Where am I from?
Probably, originally I'm from Northern Africa. There are no known natural populations, all of the evidence points to Aloe Vera being cultivated by humans throughout its long history. I was introduced to the Chinese and Europeans in the 17th century and I've been widely cultivated in warm climates ever since. If you want to grow me, please do so - I'm pretty easy to cultivate, but I don't like the cold so bring me in through the winter.
Real Foods buy me from the E.U., usually Italy although it does vary depending on conditions (if you want to know the country of origin for your particular order, leave a note in the comments section of your order, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll update you with the latest information.)
What do I look like?
I've thick, fleshy green leaves that are almost sword-like, with small spikes along the edges. I'm often likened to cactus as I'm spiky and grow in desert conditions, but I'm from a different family. Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis Miller) is a succulent, perennial plant.
And on the inside?
Clear gel, studied by scientists for its healing and soothing properties is inside each of my spiky leaves. The gel contains the 8 essential amino acids that we need which are not produced by our bodies.
What do I do?
Aloe Vera contains acemannan, an immune stimulant and antiviral. It is effective against the herpes virus and is being studied for use in HIV positive patients as it may be used synergistically with conventional medicines. Unprocessed Aloe Gel (that's the stuff you get when you crack the leaves) contains aloin - a powerful laxative. It is reputed to expel parasites from the digestive tract. Aloe Vera can help soothe coughs and bronchial asthma and help to balance intestinal flora (your 'good gut health'). It also blocks the formation of histamine, which means it may be useful for allergic conditions. Finally Aloe Vera contains salicylic acid (the base for aspirin) so it's useful for general aches and pains and its antiseptic properties can help to heal sore throats - I'm often used as a gargle.
Now you know all about Aloe Vera...how do you use me? You can make a fresh juice by cutting one of my leaves into manageable sections and then peeling it (similar to how you would peel mango or avocado). Scoop out the gel and blitz in a blender with 250ml of fresh apple juice, Then drink me! Aloe Juice is often bitter so I'm usually mixed with apple, cucumber, pineapple or fresh coconut water to make it more palatable.
You can buy fresh organic Aloe Vera from Real Foods here.
Aloe Vera Juice is available here
Aloe Vera supplements can be found here
There are a wide range of natural beauty products containing Aloe Vera, find them here