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Aloe Vera
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Aloe Vera - note the offshoots
"Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity".
(460 BC - 377 BC)
Aloe Vera
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Aloe Vera in flower - an annual occurrence
Aloe Vera

Despite its cactus-like appearance, the Aloe Vera is in fact a member of the lily family - lilacae - which includes garlic. There are over 400 species of Aloe Vera but the species which has the almost magical healing qualities is ALOE VERA BARBADENSIS which is the type most prevalent in Fuerteventura.

It is not known for sure how the plant arrived in the Canary Islands, although it is widely believed it came from Africa originally, but what has been known for centuries by the island's people is the healing properties of the juice of the Aloe Vera plant. The island's people refer to the Aloe Vera gel as Savia.

Even Christopher Columbus was aware of the myriad uses of the Aloe Vera gel, and whilst in the Canary Islands he stocked up his vessels with the Aloe Vera plant. It is generally accepted that the American plantations are descended from the Canary Islands.

A hardy plant, Aloe Vera needs little water and plenty of light, which makes Fuerteventura an ideal place to grow Aloe Vera Barbadensis, and over recent years the plant is becoming as important a crop to the island's economy as the tomato - especially now that natural medicine is becoming more popular and often more effective. Indeed, recently the Canary Island's Government have announced financial aid of up to 50% to encourage the cultivation of the plant on Fuerteventura.

Currently the main Aloe Vera plantations are in Tiscamanita and Valles de Ortega - between Antigua and Pájara.

ALOE VERA BARBADENSIS looks like a small agave plant, and when adult grows to about 60-70 cm. Small plants often have white marks on the leaf which disappear as the plant grows. When the plant is about 2 or 3 years old a leaf grows in springtime which then stems off into one or two smaller branches which produce yellow flowers.

It is from the inside of the leaf that the most important part of the Aloe Vera plant is extracted - the gel. The skin, or outer leaf is of no use and should be removed. It is also important to drain off the juice "aloin" which lies between the skin and the gel. This is a yellow/red sap which keeps the gel of the plant cool, therefore protecting the valuable minerals and vitamins within. Even on the hottest of days if you cut open the leaf of an Aloe Vera plant the gel will be quite cold. Aloin, however, will stain skin and clothing, it is bitter and should not be taken internally - it used to be marketed as a laxative (You have been warned !)

Research into the Aloe Vera gel continues and some element of mystery remains, although most research agrees that Aloe Vera is particularly effective in the treatment of burns, cuts, grazes, bruises, allergic reactions and dermatological conditions. This is due in part to the fact that the Aloe Vera gel acts as a natural anti-histamine and contains an aspirin like compound called Salicylic Acid.

Aloe Vera also speeds up the healing process (some studies show healing is increased to eight times the normal rate), which is attributed to the fact that Aloe Vera gel provides 20 of the 22 amino acids required by humans, including 7 of the 8 essential ones which are not produced by the body itself.

Aloe Vera gel contains Vitamins A,C,E (antioxidants), B12, Choline and Folic Acid, all in a completely natural form, plus 9 minerals including Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium.

The cosmetic industry is well aware of the healing properties of the Aloe Vera gel, and with its antioxidants and increased cell-regenerating properties it is reputed to be an effective anti-ageing aid and is often an important ingredient in cosmetic products.




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