes are not to be ingested as a whole. Commercially-sold aloe vera is the best to ingest, as it does not contain latex, the yellow substance found just underneath the skin. The latex causes a laxative affect and should only be applied topically.
Like other succulents, aloes grow best when planted in cactus potted soil mix or regular potting soil with additional perlite sand. Each spring, fertilise the plant with phosphorus-heavy, water-based fertiliser. For indoor aloes, place near south or west-facing windows for proper lighting. Dry conditions are ideal for aloes, so water once the soil is completely dry and have drainage holes to allow water to move through – this prevents standing water from drowning the plant.
The larger aloes need to be repotted, and baby plants (offshoots from the mother plant) need to be repotted separately. This reduces the droopiness of the mother plant and allows smaller plants to have adequate room to grow. When removing the small aloes, pull by the main root mass. If the roots are tough, use a knife to cut them. Leave plants that have been divided separate overnight in a warm, dry place to help recover any root damage, then replant them.