Making its debut somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, some say Aloe Vera’s valuable juice has been used in cosmetics and as medicine as far back as some 6000 years ago.
The earliest written mention of the therapeutic nectar dates back to 2100BC, where it is mentioned in Sumerian clay boards from Nippur, Mesopotamia, that Aloe is a divine plant used to cleanse the intestines and ward off illness-inducing evil spirits from the body.
Illustration by Lihi Jacob
With over 500 species of Aloe, it is the Aloe Vera that took over the world, steadily but surely. As one of the oldest mentioned plants in history, it is thought to have originated in the extremely hot and dry climate of Arabia, close to trade routes between Asia and the Mediterranean, from where it gradually spread to the Mediterranean, middle east, the Caribbean and The Americas.
Its thick and fleshy leaves contain the healing juice that is made up of over 200 beneficial active components including vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and minerals. In order to obtain the nourishing gel, harvesting the succulent plant a labor-intensive process, as its leaves are gently filleted and the green tissue is preserved in its wet condition.
The water-rich, soothing and hydrating pulp was favored by the Egyptians, Greeks and romans as well as in Chinese & Ayurvedic medicine:
In Egypt, it was regarded as a ‘sacred blood’ and the secret to health, beauty and immortality. Cleopatra and Nefertiti used the prized juice in their skin & beauty care and even the dead were embalmed in aloe Vera. It was known as the ‘plant of immortality’, as its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties were intended to halt the body’s physical decomposition in order to attain eternal life, both physically and spiritually.
Alexander the Great used the wonder plant to heal his warriors’ war wounds, carrying portable plants with him so as to make sure a fresh supply was always available. Legend even has it that Aristotle convinced Alexander to conquer the Island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, securing a steady supply of the plant to his army.
The romans followed the wisdom of the Egyptians and Greeks and also used the healing properties of the Aloe Vera plant. Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek naturalist and physician in the Roman army, searched the orient for new medicinal methods, describing aloe as one of his favorite healing plants and recommending it be used to treat wounds, gastrointestinal discomfort, gingivitis, skin irritations, hair loss and more.
A true superhero of the plant world, Aloe has the ability to penetrate the deepest body tissues, some 7 layers deep. It has various antiseptic agents and stimulates the growth of healthy tissues as well as detoxify the body’s metabolism. When used in skincare, aloe vera creates a protective barrier for the skin, allowing it to heal, replenish and retain moisture, in addition to its anti-inflammatory properties and vitamins C + E which help fight the signs of aging.
If ever there was a wonder plant award to be handed out, Aloe Vera would be the one to take the statue home.