A succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. It grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses. Aloe is also used for decorative purposes and grows successfully indoors as a potted plant. It is found in many consumer products including juice, skin lotion, or ointments for minor burns and sunburns.
Aloe vera is a stemless or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 60–100 cm (24–39 in) tall, spreading by offsets. The leaves are thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with some varieties showing white flecks on their upper and lower stem surfaces. The margin of the leaf is serrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90 cm (35 in) tall, each flower being pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) long. Like other Aloe species, Aloe vera forms arbuscular mycorrhiza, a symbiosis that allows the plant better access to mineral nutrients in soil.
Aloe vera leaves contain phytochemicals under study for possible bioactivity, such as acetylated mannans, polymannans, anthraquinone C-glycosides, anthrones, other anthraquinones, such as emodin, and various lectins. Aloe vera is used in traditional medicine as a skin treatment. In Ayurvedic medicine it is called kathalai, as are extracts from agave. Early records of Aloe vera use appear in the Ebers Papyrus from the 16th century BC, and in Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elder’s Natural History – both written in the mid-first century AD. It is also written of in the Juliana Anicia Codex of 512 AD. The plant is used widely in the traditional herbal medicine of many countries.