Aloes. (Aloe barbadensis that is) They've been around for a long L O N G time, like thousands of years so I read. Most folks associate aloes as being the "burn" plant. Imagine you're taking fresh roasted veggies out of the oven and you accidentally burn your hand in the process. (blasted oven mit!! Where'd that hole come from?!) So you immediately perform first aid by running cool tap water over the burn then you apply aloe after drying off the area and go about your culinary business.
Now as I began reading about aloe, I've come across some pretty cool information that I think you'd enjoy reading.* I may even make a mini-blog series about this topic as for some insane reason I'm really getting into reading about the history and seeing just what else I can dig up! So give your aloes plenty of sunshine and only water sparingly and there now I've suggested how to keep them happy - on to more goodies!
Did you know that Aloe Vera is one of about 420 species of the genus or class of Aloe? Its legitimate name according to the international rules of botanical nomenclature (never even HEARD of such an entity until this moment!) is A. vera (L). Burm.f. Pretty cool, eh? The country of Sudan, located of course in Africa and bordered by Egypt, Somalia and the Nile, is believed to be its origin. In addition aloe was used by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Mediterranean civilizations and people living in biblical times. A Mesopotamian clay tablet dating back to ca 210 BCE records the healing virtues of aloe and records going back as far as ca 1550 BCE have even been found. But it wasn't until 1820 when aloe vera was officially listed as a purgative and skin protectant by the U. S. Pharmacopeia.
Now I'm experiencing full-tilt research mode right now! Who in the Sam hill are the U.S. Pharmalacula? Turns out this publication is the complete culmination of notable scientific botanical field studies documenting plants and their therapeutic benefits and uses to include their strength, purity and formulation. Lo and behold the first edition was compiled in 1820 and was pretty much the legal standard bearer for plant terminology by the National Food and Drug Act in January 1907.
I could bounce down into that rabbit hole swimming in the facts surrounding how the FDA has evolved, which goes deep down into murky waters of greed and scandal, but suffice to say this governing entity was born out of the much needed "Pure Food Movement," intended to regulate the use of tonics, drugs (opium, morphine, heroine and cocaine) and chemical food preservatives like borax and formaldehyde. It also laid the foundation for our present day Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that Congress originally passed in 1938. Its interesting to note that one Mr. William R. Carter was one of the earliest African-American FDA employees. Carter was hired as a cook and waiter for the Poison Squad in 1902, earned a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry and served 43 years in the FDA laboratories. (considering its still National Black History Month honoring Carter seems more than fitting) I am very interested in delving into just what was the Pure Food Movement and may need to revisit this at a later date. Today's FDA regulates far more than just a little witch hazel tonic to include sanitation, poison control, tobacco, alcohol, the safety of household chemical products, appliances, toys, and other consumer goods.
According to the FDA, consumer protection has always been its core mission. By in large that's likely the case, at least at its conception, but I have my own suspicious. For those of you who know me you know I can't talk about the FDA without mentioning this conundrum. All one needs to do is research the past twenty or so years worth of Commissioners employed at the FDA. With what companies did they work for prior to the FDA employment? Many have enjoyed "yo-yoing" positions with between the FDA, USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and notable biotech companies and affiliates. They're all snug and cozy in a satiny California king-sized bed with big ag companies - so exactly in whose best interests the FDA truly represent?**
Yet I digress! So, what's that magical ingredient in aloe that helps soothe a minor burn? According to the NIH, aloe vera contains over 75 potentially biologically active compounds including vitamins, minerals, polysaccahrides, amino acids, enzymes, lignin and a bunch of other stuff I can't even pronounce let alone spell. But in particular aloe contains polyphenolic compounds which may act as anti-oxidants and inhibit cellular free radicals. So basically all in all these properties work together to help the whole. It's also note worthy to mention that the commercial extraction and processing of aloe could result in a product with little to no active ingredients! So having your own plant and using it when the need arises is logically a no-brainer.
When the need arises and you want to apply fresh aloe to a burned area its best to administer first aid treatment protocol then apply the aloe. Avoid putting ice directly on a burn because cellular damage on a micro level can occur. Just use cool tap water over the area then pat dry. Firmly grip a stem from the lowest part of the plant generally by the dirt and gently break it off from the main branch. Use the open end first and cut a two inch segment off. Now cut that piece in half length wise to form a "band-aid" of sorts. Gently massage the clear liquid gel and plant material onto the wound. Allow the area to dry. Wrap the remaining piece in plastic wrap and store for later use in the refrigerator. It will keep for quite awhile until it begins drying out.
Now on to a few pictures of my humble aloe collection. :D
|Checkerboard Aloe aptly named|
|Aloe Vera, Blizzard and Sunset Aloe (left to right)|
So that's it for this week! Perhaps I'll continue next weeks blog with more on the Pure Food Movement .... who knows! Until then, have a good week and may happiness be a ray of sunshine to your body, mind and soul.
*Herbal Medicine: Bimolecular and Clinical Aspects, Second Edition
**many thanks to the FDA.gov link where you can find nearly everything there is to know about everything (except for spam that is) and shocking information about AED's!