When it comes to the aloe plant one can be sure that in Mzansi almost each household has the plant for many different reasons. It has been used for many years mainly for health purposes.
According to Babalwa Mpambani, an agronomist from Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape, there are approximately 150 aloe species in South Africa that belong to the Aloaceae family. They can be found in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and some parts of the Free State.
“Although aloe ferox is grown from the seed, there are research trials that are being done to assess tissue culture production; while the aloe vera is largely mainly produced using vegetative means,” Mpambani explains.
Only a percentage of the lower leaves of each plant are clipped during harvesting to protect the plant’s growth point in the crown. This will ensure the aloe’s survival and future harvests.
Agronomist Mandisa Mazibuko from Mafikeng, North West, says she can identify a few medicinal advantages of aloe species based on her research.
“Some people use the leaf sap as a substitute for body soap. It’s also used for protection from solar radiation and inhibition of tumour cell growth.”
Different types for various uses
Aloe Africana: This aloe’s fluid contains anthraquinones, which are compounds with medicinal properties including laxatives. Due to its genotoxic potential, excessive use at high doses may result in obstruction and colorectal cancer.
Aloe vera: The leaf fluid of aloe vera is used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. It is used to treat wounds and injuries, and its therapeutic properties include anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and antihyperlipidemic. And it contains more than 75 distinct compounds, enzymes, and vitamins.
“In some cultures, it is used for cleansing after a burial service whereby it’s mixed with water and people wash their hands before they enter the household to remove bad spirits from the burial site,” says Mazibuko.
She adds that aloe vera is also used by village farmers to treat bird flu by combining water with the sap and giving drops to poultry, and as a hair conditioner to strengthen hair texture.
The article was written by Vateka Halile and first published on Health For Mzansi.
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